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Present Day

He told them. He fucking told them bringing Enjolras back would have a price, and where is he now? Strapped to some sort of medieval torture device while some Big Bad who looks like Enjolras bleeds him onto a mystical gateway.

Combeferre already paid hir own psychic price of messing with the natural order of things, Grantaire supposes, so now it’s the universe’s turn. And unfortunately, he’s one of the non-souls who lives in this universe, and now he’s bleeding to open a portal to another one.

He takes deep breaths to work through the pain and watches as a monster climbs out of the hole below him. And then everything hurts a whole lot more, and the world goes black. When he wakes, Tholomyes is with him.

Shapeshifter, he tells himself fuzzily. Whatever it is, it looks like Tholomyes and acts like Tholomyes and talks like Tholomyes. It’s got his penchant for the belt as well, and Grantaire presses his face into the dirt and howls as his back is flayed open. His mind wanders, loose with pain, but in a lucid moment when he’s on his own, he wonders whether this is worse than Glory.

He decides it isn’t. This thing is just playing with him, hurting him for fun. Glory had a goal, and her torture reflected that.

Later, coughing up blood and water, Grantaire revises that decision. Glory’s torture was over comparatively fast at least. This is lasting, and this Tholomyes-Enjolras-Audric thing hasn’t even expressed a desire to kill him yet. Maybe it just wants entertainment. The worst things either want an all-out apocalypse or something to stave off boredom.

The Turok-Han drags claws down Grantaire’s chest to make him scream, and the shapeshifter laughs as Enjolras. “Amazing,” it says, lazily amused. “I think ensouled vampires must be even stupider than the usual breed. You’re certainly uglier.”

The Turok-Han backhands him so hard Grantaire blacks out for a second. He comes to with Enjolras’ face only an inch away, beautiful features twisted in a mockery of pity. “Poor Grantaire,” the shapeshifter murmurs. Grantaire would squirm away if he wasn’t in so much pain. “So desperate for affection you ran all the way across the world to get your soul back. As if I’d want filth like you in any state.”

“You’re not him,” Grantaire mumbles, mouth full of blood. Several of his teeth are loose, and his head pounds.

Instead of answering, the thing just smiles, and the Turok-Han unchains Grantaire and drags him back to the pool. His throat is so sore from coughing, his lungs aching and strained, and this time he tries to drown when his head is pushed under. Loosened once more by pain, his mind splinters and drifts. The next time he comes to himself, the shapeshifter is waiting.

Grantaire doesn’t understand until he’s cut free, Enjolras’ beautiful face impassive until Grantaire meets his eyes properly. Something there softens, and Grantaire makes a small sound of desperate relief and falls against him because this isn’t the shapeshifting monster. This is the real Enjolras, and they’re leaving now.

The cool night air freezes his skin, and he accepts Enjolras’ offered jacket without a word. The silence continues until they get back to the house. Marius is the first to ask, ever concerned. “Are you okay?”

“Peachy.” Grantaire’s voice croaks, and he pulls on a smile. He can only imagine how hideous he must look to them – his eyes are swollen almost shut, and his hair is matted with blood, crusted and stiff on his face and neck. Everything aches. He has no idea how long he’s been gone, but it feels like at least a week.

These humans. These strange, adaptable humans. Courfeyrac scolds him for disappearing as Enjolras helps him to sit down in the living room. There are strangers everywhere, young boys and girls with wide eyes. “Who the hell are they?” he rasps, looking at them. He can smell their fear.

“Potential slayers.” Courfeyrac pushes his hair back from his face and sighs, looking over his shoulder. “Feuilly, could you grab the first aid kit?”

“Don’t bother.” Grantaire closes his eyes and lets the chair hold his weight. “Blood, give me blood.”

The kids stir, muttering like leaves in the wind. “Is he a vampire?” one of them asks in English.

“He’s a friend.” Enjolras’ voice quells all discussion, and Grantaire sighs.

Bahorel pushes through the kids – and they are kids, none of them can be older than twenty – with a mug of blood. It’s warm when he pushes it into Grantaire’s hands, and Courfeyrac has to help him drink. The weight of the potential slayers’ eyes on him press him into the chair, and Grantaire tries to ignore them.

Animal blood, unflavoured and lukewarm. But his strength is already returning, and the baby slayers can go fuck themselves. Enjolras said he’s a friend. That should be good enough for them.

“What’ve I missed?” he asks when the mug is empty.

“Ever heard of a Turok-Han?” Courfeyrac’s voice is bright, false cheer too loud in the quiet room.

“Ancestors.” Grantaire knows his history – Tholomyes at least taught him that. “From the Beginning. An old race of vampires. Our version of Neanderthals, I guess. Something…a shapeshifter, I don’t know what it is, but it used my blood to open the gate.”

“Your blood?”

Grantaire turns, repressing the instinct to snarl. He’s never liked Enjolras’ watcher. Lamarque’s eyes are cold, her arms crossed over her chest. “My blood,” he confirms, sharp.

“Why your blood?” Courfeyrac frowns. “No offense, I’m sure you’re the cream of the vampiric crop, but what’s with that? It literally kidnapped you. Isn’t Solvalée crawling with vampires?”

“None of those vampires have souls,” Combeferre says softly, striking right to the heart as always.

Grantaire is acutely aware of Enjolras looking away. He wonders if the potentials have been told yet how pathetic this vampire in their midst is. How obsessed with their leader. He gets another cup of blood before going up to rest in Enjolras’ bed. Enjolras holds his silence around himself like a shield, and doesn’t meet Grantaire’s eyes once.

 

3 years ago

There’s a box in his pocket with a necklace in it, a pendant of polished lapis lazuli on a silver chain. It’s the same colour as Enjolras’ eyes, and Grantaire rubs his thumb over the box’s edge and imagines going inside to say happy birthday.

As if Enjolras would ever wear it. He likes jewellery, does the slayer. He’s got four piercings in each ear, wears rings constantly, and likes necklaces of the simple chain-and-pendant variety. But he’d never wear anything Grantaire got for him. Enjolras isn’t his friend and has no wish to be.

Some of the others are more pleasant – Courfeyrac is never more excited than when educating him about another aspect of the modern age. Combeferre is always eager to hear any historical snippets Grantaire can give hir. Éponine is nice enough. Bahorel and Feuilly appreciate the punch he packs in fights. Lamarque’s never liked him. Cosette is the only one of them who doesn’t seem to care about his vampirism at all. She’s always been completely comfortable with him, and he likes that.

She’s been sad lately, of course. Her mother is dead, and she and Enjolras are both in mourning. Grantaire has rehearsed offers of help in his mind over and over, but Enjolras would never accept. He has the slayer’s reluctant respect for his continued assistance, but Enjolras won’t be oblivious forever. Grantaire’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop.

The others aren’t so obtuse. And it’s not like Grantaire’s ever been any good at hiding his feelings – his emotions run close to the surface, and it’s a constant effort not to let his desires show around Enjolras.

It’s Enjolras’ fault in any case. He gives Grantaire a job to do – raid this nest, kill these demons, stake this vampire, protect the others. He pays Grantaire occasionally, but Grantaire doesn’t ask unless he’s feeling particularly bitter. A transaction like that reminds him of what he is to Enjolras: a barely-tamed animal, temporarily useful. He’s pathetic; a tragic, neutered fool. The lack of human blood since the Initiative had put his chip in has addled his brain, clearly. A vampire mooning after the slayer. What a joke.

There’s a rustling sound from the wall of the house, and Grantaire steps back to watch as Cosette climbs out of her window and down the side of the house. He smirks as she steps lightly to the ground and backs up towards him, and the moment where she turns and bites down a shriek makes him grin. It’s good to still be able to make people jump. “Someone’s on a mission.”

“What are you doing here?” she asks. From anyone else, that question would be a demand, heavy with suspicion. Not from Cosette. She’s just annoyed he scared her for that split second. Grantaire shrugs.

“I was passing by. Sneaking out?”

“The others are acting weird,” she says, voice tight and eyes downcast. “They’re treating me differently and talking about me behind my back. Do you know why?”

He snorts. “As if they’d let the pit bull in on anything big before the punches need to be thrown.” He lights up and offers her a smoke out of habit. She shakes her head and sighs, blonde ponytail swinging behind her. She and her brother have the same pale gold hair, but Enjolras’ falls in soft curls and waves while Cosette’s hangs straight and shiny as a knife. She’ll be a real beauty when she’s grown.

It’s not lost on Grantaire that he would never have anticipated the growth of a human before, but things are different now.

“I’m going to the Magic Box,” she tells him. “I saw Lamarque hide a book earlier – I want to know what’s in it.”

“You’re going to walk to the Magic Box now?” Grantaire exhales a plume of smoke, turning his face so none of it blows at Cosette. “Marching the cold, dark streets of Solvalée all by your lonesome, knowing full well what sort of nasties run around after the sun sets?”

“I am.” Cosette’s eyes are pale blue, icy clear. She tilts her head expectantly. “Want to come and steal some stuff?”

Grantaire grins and pushes off from the tree he’s leaning against. “Why not? I was walking anyway.”

She looks down at the small pile of cigarette butts on the grass and raises a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Sure you were.” She’s turned her back on him and started walking before he can come up with an excuse.

On the way, Cosette gushes about her almost-boyfriend from school, some empty-headed mortal boy called Marius. Grantaire suffers through the lovesick sighs – it’s not like he’s in any place to complain – until they reach the Magic Box and Cosette falls quiet.

“Do you have a key?” Grantaire asks as she steps up to the door. She kneels down and shakes her head, pulling a couple of thin silver things from her pocket.

“Nope. But I have lockpicks.”

“Where did you get lockpicks?” He doesn’t bother hiding the admiration in his voice, and she grins at him over her shoulder.

“Internet.”

“Of course.” He’s still getting his head around the internet thing. His favourite trio of demons have discovered the internet, and every time he visits they delight in showing him new amusements online. Bossuet spends hours on a site called rumbler or something, Musichetta is addicted to online gaming, and Joly watches hours and hours of human entertainment. Grantaire always comes away from them with vague ideas of getting a computer of his own, but it never comes to anything.

Inside, he helps himself to a few shiny things while Cosette looks for a book, and he lights a few candles when she finds it. They sit on the floor and he taps ash into a fancy chalice as Cosette squints at Lamarque’s handwriting. “The Key is not described in any known literature, but all research indicates an energy source vibrating at a dimensional frequency beyond normal human perception. Only those outside reality can see the Key’s true nature.” She pauses. “What does that even mean?”

“Second sight,” Grantaire supplies, turning the unicorn candle to cast the light better. “Pure demons, and those with unhinged minds. People who aren’t functioning fully in this dimension.” He reaches back with an intrigued noise and takes a dagger from the shelf behind him. “Nice. Chetta’d love this.”

“They Key is also susceptible to necromanced animal detection,” Cosette reads on, “particularly those of canine or serpentine construct…”

When she makes no move to continue, Grantaire plucks Lamarque’s notebook from her hands and peers at it. “This woman has fucking terrible handwriting. Okay, the…monks possessed the ability to transform energy, bend relay…reality. They had to be certain the slayer would protect it with his life…so they…sell? Wait, sent the Key to him in human form. In the form of…” Well shit. “In the form of a sister. Fuck me.” He looks at Cosette, who’s gone pale. “Guess that’s you, blondie.”

She gets up, knocking over one of the candles and nearly setting a book on fire in the process. Grantaire’s left to clean up the mess as she makes for the door. “Hey!” he shouts after her. “Wait for me, will you? Ah, fuck it.” He blows the candles out and shoves the clutter under a table before running after her. She’s already halfway up the street, running as fast as her skinny little legs can carry her.

He sighs and starts to jog. If she doesn’t want to talk, fine, but he needs to make sure she gets home alright. Once that job’s done, he goes back to his crypt to empty his pockets and crow over his haul. He should break into the Magic Box more often. No wonder Cosette’s so handy picking locks if her true manifestation is some sort of mystical key.

 

6 years ago

Attack the slayer on the Night of Saint Vigeous, Tholomyes told him. Ordered him. Grantaire had been smart, been patient, had lured the slayer to this lovely abandoned church (he likes the symbolism, killing God’s agent in His own house), and it’s still gone all wrong. 

“Fucking Tholomyes,” Grantaire curses, flinching from the heat of the flames as he heads for the door to the cellar. “Fucking slayer club.” He slams the door behind him and stumbles down the stairs, checking his jacket for flames. Just his luck. Just his incredibly bad luck that Tholomyes would send him after a slayer with a fan club. He’d expected the usual set up – shiny fresh-faced slayer, old wary watcher. He had not been prepared to take on a slayer with actual backup.

He could have recruited some local heavies to help out, but he’d killed those other three slayers Tholomyes set him on on his own with no serious problems. He knows how slayers work, how they fight. He hadn’t expected this Canadian stripling to be any different. Enjolras. He snarls as he tastes the name, testing the syllables. Enjolras, who can’t be more than sixteen or so. What the hell a slayer’s doing with two human friends he has no idea. Slayers are supposed to act alone – that’s how it was done back in his day. Slayers slay, watchers watch, and that’s it. There’s no one else in the picture to get in the way.

He should’ve guessed Enjolras would be different. This slayer attends school with normal humans, and fights with no finesse to speak of. He can’t be spending as much time training as a slayer usually would. Maybe his watcher is particularly soft. Either way, Grantaire fucked up.

And now he’s trapped in the basement of a burning building. “Good fucking times.” He leans against the wall and takes deep breaths. He’d been so close as well. Enjolras’ neck had been in his hands, and then one of the fans had hit him in the back of the head with God-knew-what. Feels like it had been a sledge hammer. And now the whole situation is going up in flames. Literally.

Tholomyes is going to kill him.

A burning rafter slams through the ceiling above him and Grantaire leaps forward with a yell. The heat rolls into him like a wall, forcing him away into the middle of the floor. Fuck Tholomyes – he’s going to die here. He wonders furiously how long he’ll have to burn before he turns to dust. If he gets out of this alive he’s going to hunt the slayer down and make the little bastard beg for mercy before he wrings his skinny neck.

It’s his last thought before the floor gives way below him. His stomach lurches and he scrambles in the air for a horrible couple of seconds before he hits solid – painfully solid – ground, to the welcome of a stream of filthy curses in old French.

Bossuet is a luck demon, and as the two of them prop up his ceiling and rescue his stuff, they bond over common origins. “As long as you don’t crash through any more walls, you can stay the day,” Bossuet offers, and Grantaire’s still angry enough to want to crush skulls, but not stupid enough to turn him down.

He’s never failed Tholomyes before. A day passes, then another, and Grantaire should be making his way back to his sire, but he stays instead. Bossuet trades hospitality for favours Grantaire does for him, and he’s in no hurry to tell Tholomyes how he failed. 

 

2 years ago

Grantaire is going to kill Cosette. Figuratively. Without being able to put a hand on the brat, he’s going to somehow make it very clear how not okay it is to run away from her vampire babysitter while the town’s going up in smoke. He likes Cosette, he does (he’s embarrassingly fond of her, if he’s being honest), but sometimes she pulls shit like this that reminds him that for all her apparent maturity, she’s still just a kid.

The lights in the house are on when he gets there, parking his newly stolen motorbike outside and running up the lawn. “Cosette!” he yells, bursting in. “Cosette, I swear to God, if you run off like that again…”

Cosette’s in the living room with a ghost.

Enjolras meets Grantaire’s eyes, and his knees wobble. He has to clutch the doorframe to keep himself upright, something in his chest fluttering. “Enjolras?”

“It’s really him,” Cosette says quickly. “He’s not a wraith or a demon or anything, he’s really alive again.”

His hands are bleeding, and he’s wearing the suit they dressed him in for the funeral. Grantaire goes forward very slowly, and Enjolras doesn’t resist when he takes his hands to examine them. His nails are long, torn and cracked and black with dirt, splinters under his skin and cuts on his knuckles. Grantaire’s seen the same wounds on the hands of dozens of the newly-risen, and wants to pull Enjolras into his arms and weep.

“I don’t know how that happened,” Cosette whispers, and Grantaire shakes his head, never taking his eyes from Enjolras’.

“Climbed out of your coffin, didn’t you.” On impulse, he lets go of one of Enjolras’ hands and touches his face. For the first time in their lives, Enjolras doesn’t flinch. His pale hair is thick with soil, black and brown smudges on his cheeks. His skin is warm under Grantaire’s fingers, and Grantaire breaks eye contact to lean up and kiss his forehead. “Welcome back.”

There are footsteps on the path, loud through the open door, and Enjolras looks away as Grantaire steps back, their serene moment passed. The whole gang is here, Grantaire sees, watching as they come in. Combeferre is leaning heavily on Courfeyrac, hir cheeks cut open, the blood already clotted. Feuilly and Bahorel are holding Jehan up – their backup slayer is paler than usual, Feuilly and Bahorel’s darker complexions contrasting starkly. Éponine brings up the rear, limping a little.

They’re one member short, Grantaire realises. Marius is absent – of course Cosette’s boyfriend couldn’t be expected to conspire with the others behind his beloved’s back. For a moment they crowd Enjolras, who startles and backs away, but Cosette gets between them and practically hisses at them to back off.

Grantaire slips out. He’s not wanted or needed here. Their betrayal stings more than he’ll admit, and translates naturally into anger. Under the tree his bike is parked next to, he pauses to light up a cigarette and inhale, trying to calm down. He wants to smash their stupid heads together, these human idiots.

Feuilly and Bahorel emerge a minute later, and Bahorel calls out when he sees Grantaire. “We thought you’d run off! Aren’t you staying?”

Grantaire drops his cigarette and grinds it out, too furious for a moment to speak. They come over and frown when they see his expression. “What’s the matter?” Feuilly asks, head cocked. “I thought you’d be over the moon.”

“But you didn’t tell me.” The words are harsh, bitten-off, and Grantaire’s nose twitches in an aborted snarl. “I’ve been here all summer, helping you without a word of complaint, and it somehow slipped your mind to let me in on the big plan to resurrect Enjolras?”

They exchange a look – they don’t need any more to communicate. “We couldn’t,” Feuilly says after a moment. “Just in case…”

“In case we failed,” Bahorel says bluntly.

“Or in case you brought back something else?” Grantaire could kill them. It would be so easy. They’re tough for humans, but he could snap their necks like twigs. When it’s not a full moon, Feuilly’s as human as the rest of them. They fucking deserve it. “In case I got in the way? You fucking idiots. Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”

“Hey, we brought Enjolras back!” Bahorel’s temper flares. “He was in some sort of hell dimension, and we brought him out! I thought you’d be happy!”

“Combeferre, right?” Grantaire curls his lip. “Combeferre couldn’t live without his best buddy –”

“Hir,” Feuilly corrects sharply.

Hir best buddy,” Grantaire snaps. “Xe just had to go fucking around with magic to bring him back, didn’t xe? And you all went along with it like the fucking sheep you are –”

Bahorel starts forward, Feuilly’s hand flashing out to clamp around his shoulder to stop him. “Fuck you! He’s back, isn’t he?”

“At what cost?” Grantaire squares up to him. He’s almost a head shorter, but they all know who would win in a fight, and Grantaire’s fury could carry him through half an army right now. “There’s a price to pay with magic, you cretins.” 

“Combeferre paid!” Feuilly insists. “Xe knew what xe was doing! It was really scary, actually – there were snakes, and you saw hir face –”

“And xe sacrificed a deer,” Bahorel adds.

Grantaire slams his fist sideways into the tree. The bark cracks, and they fall silent. “You think a little magical test and a dead deer are a fair exchange for Enjolras’ life?” he hisses. “You think that’s really going to be the end of the price demanded? Combeferre really is the smartest of the lot of you – xe knew xe couldn’t involve me, because I’d stop hir doing something so stupid.” He leaves them on the lawn, too angry to say another word.

  

1 month ago

Solvalée is a long way away, but Grantaire hauls his carcass across continents to get there. The journey out was lonely, but he’s got plenty of company on his return. Old faces he can’t put names to come to him whether he’s awake or asleep, the screams of those he tortured ringing in his ears. He crawls into his crypt months after leaving it, and can’t even make himself go the last few steps down to the lower level.

Joly’s the one who finds him on the floor like that, and Grantaire allows himself to be half-carried to the trio’s caves. Musichetta and Bossuet are overjoyed to see him, amazed at what he’s achieved.

“You actually did it,” Bossuet marvels, holding Grantaire’s head up while Joly helps him drink from a glass of blood. Real human blood – he would have revelled in the rich life-giving taste of it before, but now it makes him gag. Who died to provide him with this drink? “You actually got your soul back.”

“What’s it like?” Musichetta beckons them over, and between the three of them they strip Grantaire of his filthy clothes and get him into the bath.

Grantaire shakes his head, and if any of them see him shed any tears, they’re good enough not to mention it. They clean him up and dress him in Bossuet and Joly’s clothes, and cuddle around him on the bed. He’s so lucky to have territorial demons as friends. Savage to outsiders, they’re like kittens with their families.

They’ve got plenty of news and gossip for him – Combeferre’s in France with Lamarque, recovering from some sort of magical episode where xe accidentally hurt one of the others. A werewolf pack came through town, and Feuilly almost left with them. A demon Musichetta knows has nested, and Bossuet nearly lost his life by using his powers to cheat at cards. Best of all, they’ve located an ex-Initiative surgeon who can remove Grantaire’s chip.

Grantaire isn’t comforted. It’s a case of too little too late. “I killed so many people,” he whispers into Musichetta’s hair, and Joly strokes his back.

“You were following orders, weren’t you? Tholomyes was your master.”

Grantaire shakes his head, eyes closed, and all three of them sigh and draw closer. He doesn’t deserve their affection. It’s true that most of those he killed were for Tholomyes. But he’s done plenty for himself. Tholomyes didn’t keep him on that tight a leash, after all, and he just laughed when Grantaire experimented with what he could do, how far he could go. Like Grantaire was a curious child to be indulged.

And there was that period after Tholomyes’ death, when Grantaire roamed and killed indiscriminately. Town to town to city and village, across Canada, the States, half of Europe and back again. Countless humans shrieking in pain, begging for their lives. He’s been a vampire for over four hundred and sixty years. How many lives has he destroyed? Death touches everyone around it – family members, friends, associates. How much pain has he caused?

And now he’s no longer a vampire, that age-old fear and guilt has come racing back. The number of men he’s taken his pleasure with…how does a sin like that compare to murder? To torture? As a vampire, he’d gloried in it, the same as his other sins. Now his soul reminds him that in the eyes of God, he was never going to heaven. Even as a human, he was doomed because of his unnatural desires.

This age is different to the time of his birth. Canada post-millennium is a far stretch from sixteenth century France. Do sins change over time? Are some sins forgiven as human perceptions of them change?

It doesn’t matter. It’s too late for redemption now.

  

Present Day

“The Watcher’s Council?” Grantaire sneers, decades of derision embedded into him. “You think they’ll help you? They don’t know anything.”

The look Lamarque gives him is pure poison. Grantaire gives her a nice, wide grin in return. She exhales heavily through her nose and pointedly looks at Enjolras. “Unfortunately, the First’s attack on the Watcher’s Council has destroyed all the information they possessed. But I believe their store of information was actually much smaller than it used to be. I was looking into the matter before I came here, and it appears that a watcher about four hundred and fifty years ago removed a great store of the collected documents.”

Grantaire is suddenly desperate for a smoke. How stupid of him, not to realise where this would go. As predicted, Lamarque continues. “The documents were lost when a vampire called Tholomyes attacked him and his slayer. I believe this watcher was something of a genius…from what I can gather, he had plans for his slayer involving inter-dimensional travel, and something that definitely involved the First. I think this watcher intended to send his slayer back in time to stop the First before it ever came into our world.” She pauses to let the significance of that sink in. Grantaire’s guilt surges to the surface as everyone comes to the same conclusion – that Grantaire and his sire stopped a process that could have saved them all.

“Four hundred and fifty years ago.” Combeferre looks at Grantaire. “You were active at that time. You said you were with Tholomyes your entire life.”

They’re all looking at him now, and he huddles down in his chair. Soulless, he would’ve puffed himself up and bared his teeth. Now he wants to shrivel up and die under all their eyes. At least the potentials aren’t here. “So what if I was?” he glances at hir.

“Do you know anything about it?” xe asks calmly. Grantaire opens his mouth to say no, and his throat warms for a second. Just a second of warning, and he snaps his mouth shut again.

“You’ve spelled me,” he snarls.

“The room, actually.” Combeferre doesn’t bat an eyelid. “You can’t lie.”

“Then I’ll leave.” Grantaire gets up, but then so does Enjolras.

“Grantaire, whatever you know, we need it.” His voice is low, insistent, and Grantaire is held in place by his eyes. “Anything might be useful. Please.”

It’s the please that does it. He’s so easily turned – he’s sure the others scorn him for it. Always someone’s dog. But he’s helpless in the face of Enjolras’ request, so he sighs and pushes a hand through his hair. “I want some blood first. I need to think.”

“To figure out how much you can omit?” Lamarque raises an eyebrow, and Grantaire glares at her.

“This is personal.”

“I don’t care,” she says. “We don’t have time for the personal omissions of a vampire.”

“Bigot.”

“Craven,” she retorts, and Enjolras rolls his eyes.

“We don’t have time for this either. Can we just get this over with?”

Squeezing him for information. Because what else would Enjolras be squeezing him for? Grantaire gives him a bitter smile. “Of course, monsieur. Anything for the sainted slayer.” The frown Enjolras gives him isn’t the usual contempt. Grantaire could almost think he was wounded if that wasn’t so ridiculous. He sighs and turns away. “I’m getting a drink first.” A pint of blood and Jack should be enough to fortify him.

Enjolras follows him out, and Grantaire bristles under his angry gaze as he gets himself two bags of blood from the fridge and pours them into a glass. “Spit it out,” he snaps finally. “You didn’t come in here to watch me warm up a drink.”

“You were with Tholomyes when he killed this watcher and his slayer. If you hadn’t been there, they could have rid the world of pure demonic evil forever. But you stopped them.”

Technically, he’s right. Grantaire puts the blood in the microwave and makes his voice hard. “It was the slayer’s fault.”

“Don’t you dare blame the slayer!” Enjolras hisses, stalking forward. The microwave hums, and Grantaire leans back against the counter as Enjolras presses into his space, the smell of him overwhelming. Grantaire wants to fall to his knees and beg for forgiveness. He pushes Enjolras away instead, baring his teeth.

“He was weak!” he growls. “He was supposed to protect his watcher, and he was useless. He was too weak and too cowardly to do what needed to be done, and he walked right into the fangs.”

“Into your fangs?” Enjolras jerks his chin, furious. Grantaire laughs so he won’t cry. Enjolras doesn’t know how close he is to the truth.

“Into my fangs. That’s exactly right.” He gets his blood out of the microwave and tastes it before pouring a generous measure of whisky in and giving it a stir with the end of a spoon. “Come on, slayer. Let’s drag my past out in front of the whole gang. It’ll be fun.”

  

4 years ago

Grantaire waits until dusk, then bolts from his hiding place and makes for the slayer’s house. Whatever the Initiative did to him means he can’t attack anyone now, but the slayer doesn’t have to know that.

The Initiative…he has a purpose now, at least. He came back to Solvalée after carving a bloody path to Paris and back, burning with the intention to get the slayer and make him pay for killing Tholomyes, no matter the cost. And on his first night back, he’d been ambushed. So the slayer could be put on the backburner for now, because first he needed to tear that government institution down brick by fucking brick.

He bares his teeth as he runs, residual sunlight stinging as the planet turns, the sun finally slipping out of sight. He breaks into a sprint – he’s not risking recapture. No doubt they’re all out for his blood right now. And his three favourite demons are relying on him.

He hammers on the door and prays to the Virgin Mary to be merciful. “Please let him still live here,” he mutters. A shape appears behind the frosted glass windows set into the door, and when it opens Grantaire could cry because it’s not Enjolras. It’s a woman with blonde hair and a surprised expression.

“Can I help you?”

“Long shot,” he says, “but does Enjolras live here?”

“Enjolras lives on campus now,” she tells him – oh, of course, this must be his mother. “I can give you directions if you’re new in town?”

“That won’t be necessary, thank you.” His manners return in moments of stress, it appears. Something about this woman makes him want to brush himself down and bow. It’s absurd, and he backs away, breaking into a run again. The campus is on the other side of town – would it be better to hide for the night and make the journey at dawn?

No, his only contacts here were Joly, Musichetta, and Bossuet, and they’re all currently in glass cells, awaiting God-knows-what in the way of experimentation and torture. He won’t leave them for a minute longer than necessary.

He sacrifices subtlety for speed, keeping an eye out for any pursuers. It’s unnatural, being prey instead of predator. He’ll make them run, he swears. He’ll rip their director in half and paint those white walls red, break his fellow demons out and lead the carnage himself. He’ll gorge on their blood, he’ll –

He needs them to remove this thing in his head first, he realises, and curses.

He’s got to be smart about this. He needs the slayer’s help.

A few inquiries on campus are all it takes to identify Enjolras’ room number. He sneaks in along with a student and races to the door, banging on it. It opens a moment later, and Grantaire is rendered temporarily speechless.

Enjolras is no longer a child. Only a stripling when Grantaire saw him last, the slayer has grown – Grantaire has to look up to meet his eyes now. He’s grown into his looks as well, and grown stunningly beautiful with it. Dark blue eyes widen at Grantaire’s presence, and fair hair curls at the nape of his neck, covering the tops of his ears. Before shock and fear spike in the air, he smells clean and warm, some human-made scent clinging to his clothes.

“Who is it?” someone calls from inside, and Enjolras staggers backwards.

“You’re dead,” he breathes, ashen. “You’re dead.”

Grantaire steps inside and closes the door behind him. “Technically I haven’t been alive for centuries. I need to talk to you.”

“Enjolras!”

Oh, the other person. This is a two-bedroom room, Grantaire realises as Enjolras’ roommate throws him a stake. Grantaire backs up, hands in the air. “Hey, hey, stop!”

“Not likely.” Enjolras is a fiery angel, and Grantaire is so bewitched he barely dodges in time for the stake to sink into his arm instead of his heart. He jams his hand over his mouth to muffle his shout of pain and shoves Enjolras away before yanking the damn thing out.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he snarls. His grip tightens until the stake snaps in his hand, and he throws the pieces at the slayer. “I’m here to talk, not fight!”

Enjolras has another stake in his hand already, his roommate armed with an axe. Grantaire squints. “Do I know you?” It comes to him suddenly – one of Enjolras’ fans, and he makes a disgusted sound. “Never mind, I got it.”

“How are you alive?” Enjolras hisses, every muscle tight. “We killed you.”

“And yet here I stand,” Grantaire spreads his arms and winces as it pulls at the new hole Enjolras just put in him. “Ow. Here, look, I swear not to harm you while I’m here. On my honour.”

“You’re a vampire.” Shit, Grantaire is obsessed. Enjolras is so cold, so pure, so beautiful. Grantaire’s actually pleased he didn’t kill him before – it would’ve been a crime to cut short his development. God, the things he wants to do to this slayer…usually he’s all about the kill, but for Enjolras he could draw it out. Humans enjoy being bitten, so what would Enjolras look like with his eyes rolled back in his head, mouth open in pleasure?

“There’s honour to be found even in vampires,” he snaps. “Though not in humans or slayers, it seems. I want to make a deal.”

Enjolras and his friend (Combeferre, who tells Grantaire in a tone that leaves no room for argument about hir pronouns) do a poor job of concealing how eager they are for information on the Initiative. Grantaire tells them he can show them two ways in, describe part of the interior, and give them answers regarding the whys of such an operation. Combeferre in particular leans forward in anticipation, and Grantaire is sure he has them.

“So you’ll give us this information in exchange for what?” His angel is less keen, far more suspicious. Which Grantaire grants is fair – he did try to kill Enjolras the last two times they met.

“I have friends in there. Three demons you are not allowed to kill.” He wants to add a condition of sparing a surgeon so he can get this thing out of his head, but he’s not going to reveal that particular weakness.

“Not vampires?” Combeferre raises hir eyebrows. “I thought demons didn’t mingle much with vampires, because they consider themselves better.”

“They’re not all snobs,” Grantaire says, almost offended on their behalf. It’s beyond bizarre to be sitting on the slayer’s bed, making a deal with the boy. Man? No, still a boy. “These three you can’t touch, understand? A bald luck demon, a skinny bone-eater with piercings and a scar on his forehead, and a gakarin demon with long purple hair. Got that?”

For the first time, Enjolras looks uncertain, exchanging a glance with Combeferre. “Um.”

“What?” Grantaire asks, perplexed.

“I don’t know what any of those look like,” Enjolras admits. Combeferre actually looks embarrassed for him, and Grantaire points at him.

“You are a fucking awful slayer. This is why slayers aren’t allowed normal lives, you know.”

“Screw you!” Enjolras gets to his feet, and it’s irritating that when Grantaire follows suit he’s still looking up a bit. “I’m managing fine!”

Grantaire wants to box the little shit’s ears, but rolls his eyes instead. “So I see, monsieur have-it-all. Look up the species, make sure you can distinguish them. If I lead you to the Initiative and you kill my friends by mistake, I’ll kill yours on purpose.” He looks at Combeferre, and Enjolras steps in front of hir, eyes blazing.

“Threaten my friends again, I dare you.”

“It’s not a threat.” Grantaire smiles coldly. “It’s a promise.”

“Enjolras.” Combeferre takes Enjolras’ wrist in hir hand, and a little of the fire goes out of Enjolras’ eyes.

“It’s a reasonable deal. You get the Initiative, I get my friends back.”

“I can hardly believe you have friends,” Enjolras sneers. Grantaire curls his lip right back.

“Even vampires have friends, slayer. You’d do well not to forget it.”

  

6 years ago

The news of a new vampire at the Hellmouth reaches Grantaire in a bar. When he hears that the vampire is old and dangerous, he rolls his eyes. When he hears the name Tholomyes, he leaves. 

It takes Tholomyes two days to find him, and his fury is truly something to be witnessed. Grantaire huddles against a wall in the tunnel Tholomyes has cornered him in and breathes in short, sharp huffs with his eyes screwed tight shut as his sire beats him. A chair first, which Tholomyes reduces to splinters, then a belt. First with the softer end, then with the buckle.

It’s under the buckle that Grantaire starts to howl and beg, the pain of the metal slamming against his back setting him alight. “Please, I’m sorry, stop, please –”

“You craven filth,” Tholomyes snarls, hitting him twice more before finally ceasing. He’s panting from the exertion, and Grantaire curls up with a stifled sob, the cold ground biting into his knees and palms. “You pathetic, worthless piece of scum. How dare you try to run from me? Do you think I’m one of your disgusting lovers to be abandoned?”

“No,” Grantaire says, flinching as Tholomyes takes a step closer. “No, I didn’t –” Tholomyes gets a hand in his hair and wrenches his head up, forcing Grantaire to look at him.

“I am your sire,” he hisses, fumbling with something in his pocket. “I made you. Don’t you ever forget it.” He pulls out a glass bottle, and Grantaire starts to struggle as he flicks the lid open. There isn’t time to move away before Tholomyes empties the holy water onto his back, and Grantaire screams, collapsing in agony, body spasming as the water burns into the open wounds Tholomyes has given him and sears what skin is left.

He lies in the dark, whimpering on every exhale. Hours pass before Tholomyes returns for him, and Grantaire is so grateful for the help and blood he brings he could weep. The human is already unconscious, and Grantaire falls on her, draining what Tholomyes has left for him. She’s dead in minutes, and he stands at last, too ashamed to speak.

“You have been punished for your mistakes,” Tholomyes tells him, and hands him a fresh shirt. “Let us speak no more of it.”

Grantaire nods, and follows Tholomyes out of the tunnel. He deserved his punishment, he knows, but Tholomyes is fair – he does not hold grudges. And now his sire has returned for him, Grantaire feels more settled. It’s a relief to be back in his familiar role. The anticipation of Tholomyes’ coming was the worst thing, as was the uncertainty. Grantaire’s never been on his own, not as a human, and not as a vampire. He’s a poor solitary hunter. But with Tholomyes to guide him and direct him, he’s something splendid and fearsome. Tholomyes has but to gesture, and Grantaire is ripping out throats. They are a perfect team, alpha and beta.

They emerge together under a dark, cold sky, and Grantaire tilts his head back and takes deep breaths. Tholomyes is here now – he will take care of everything.

  

2 years ago

Grantaire settles himself in the shade and watches the bright sunlight beyond, forever out of reach. It hurts his eyes, so he looks down and pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pocket, drawing one out with his lips and cupping a hand around it as he lights up.

The door opens and he doesn’t have to look round to see who it is – he’d know Enjolras blindfolded, from scent and sound alone. He looks anyway, drinking in the sight as Enjolras sits next to him on the crate. He’s been dead for one hundred and forty seven days, and alive again for one. Grantaire’s still so angry with Combeferre and the others that he could happily put his fist through each of their skulls, but he can’t think about that now. Enjolras is alive.

Enjolras is alive.

“What was it like after you came back?” Enjolras asks softly, fingers twined loosely between his knees. They’re still bloody and scraped. Grantaire imagines lifting them to his lips and looks away, taking a deep drag.

“Mad. I was mad – vampires rise hungry, you know. That’s why you fight in graveyards when they’re freshly risen and not-all-there in the head.”

“After that though.”

Grantaire leans back against the wall and sighs, offers Enjolras the cigarette. He shakes his head, and Grantaire finishes it off. “It wasn’t this. Tholomyes kept me close, instructed me and guided me. Groomed me, really. Made me what I am.”

“What you were,” Enjolras corrects. His voice is so low – Grantaire’s sure he wasn’t this quiet before. He looks up from his ruined fingers to the wall opposite, blonde curls moving slightly in the breeze. “I didn’t know where I was, when I woke up, even after climbing out. I thought…I thought maybe I was in hell.”

Something cold coils through Grantaire’s stomach. “I thought you were in hell. Feuilly and Bahorel said you were in hell.”

Enjolras shakes his head, a small movement. “Wherever I was, before they brought me back, after I died…” Please no, Grantaire begs silently. God, no. “It was warm,” Enjolras goes on, barely audible. “I was floating…I don’t remember, but I was…I think I was happy. I was at peace.”

Grantaire wants to bundle Enjolras into his arms, wants to go inside and rip Combeferre and the others into little pieces, tear the flesh from their worthless bones. He could show them hell.

“You can’t tell them,” Enjolras whispers. If Grantaire reached for his hand, what would he do? How would Enjolras react to a hand on his shoulder, in his hair? Grantaire decides not to find out. Acting might break this fragile peace they have, which is more than they’ve ever had.

They could leave together. He and Enjolras, they could leave his foolish, feckless friends and leave all of this. No slayer, no vampires, no Hellmouth. They could go to Paris, Grantaire could show him his home city, they could be happy. Enjolras would sleep, as humans do, and in the evenings he would roll over as he woke and give Grantaire a smile, reach up to touch Grantaire’s cheek.

The fantasy fades as fast as it comes, and Grantaire just nods. “If that’s what you want.”

“It is. They can’t know.” It would hurt them, goes unspoken, and Grantaire gets another cigarette out so he doesn’t do anything stupid like shake Enjolras until his teeth rattle. Like cry what about you?

Enjolras was in heaven, at peace, and they ripped him back into their world with its violence and bloodshed and pain. Grantaire lights up and inhales, and when he offers Enjolras a smoke again, the slayer accepts. He hands it back with a grimace and a cough. “Everything hurts here.”

“Not everything,” Grantaire says. “Cosette wasn’t part of the plan. Or Marius.”

“She was with you.” Enjolras looks at him, and Grantaire gazes back. He’d never thought he’d see Enjolras’ eyes again. “Why did you stay? After I died?”

Oh. Grantaire tears his eyes away and looks down at his knees. “You know why.” He won’t say it. He’s not that much of a masochist yet. Enjolras’ silence stretches on, and Grantaire gets up with a sigh, dropping the end of his cigarette to the ground. “I’d do anything for you, you know that.” He leaves Enjolras outside and doesn’t look any of the others in the eye as he settles in the upstairs part of the Magic Box, waiting for dusk so he can escape.

  

Present Day

“The watcher you’re looking for was called Audric,” Grantaire tells them, looking at his glass instead of his audience. Marius and Cosette are curled up in an armchair together with Éponine on the floor by their feet. Combeferre, Bahorel, and Feuilly are sharing the sofa, on the arm of which perches Courfeyrac. The other armchair is occupied by the trio, Bossuet in the middle with Joly and Musichetta tangled around him. Jehan, Lamarque, and Enjolras are standing, and of course it’s Enjolras’ gaze that falls on Grantaire the heaviest.

“They were all men back then, of course, and Audric’s slayer was a boy as well. Halfway through his twenties, as I recall.”

“What was his name?” Jehan asks. So delicate at first glance, this accidental slayer, but there was hard steel beneath the soft façade.

Grantaire snorts. “Does it matter? Slayers come and go. The Watcher’s Council outlives them all.” He glares at Lamarque. Centuries of Tholomyes’ vendetta against the watchers has built layers of hate in Grantaire’s mind for the Council. He’s glad the First finished them off – it might be the only good thing it ever does.

“Go on,” Enjolras prompts.

Grantaire takes a gulp from his glass. The whisky in the blood warms him, and he sighs. “Tholomyes…I don’t actually know how he heard about what Audric was doing. But he knew he was up to something big, that he had plans involving the Beginning –”

“You’ve said that before,” Combeferre interrupts. “The Beginning. Why the emphasis? What is it?”

“The Beginning of the world.” Grantaire raises his eyebrows. “Obviously.” He forgets sometimes how poorly educated his slayer and his friends are. “First was the Seed, from which came the Earth. Then came the Old Ones, and after them lesser demons. Time passed, and other life grew – mortal beings were created and evolved. Time passed, and humans came and vanquished the Old Ones. The demons that remained after the humans triumphed were tainted by Earth. Vampires are the most reviled and successful hybrid demons on this plain.” He can’t quite keep the pride out of his voice. “Other demons have devolved since the Beginning, but vampires have remained essentially the same.”

Musichetta makes a tutting sound, and Grantaire grins at her. The humans are baffled, of course. They wouldn’t understand the hierarchy among demons. Vampires might be the lowest of the low in the eyes of most, but no one can deny how widespread they are. Vampires survive, the population ever-growing. There’s satisfaction to be taken in a status like that.

“Is this relevant?” Lamarque asks, unimpressed.

“History is always relevant.” Grantaire takes another gulp of blood and whisky. “The First is older than this dimension, and older than all dimensions.”

“We know this,” Bahorel says impatiently, and Grantaire growls at him.

“I’m getting to it. The First therefore comes from before the Seed and the Beginning, and we’ll ignore that oxymoron for the sake of a good story. I know it’s a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but you need to stop thinking of time as linear for a moment. Think of it as…blocks. Blocks of moments stacked on top of each other, all happening at the same time, for eternity. And all these moments are accessible if you’ve got enough power.”

“Are you talking about time travel?” Cosette looks lost, and frankly, Grantaire can’t blame her.

“Sort of? Think of the birth of the Seed and the moment of the Beginning as these incredible sources of power. That power blasts through every single moment block and keeps them all energised. If that makes sense. That moment, back there in the Beginning at the birth of the Seed, was the moment the First came into this dimension. I think. It’s entirely possible Audric was completely wrong about all of this, and the First is actually present in all blocks, and always will be, and that’s just the way it is, but Audric had this theory that since all magical energy radiates through from the Beginning, it was possible to go back in time…kind of…and seal off the source of the First. Whatever that was.”

“This sounds like a lot of speculation,” Feuilly says, frowning at him. Grantaire finishes off his blood and sighs.

“I’m not explaining it very well. But Audric’s plan was apparently sound enough to get Tholomyes’ attention.”

“And Tholomyes killed the watcher and the slayer?” Jehan twists his fingers together, and Grantaire remembers that his first watcher was killed by vampires.

“It was the slayer’s fault,” he tells them flatly. “Audric hadn’t told him about these plans, but he found out and panicked, and fled. He led Tholomyes right back to his watcher. Audric’s death was his fault. Everything was his fault – if he hadn’t run like a coward, Tholomyes might not have found them.”

Combeferre’s eyes widen, and Grantaire turns away, cold despite the whisky in his belly. He’s said too much. “Tholomyes burnt the place down,” he mutters as he leaves. “The information you want is gone.” 

 

3 years ago 

Glory digs a finger into his chest, and Grantaire can’t scream, he can’t even breathe. “Precious, precious, what do you know?” she croons, and Grantaire chokes on empty air as her finger twists.

He screams later, howls and whimpers as she chains him up and beats him and beats him and beats him. Her nails peel skin from his back, her fingers punch through his flesh again, and again, and again. When she wriggles two fingers into the first wound she made, the pain is so great that Grantaire passes out. He wakes up and she slaps him for the slight hard enough to deaden the hearing in one of his ears.

The chains dig into his wrists and she dances around him, perky as anything, hair bouncing as she punches his sides. His ribs crack and he loses his breath, wheezing helplessly. Nothing has ever hurt so much in his existence, and finally he croaks, “Enough, please…enough…”

He begs for time to recover a little, asks for water and is given some. He takes the time to reconsider.

If it weren’t for Enjolras, he wonders whether he would be able to give Cosette up. Charming, clever Cosette, blonde as her brother, with that boyfriend of hers she’d drawn into their fight. Young Marius, who’d accepted everything thrown at him and offered all his money to help protect Cosette. Not because she was the Key, but because he was in love with her. 

Sickening. Grantaire felt jealous just thinking about them. If it weren’t for Enjolras, would he name them for Glory? He can’t be sure. But he knows he can’t do it in any case. If anything happened to his sister, Enjolras would be destroyed. Fake memories or not, Cosette’s his sister in blood, and Enjolras is hell-bent on protecting her.

And Grantaire would do anything for Enjolras.

“So, precious.” Glory slams the empty glass into his face and it shatters, a shard sticking in his cheek. “Ready to talk?”

“Ready to pay?” he tries. Maybe he can draw this out a little longer. “The Key’s name is pretty…valuable information.” He coughs, tastes blood, tries to focus his blurring vision on Glory.

“Oh, sweetie.” She takes the shard of glass and pushes, and Grantaire moans hoarsely as it punctures his cheek, the bloody tip grinding against his teeth. He could touch it with his tongue. “The reward is your pathetic little life.” She beams and pulls the glass out. Blood pours down his jaw and neck, and pools in his mouth. The cheery edge to her voice vanishes. “Now talk. I’ve waited long enough. Needy little leeches aren’t very attractive, you know.”

He spits, and misses her face but gets blood all over her dress. She leaps back with a noise of disgust and he laughs, a cracked, humourless sound. “See, it’s funny,” he rasps. “Because…my life? S’not worth shit.”

She kicks him in the chest so hard he flies through the wall and into the corridor. He barely makes it to the elevator in time, and he has no idea how he stands up when it opens. He expects to find Glory’s minions waiting to take him upstairs to die, but they’re not waiting – they’re fighting. He sees blonde hair and collapses, in too much pain to continue.

They take him to the Magic Box, and Grantaire submits to Feuilly’s clumsy attempts at medical help. It’s a fucking crime that no one in this stupid gang has bothered to get professional medical training yet, despite all the scrapes they get into.

“Leave it,” he breathes, wincing when Feuilly touches his chest. “Call Joly…my phone…”

“I’ve got his number, R,” Feuilly whispers, and backs off. It’s Enjolras who replaces him, and the training room suddenly empties. On the slayer’s orders, Grantaire assumes, and closes his eyes. Enjolras is too bright to look at right now.

“She really went to town on you.”

“Yeah.” Grantaire can’t breathe properly, and the places where Glory dug her fingers in burn. Everything hurts, everything hurts, he can’t remember what it feels like not to be in pain. He would scream if he could. He needs Joly, and soon.

“Grantaire…”

“I didn’t tell her.” Grantaire cracks one eye open. Enjolras still looks worried. “I wouldn’t, Enjolras.”

There’s a long moment where Enjolras looks down at him, judging for himself. It’s such a relief when he nods that Grantaire closes his eye again. “I believe you.”

“Thank you.”

“You need to recover soon,” Enjolras says quietly. “I’m going to need you.” Something brushes his forehead, and Grantaire opens both eyes to see Enjolras’ face retreating. He gets up and leaves before Grantaire can say a word, and Grantaire squeezes his eyes shut again, trying to imprint the memory of Enjolras’ lips on his skin into his mind forever.

  

4 years ago

Grantaire had intended to hold his tongue and observe only, but it’s difficult to keep his observations to himself where the slayer’s training is concerned. Enjolras’ watcher, Lamarque, owns a magic shop with a basement training room, and they all seem to believe it sufficient for the slayer’s needs.

(All of them – Enjolras’ fan club has grown since Grantaire saw him last. There were only two others then, the not-boy witch Combeferre and the plain human Courfeyrac. Now they have an ex-vengeance demon called Éponine, and two First Nation boys called Feuilly and Bahorel. Feuilly’s a werewolf, and attends the university with Enjolras and Combeferre, and Bahorel works with Courfeyrac as some sort of builder. Grantaire doesn’t know what Éponine does.)

(There’s also apparently another slayer out there – Enjolras was killed before Grantaire even knew of him, and another slayer came into her own. Except Jehan is apparently not a her. It takes a while for Grantaire to figure out that Jehan is what the others call transgendered. Or trans-something at least. Jehan prefers not to stay in one place, but he stays in contact somehow. Grantaire suspects the internet is to blame.)

“You let him go to school?” Grantaire raises an eyebrow at Lamarque. If the others distrust him, she despises him.

“The slayer is not a robot. He’s allowed to do as he pleases.”

“No wonder he died,” Grantaire sneers, looking around this paltry hole they use for training. “He’s not like normal people. He should be training.”

“What does it matter to you?” The voice comes from the stairs behind him, and Grantaire turns to see Courfeyrac glaring at him. “I thought you’d prefer a slayer unprepared. Not that Enjolras is.”

“I prefer a decent challenge.”

“Three dead slayers to your name.” Lamarque glares at him, arms crossed over her chest. “You’re a monster.”

“At least I don’t pretend otherwise.” Grantaire bares his teeth at her. “What else is the Watcher’s Council but monsters playing dress-up? Don’t try and sugar-coat it. I know what watchers are like. Slayers are just their puppets. A necessary evil.”

“Lamarque isn’t like them.” Enjolras descends behind Courfeyrac. Every time Grantaire sees him, he’s struck to the bone. It’s been days since he came to them with his deal, and the effect hasn’t worn off yet. He hopes it will soon. “She’s not like the others.”

Grantaire recovers and hits back with sarcasm. “I suppose she conveniently forgot to put you through the Cruciamentum then?” Both Lamarque and Enjolras get uncomfortable looks, and Grantaire laughs. “Slayers are the Council’s tools, darling. Don’t forget it.”

“Don’t call me that,” Enjolras snaps, pushing past him as he goes to the weapons cabinet. He’s such a child. Grantaire leans against the wall to watch, and Courfeyrac comes to lean next to him.

“How do you know about the Cruciamentum? I thought that was only a slayer-watcher thing.”

“You know about it,” Grantaire points out.

“I’m Enjolras’ friend, and I was there when he had to go through that stupid test.” Courfeyrac narrows his eyes. “What’s your excuse?”

Grantaire shrugs and watches Enjolras back-flip over a vault to dodge the knives Lamarque throws at him. He lacks knowledge, but this slayer is a beautiful fighter. Predictable, as all slayers are, but beautiful. “Tholomyes. You remember Tholomyes, right? He hated the Watcher’s Council." 

“Why?”

“What’s a slayer without a watcher?” Grantaire nods to Enjolras and Lamarque. “A slayer on their own, untrained, is easy prey. They’re only truly dangerous when they’ve been prepared to fulfil their purpose, which is what the watcher is there for. Remove the watcher, and the threat of the slayer is effectively nullified. The Watcher’s Council is also a den of thieves, backstabbers, and murderers. They’ve stolen more information and artefacts from demons than you’d care to believe.”

“So?” Courfeyrac frowns. “Demons are evil. The watchers do it to protect the world.”

Grantaire bares his teeth and hisses, and Courfeyrac backs away. “They’re greedy, hoarding thieves. I have a friend whose clan was effectively destroyed because the watchers ordered a slayer two centuries ago to steal a sacred weapon from them. Slayers are blunt, brutal instruments, and the watchers use them to further their own ends.”

“In the name of the greater good,” Courfeyrac insists, squaring his shoulders. “For humanity.”

“Fuck humanity.” Grantaire snarls at him and shoves him into the wall as he goes upstairs, wincing at the flash of pain such a gesture causes in his head. “You’re not the only species living in this dimension, you know.”

It’s Enjolras’ suggestion a couple of days later that they blow the whole facility up that burns away the last of Grantaire’s patience. “What about the people inside?” Feuilly asks. Enjolras blushes – Grantaire suspects he has a crush.

“We’ll evacuate them first, of course. A fire alarm would work, wouldn’t it?”

“And what about the other people inside?” Grantaire reminds them acidly. He’s not part of their little brainstorming circle – he sits above them on the ladder leading up to the bookshelves upstairs while they huddle around their round table and hatch their schemes. It’s enough to make a vampire weep, to see how useless they are until one of them finally suggests something that might work and they hammer it into a haphazard plan. As far as he can tell, these morons have survived this long mainly on luck.

“What other people?” Courfeyrac asks, puzzled, and Éponine rolls her eyes.

“The ones in the cells, idiot.” Grantaire likes Éponine. Vengeance demons are generally good sorts as long as you don’t get on their bad sides, and Éponine’s decent company even as a human.

Enjolras’ tone is dismissive as he leans back in his chair. “Do they count?”

“We had a deal!” Grantaire jumps down behind him, furious. “You’ve delayed long enough already. I’ve given you the information you wanted, you owe me.”

Enjolras stands and they glare at each other. “I don’t know,” the slayer says slowly. “Should I even be making deals with demons?”

Grantaire shoves him, hissing as pain lances through his skull. Enjolras pushes him back, beautiful eyes blazing, and Grantaire sees red for a moment and attacks. He reels away not a second later, shouting in pain and clutching his head. Coming back to himself, the shop is silent, the slayer gang all staring. It’s Éponine who voices their collective thoughts. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Behavioural modification.” Combeferre shifts forward in hir seat, eyes wide behind hir glasses. “You were subject to it in the Initiative, weren’t you?”

Fucking witches. Always a step ahead of the crowd.

Grantaire pulls himself upright with the rail of the ladder and glares at them. “They poked around a bit, yeah.”

“So now what?” Bahorel raises his eyebrows. “You can’t hurt anyone?” Éponine bursts out laughing, and Grantaire swiftly revises his opinion of her.

“A vampire who can’t bite! That’s hilarious. Oh gods, there’s a joke in there about being neutered, I can feel it.”

“Shut up.” He wonders if his chip would be triggered if he threw something at her. If she was far away, maybe? “Look, my brain isn’t the issue here. We had a deal – I bring you information, you make sure my friends get out alive.”

“Demons with friends,” Lamarque snorts, and Éponine sits up straight in her chair.

“Hey!”

“We made a deal!” Grantaire turns to Enjolras, who gazes back with a blank expression. “Or is there more honour in demons than humans?”

That hits home (points to him), and the new, revised plan involves a strike to the heart of the facility, where the scientists are creating their monster. That’s the real threat, they decide. Grantaire can tag along and free his friends as long as he stays out of the way and doesn’t turn on them the moment he has backup.

Inside the Initiative, someone hits a button or something and the demons are set loose. It’s at this point that Grantaire realises that while he can’t harm humans, demons are fair game. He’s with Enjolras when he spots long purple hair and shouts, “Chetta!”

She turns, and they crash together with yells of relief. “You came back! What the hell is wrong with you?”

“I couldn’t leave you behind.” Grantaire sees Enjolras over her shoulder, frowning, and wipes the smile from his face. “Come on, we need –”

“I’m looking for Joly, he’s in here somewhere.” She’s frantic, eyes glowing, and he pulls in the direction he was going in.

“He and Bossuet were with me, this way.”

“Your luck demon friend?”

“You’ll love him,” he promises. He keeps her from attacking the slayer, tells her he’ll explain later, and Enjolras splits off on his own when they find Joly and Bossuet. Joly’s too weak to stand, and Bossuet is guarding him ferociously from anyone who tries to approach. While Musichetta takes charge of Joly, he and Bossuet stay behind to destroy as much as they can. The air is thick with demon shrieks and human screams, music to Grantaire’s ears, and although he can’t attack any directly, he’s more than able to smash things up.

A demon from the Britzai clan has cornered a doctor Bossuet recognises, and Grantaire holds the demon off so Bossuet can pull the doctor’s fingers from his hands one by one, the spines along his back raised up in anger while they usually lie flat.

“He’s the one who hurt Joly,” Bossuet tells him as they run, the facility collapsing around them.

It’s mating behaviour, that territorial protectiveness. Grantaire wonders how Musichetta will react. He spares a thought as they escape for Enjolras, and finds himself hoping that the slayer makes it out safely.

 

1 year ago

“I think I might go away for a bit,” Grantaire says. The trio all look at him, and then start exchanging glances with each other.

“Go where?” Joly asks, frowning.

“Back to Paris?” Musichetta closes the lid of her laptop and smiles. “Bring us presents.”

“Actually I was thinking a little more south.” Grantaire tips his beer bottle back. He’s developed a taste for the beverage – Bossuet’s a fiend for it. “Africa.”

“What’s in Africa?” Joly asks, and Bossuet shakes his head.

“You’re not thinking of doing anything stupid, are you, R?”

“Depends how you define ‘stupid’.” He looks down and sighs. “There’s a shaman there, an asphyx demon.”

“Lloyd?” Musichetta’s pink eyes widen. “What wish do you want granted?”

“This might be the stupid part,” Grantaire admits.

“It involves Enjolras, doesn’t it?” Bossuet’s tolerance for the slayer is very low, and he gets up with a snort. “Wait, why am I asking? All your stupid ideas involve Enjolras.”

“Lloyd has trials for anyone who goes to him,” Musichetta says, reaching over to touch Grantaire’s shoulder. “Harsh trials.”

“I know.”

“What’s worth putting yourself through that?”

“I can’t find any other way to get my soul back.” Grantaire mumbles it, looking down at the bottle in his hand instead of at his friends. Bossuet explodes after only a second.

“Your soul? Why? It’ll drive you mad, R! This infatuation isn’t worth this!”

Joly makes an agitated clicking sound. “R…you know this might not convince him…”

“It probably won’t.” Grantaire’s been over this a hundred thousand times in his head. But the fact of the matter is that no matter how cordial his relationship with Enjolras and his friends has become, his vampirism will always be a barrier. “But I’ve been hanging around him for years now, and this isn’t getting any better. If there’s any hope at all…I have to take it.”

“You’re a fucking idiot,” Bossuet tells him, and Grantaire lifts his arms in a shrug.

“I never claimed otherwise.”

“We’re all fools in love, I suppose,” Musichetta sighs, looking at her boys.

“There’s foolish and then there’s a refusal to see the truth. If he wanted you, he’d have gone for you by now.” The words hurt, well-meant as they are, and Grantaire finishes his beer before standing and getting his coat.

“Me right now is a monster. Maybe he’ll prefer me with a soul.”

“You’re more use to him as a warrior,” Bossuet insists. “He won’t thank you for this.”

“If any of them ask, don’t tell them where I’ve gone or why. Just say I’ve gone away for a while.” He leaves, his back to their protests, and buries his hands deep in his pockets as he walks back to his crypt. He won’t need much. The trio will keep an eye on his place for him.

It’s a nice parting shot, leaving the slayer’s little gang without a word of goodbye. He hopes it stings them, especially Enjolras.

He imagines saying his goodbyes. Maybe finally giving Enjolras that necklace from years ago, the only present Grantaire’s ever gotten for him. Declaring he’ll return whole, someone worthy of Enjolras’ love.

As if he would ever be worthy of Enjolras, soul or not.

But he has to try. Since his resurrection, Enjolras has been struggling. One moment he’ll be seeking Grantaire out to go on patrols together, the next he’ll be spitting bile about how Grantaire is only good to him as a fighter. Even now, they leave him out of their plans until the last moment, when they decide they need him along. There’s only so much humiliation and rejection Grantaire can take.

And if there’s even the slimmest chance that Enjolras could love him, Grantaire has to take it. He’s desperate. He thinks of Enjolras constantly, fantasises about the two of them together, dreams of him when he sleeps. If a soul would make Enjolras look twice at him, even consider him…

And if he doesn’t survive the Demon Trials, so be it. Better dead than hopeless.

 

Present Day

Enjolras finds him on the back porch, smoking his way through a pack of cigarettes. He even took a plate from the kitchen to use as an ashtray. “I’m sorry.”

Grantaire looks up at him, surprised. “What?”

Enjolras sighs and comes down to sit next to him, taking the cigarette from his fingers and taking a drag. It should not be as attractive as it is, and Grantaire almost drops the cigarette when Enjolras hands it back. “I’m sorry,” Enjolras says again, resting his elbows on his knees. “For snapping at you in the kitchen. I know you don’t like talking about what you did with Tholomyes.”

“I deserve it.”

“No you don’t.” Enjolras sounds like he’s trying to comfort him or something.

“You didn’t put the pieces together,” Grantaire realises. “You don’t know who the slayer was.”

“What? Audric’s slayer?” That little wrinkle between Enjolras’ eyes appears, as it always does when he’s confused. Grantaire shakes his head and looks forward.

“I wasn’t with Tholomyes when he attacked Audric. Well. I kind of was. Sort of.” How can Enjolras not be getting it? Another glance at the slayer’s confused expression makes Grantaire sigh. “I’m the slayer, Enjolras. I was Audric’s slayer, the one who ran away and ruined everything." 

“You…but…why didn’t you just say so?”

Enjolras’ stare is heavy on Grantaire’s shoulders, and he hunches over. “If it wasn’t for me, you might not be in the mess you’re in now. If I’d trusted my watcher and not been such a coward…”

“How old were you?” Enjolras asks quietly.

“Twenty two.”

“Younger than me.”

“I’m four hundred and sixty four now.” It comes out sharper than intended, and Grantaire rolls his eyes at his own petulance.

“You were a slayer.” Enjolras shakes his head. “I can’t believe it. Why didn’t you ever say?”

“Because I was a crap slayer.” Grantaire grinds his cigarette out on the plate and lights up another, glaring ahead of him. “I was weak and cowardly and unsuited to the position.”

“There aren’t any mistakes in the slayer line,” Enjolras says quietly.

“I wasn’t the soldier they wanted!” Grantaire looks away, hoping no one inside is listening. The garden is silent; the house hums with chatter. “I was a mistake,” he says after a moment. “I trained my whole life and I was a slayer for barely five years before I showed my true colours. I walked right into the fangs, just like I said, and after I turned, I led Tholomyes to my watcher. And I killed him.” He doesn’t remember much of it anymore – he doesn’t even remember what Audric looked like. But he remembers the hunger, the rush, the thrill.

“You weren’t yourself,” Enjolras tells him.

“I was when I ran.” Grantaire blows smoke out into the garden. “I was a shit human, a terrible slayer, and a pathetic vampire.”

“Grantaire –”

“My name was Regnaude.” Enjolras falls silent. Grantaire doesn’t look at him. “Regnaude Sicard. Tholomyes asked me after I turned if I wanted to be Regnaude forever, and I’d never wanted anything less. I wanted to be more than what I’d been. Bigger. So –”

“Big R,” Enjolras whispers.

“Grand R.” Grantaire twists his mouth, spits the words out mockingly. “Such lofty ambition, for such a weak being.”

“You’re not –”

“I am.” Grantaire stops him with a look, and holds his eyes. Dark blue into…what? He has no idea what colour his eyes are. If he ever knew when he was human, he’s forgotten now. “I’m weak,” he says again, calm. “I always was. But you’re so much stronger – you’ll succeed where I failed. You’d never run from what you need to do. You’d never abandon your calling. You’re a better slayer, a better man than I could have ever been.”

You’re a great man,” Enjolras insists, and turns to face Grantaire better, their knees almost touching. “Your name was well-chosen, Grantaire.”

“I’m a shadow’s shadow,” Grantaire says bitterly.

“You’re not.” Enjolras frowns, appears to rally himself. “You got your soul back. No vampire has ever done that willingly before. You’re so much more than you think.”

“I didn’t do that to be a better person.”

“Why did you do it then?”

God, he’s obtuse. And Grantaire is so tired. He turns away and finishes his cigarette before he speaks, not lighting up another. “You’ve got this obsession with independence, you know that?” he says. “Not you personally, I mean – I mean the human race. At this point in time, you’ve all got this thing where you think that you have to be able to do everything on your own. You can let other people help, but you have to be capable of going it alone if necessary. I’m not from your time, and I’m not like that. I need…” He gestures helplessly. “I’ve always needed something to hold onto. When I was a child, it was God. As a slayer I was worthless because I was lost, and when Tholomyes came, he took the reins. All I had to do was follow orders.

“You destroyed that for me. You killed Tholomyes, and I wanted nothing more than to torture you and everyone you loved to make you pay for it. But when I came back to do it, the Initiative got me and I couldn’t…and you gave me a new purpose.” He looks at Enjolras at last. Enjolras gazes back, hands loosely twined between his legs. “I can’t do things on my own,” Grantaire tells him. “It’s not my nature. You gave me something to do, and you treated me…after a while…like an equal. I did this for you. I do everything for you.”

Enjolras shifts, turning closer. Their knees touch, and Grantaire doesn’t have it in him to move away. “Did it hurt?” Enjolras asks quietly.

Grantaire sighs, pushes a hand through his hair. “It was, and continues to be, agony.”

All at once, Enjolras is closer. His hands are on Grantaire’s face and neck, thumbs against his jaw to turn Grantaire’s face towards him. It’s fast, but he’s gentle, and Grantaire barely has time to take a breath before Enjolras has pressed their lips together.

For several long seconds they stay like that, and then Grantaire makes a sound – something too quiet and soft for a moan, but not far off – and tilts his head to kiss Enjolras properly, his hands rising of their own accord. One settles on Enjolras’ upper arm, the other cups his cheek, and they both slide close enough for their thighs to press together.

“What the hell?” Grantaire breathes when they break apart, a few seconds later. “Enjolras, what –”

“I don’t have much of a heart to pour out.” Enjolras is breathing unevenly, and Grantaire is transfixed by how wet his lips are. “I wanted…I don’t want to keep telling myself you’re a bad idea. You were a bad idea before, but you got your soul back for me, and we might be dead in a week, so I just wanted…” His hands tighten for a moment on Grantaire’s neck and shoulders, and then he relaxes and strokes one through Grantaire’s hair.

Grantaire could cry. He’s so relieved he might faint. “Don’t do this to me if this is just a one-time thing,” he manages to say. “I can’t take it. We might still be alive in a week.”

“I thought you were meant to be the pessimist?” Enjolras’ laugh is choked, and he pulls Grantaire into a hug. They’re both twisted sideways, but Grantaire presses his face into Enjolras’ hair and holds on as tight as he dares. “This isn’t a one-time thing,” Enjolras murmurs. “I don’t do one-time things.”

They go to Enjolras’ bedroom, mercifully unimpeded as they go through the house. Grantaire doesn’t cry, but it’s a damn close thing. Enjolras is so beautiful, and so expressive, and so present. He keeps his eyes open and fixed on Grantaire until the second he comes, and he and Grantaire stay up for hours just drinking each other in. Grantaire can’t stop touching him, spreading his darker palms against Enjolras’ pale skin and stroking down.

They both have their scars, and Grantaire lets Enjolras kiss his back where the marks of Tholomyes’ punishments are branded against his spine and ribs. For his part, he traces the pinkish-white lines where Enjolras has been stabbed, cut, slashed. Wounded, but not killed.

They might be dead in a week, but for now they are both alive, and Grantaire falls asleep with Enjolras’ back hot against his chest, his cheeks aching from smiles.

 

2 months later

They’re in Quebec, with plans to move on down to Montreal in a few days. Marius’ money and Jehan’s contacts have secured them a large apartment on the seventh floor of some building or another. While the sun is up, the blinds are down, but there’s a balcony the humans can lounge on if they please.

It’s just Enjolras, Grantaire, Jehan, and Éponine. They’ve spread themselves wide now, and Grantaire can tell they all miss the old days of Solvalée when they were all together. But their priorities are different now. Grantaire’s have stayed the same – he follows Enjolras, and covers his back. Everything else is secondary.

Grantaire had half-expected Enjolras’ affection for him to end once the final battle was over, but if anything Enjolras had held on harder. Speeding away from the crater that used to be Solvalée, Enjolras had pillowed his head on Grantaire’s thigh and gone to sleep for almost an entire day. And now they’re in Quebec, with plans for the future, and Grantaire knows for a fact how very much he doesn’t deserve this, but like hell is he going to throw it away just to torture himself. He’s far too selfish for that.

He and Enjolras sleep in the next day, at Enjolras’ insistence. His lover is intent on making up for lost time – they both deserve a happy ending after being through so much, he says. So they lounge in bed till nearly noon, till Grantaire stretches with a happy sound and pats his stomach. “I don’t know about you, but I could really do with breakfast. Or lunch.”

“We could go out for breakfast,” Enjolras says, sitting up and stretching as well. “There’s a café –”

“It’s daylight, Enjolras.” Grantaire glances at the cracks of light around the blinds of their window, and something unpleasant turns in his throat.

Enjolras reaches for his bag, on the floor by his side of the bed, and rummages in it for a moment before pulling something out. Something small enough to be hidden in his closed fist. “I have something for you,” he says, sounding weirdly nervous, and opens his hand.

It’s a ring.

Grantaire’s heart stops. “What is this?” he asks, voice gone tight with something he can’t name. This is not what he thinks, he knows it isn’t, so what is it?

“It’s a ring.” Enjolras, for perhaps the first time, actually catches on without further prompting and shakes his head wildly. “I’m not proposing!”

“Oh thank God.” Grantaire would make a terrible husband. He can barely commit to calling Enjolras his boyfriend. Enjolras laughs and leans forward to kiss his forehead.

“I’m not proposing. It’s a gift.”

“It’s beautiful.” It’s a shining greenish-blue stone within a gold cage of sorts.

“It’s the Gem of Amara.”

Grantaire drops the hand he had been reaching out and stares at Enjolras for a moment before shaking his head. “You’ve been duped. The Gem doesn’t exist.”

“It does.” Enjolras holds it out. “I’m holding it. And I’m giving it to you. Let’s get breakfast.”

Grantaire takes the ring reluctantly and slips it onto the index finger of his right hand. He feels no different, and he gets up and goes to the window. “You’re not allowed to be disappointed, okay?”

“Okay.” Enjolras swings his legs over the edge of the bed, smiling. “Am I allowed to say I told you so?”

“Be my guest.” This is going to hurt. Grantaire touches the edge of the blind, thick black fabric stiff under his fingertips, and pushes it aside, braced for burning. He’s still waiting a second later, and Enjolras crows in triumph from behind him.

The sun kisses his skin and doesn’t burn. Grantaire can’t speak. Enjolras is at his side a moment later, pulling the blind up and flooding their room with daylight. It’s so bright Grantaire has to take a step back and squint, mouth open and soundless.

“I told you so,” Enjolras whispers in his ear, wrapping his arms around Grantaire’s middle and resting his chin on his shoulder. “Let’s get breakfast.”

Grantaire’s never dressed so fast in his life, and he can’t stop looking out of the window. Everything is so bright out there. In the lobby, Grantaire hesitates. Stepping outside in daylight goes against all his instincts. He’ll burn.

“You’ll be fine.” Enjolras takes his hand and pulls him forward, and Grantaire goes. Wherever Enjolras goes, he’ll follow. The first step out of the shade is terrifying, but Enjolras squeezes his hand and leads him on.

“It’s hot,” Grantaire breathes. “Like a lamp or a candle.” It hurts his eyes, but he can’t bear to close them. The sky above is pale blue, the clouds drifting high up grey-black at the bottom and silver around their edges, so clearly defined.

He doesn’t realise he’s crying until Enjolras wipes the tears from his face. “So you can stay alive for me,” he tells Grantaire, whispering. “So nothing can hurt you.”

Even a stake to the heart won’t kill him if he’s wearing the Gem of Amara. He’s practically invincible now. He hugs Enjolras tight, burying his face against his shoulder and laughing through his tears. He hasn’t walked in daylight for over four hundred and sixty years, and now he gets to walk in it with Enjolras at his side.