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Surviving

Chapter Text

The room that just moments before was filled with the sounds of soldiers’ boots pounding, desperate revolutionaries shouting, and the firing of guns had become completely devoid of any trace of human life in a matter of minutes. The room now appeared more as ancient ruins, indicative of a world lost to time. It appeared as though perhaps people resided in the room at one point, but that point was far in the past, lost to centuries of dilapidation and decay. The wood was splintered, and the interior was completely gutted leaving behind an empty husk of history. Only the four bodies lying on the floor revealed that recently there was life on the top floor of the musain. Only the wet blood on the ground revealed that the room was anything other than a whimsical relic of the past.

A bright light flooded through the singular large window at the end of the room and tinted the entire space with a distinct yellowish glow. The last of the clouds from the previous night’s rain had finally parted upon the end of the battle, leaving behind a bright summer’s day—the peace that follows war, or in this case, rebellion.

Unbeknownst to the now dead revolutionaries lying on the floor and the long departed soldiers who killed them, there was all along a single life in the room: one lone man, passed out drunk in the corner, hidden behind the bar, and completely oblivious to the battle that had unfolded just moments before just footsteps away from him. It was not the sound of yelling and gunshots that woke this lone man from his drunken slumber, but the lack thereof.

Peeking his head up from around the bar, Grantaire studied the room around him. Other than the blinding light and the utter disappearance of any background noise, seemingly nothing had changed about the room from the time that he had fallen asleep. It was still stripped on all furniture, the floors were still as dusty as ever, and there were still the few specks of white paint that had not yet chipped off of the walls over all the years that the old building had stood. He did not see the bodies on the ground as the immovable wooden bar in front of him had cut them out of his peripheral, but the silence alone told him exactly what had happened. The war was over, and his side had lost. Not that he had ever expected victory in the first place, after all he did sleep through the final battle.

He propped his arm against the wall, and pushed himself up. He had drank his weight in wine the previous night and it’s effects had not yet worn off. He nearly fell to floor once he got up, but somehow he miraculously managed to find his footing without falling back onto the ground. He rubbed his eyes, still having to adjust them to the sun’s bright rays. Squinting his eyes as he stared towards the sunlight window ahead. He took wobbly steps forwards until he got to the window and he looked outside, while keeping in mind that he should not dare look down. He may have been intoxicated, but even without a functioning brain he knew better than to gaze upon the fallen barricade. They were his friends after all, and while he had always known that they never stood a chance surviving the rebellion, he did not wish to see the proof of it. Instead he looked straight ahead at the building across the alleyway. A mirror of the one that he was in, expect that instead of a bar it was an inn, well the remains of one anyway. Its glass windows had been shot through completely. The only thing that remained was a dirty, tattered, blue white and red striped flag hanging from the windowsill.

He let out a sigh, it would not be long until the national guard came back to clean up the mess that they had created. So he turned around and began on his journey out of the musain and back to his own apartment. He took only a few steps on his way out until he nearly tripped on the ground below him. Only then, did he look down. Not to the bodies mangled on the barricade outside, but the ones that had been in the room with him that whole time.

“Joly,” he whispered softly, but in contrast to the pre-existing silence he may as well have been screaming at the top of his lungs. He did not crouch down, nor did he continue on his way. He just stood exactly where he was with his shoe still resting against the death man’s arm and stared without really processing what he saw before him. He knew that he should continue on his way. He already knew that all of his friends were long dead and that there was no point in tilting his head a few degrees to see which ones laid beside the poor Joly, but Grantaire could not help himself. There was some feeling inside of him, that the massacre had never really happened, despite the manifest evidence before him that proved that it really did.

The four men laid in a line, as though before they were shot they were all huddled together, praying to somehow be saved in their final moments. They laid slightly ontop of eachother, each body overlapping like dominoes that had been knocked down one after the other. Joly, Combeferre, Enjolras, then Courfeyrac all laid side by side. Grantaire took no more than three more steps before falling onto his knees. Enjolras’ golden curls brushed against his knees, as he sat on the ground staring at the body before him without taking in anything at all—seeing without perceiving.

Breaking the reestablished silence, he wept. His sobs were soft, but were by no means silent. The national guard would be back at any moment, but he no longer cared to leave. He had abandoned his plan of escaping the battle unscathed the moment that he saw Enjolras’ body on the ground. It was too late for him to be a martyr for the cause like Enjolras would have wanted, but it was not too late for him to join his friends in the afterlife. So he sat there waiting for the national guard to come and finish the job, weeping the whole time.

His breaths were so heavy that they moved Enjolras as well. The motion of his knees pressing ever so slightly against the dead man’s head were enough to animate Enjolras to the point where he almost appeared to have some sort of life in him as well. It was almost as though Enjolras was breathing himself.

As much as Grantaire would have liked to entertain the thought of Enjolras’ lungs still bearing breath, he had always been a cynic and holding onto such a ridiculous idea was about as idealistic as he could possibly get. The national guard showed no mercy, and it was evident that they had not left until every last revolutionary they could see before them was dead, but still, Grantaire could not shake the possibility from his head. As illogical as it was, he wanted to believe that the one thing he cared about, would live on.

To put his dreaded idealism at bay Grantaire decided to indulge himself, in hopes of proving to himself once and for all that nothing, Enjolras included, was worth believing in. So he leaned over the body, put his ear to Enjolras’ face, and held his own breath to mask any intruding noise.

When Grantaire felt a light, but distinguishable breath against the side of his ear he jolted back as though the side of his head had been caressed by a ghost. Now he stared at Enjolras clearly, with wide eyes, making sure to perceive every motion. As he really studied the body, he did notice the way it differed from the others. There was a slight rise and fall of Enjolras’ chest that none of the other boys laying in the line mimicked.

In a burst of energy from his newly found hope, Grantaire attempted to lift Enjolras from the ground in some attempt to carry him out of the musain and rescue him from the national guard. However, after only managing to get Enjolras’ torso off of the ground, the task proved to be much more difficult than anticipated. The limp body was practically immovable, and Grantaire may as well have been tasked with carrying a boulder because, as skinny as Enjolras was, there was no way Grantaire was going to be able to lift him off of the ground.

With this new roadblock, he had to devise a new plan. Grantaire could not simply leave Enjolras lying on the ground waiting to die knowing that there was a chance that he could survive; it simply was not ethical. Grantaire nudged the body as hard as he could without inflicting any pain onto Enjolras. Trying the wake the nearly dead revolutionary was a shot in the dark, but it was really the only option Grantaire had. After all, it is much easier to carry someone when they are at least conscious enough to distribute their weight evenly.

“Enjolras, please wake up,” Grantaire whispered as so not to alert any nearby guards that there was in fact life in the musain. With his voice cracking as though he was audibly on the verge of breaking down and sobbing right then and there, he begged, “Please, let me help you.”

His arms grew weak and tired, so Grantaire had no choice but to lay Enjolras back on the ground. Grantaire crouched down next to the body and rubbed his own sore and tired arms. Again he tried nudging Enjolras whilst ever so softly muttering, “Get up, get up,” over and over. No more than five minutes passed by of Grantaire doing this, but with the national guard’s inevitable re-entry drawing nearer and nearer those minutes felt like decades. It was only when all hope seemed to be lost when Enjolras slowly blinked his eyes open.

Enjolras slowly moved an arm, perhaps in some sorry attempt to get himself off the ground. Although Enjolras’ movement was hardly noticeable, any form of consciousness from Enjolras was good enough to help Grantaire. Again, Grantaire grasped onto Enjolras and lifted him from the floor, hoisting the body up onto his back. Enjolras was noticeably weak and could barely provide any additional support, but the small amount of support that he did supply was just enough for Grantaire to be able to get his body off the ground and to rest it over his shoulders.

Once that first problem was solved, Grantaire was soon confounded with another: getting out of the Musain and back to his own apartment undetected. He figured that it could not be too difficult, granted that he did not create any disturbances. The national guard appeared occupied with clean-up from the morning’s battle, so that would buy him some time. Grantaire made his way out of the musain swiftly and quietly with the full knowledge that any form of noise amidst the quiet, vacant scene could alert the national guardsmen to his escape. Courtesy of his many alcohol induced run-ins with the law, Grantaire knew the back streets of Paris (especially those that had led from the musain to his residence) like the back of his hand.

He decided to set off down an alley, that was really hardly and alley at all, more of a crack between two buildings. At first he did not even think that he could fit through considering that he had a body on his shoulders, but fortunately, Enjolras’ limp frame was just slender enough to pass through as Grantaire shuffled sideways down the narrow corridor. The shadows cast by the two buildings had submerged the alley into complete darkness, so Grantaire was able to strategize and move slowly without the fear of being caught.

The further he got from the site of the rebellion, the more confident Grantaire became in his efforts. Despite the surmounting burden that Enjolras placed on his shoulders and upper back, Grantaire could not help but feel a surge of energy with every step he made. As he made it to the street adjacent to the one on which he resided, Grantaire was almost inclined to yell out about his triumphant escape for all of Paris to hear. Of course he knew better than that. Nobody could know about what he had done, or his head as well as the head of the man on his back would be in baskets shortly after the news broke. The king would make examples of them all.