Orestes sleeping and Pylades awake
Noise does not rouse a drunken man; silence awakens him. On that night it is dark and silent, and Grantaire can't sleep.
That wasn't the case half an hour earlier, when bloodstained dreams writhed noiselessly through his head, bursts of fire erupting soundlessly around him, tearing through him, while he can hear nothing but a drumbeat in his head and feel only a hand clasping his.
It's not the first time that dream has come, but it seems more vivid every time it does; now it feels almost solid enough that he could confuse it for a memory.
He is awake, with only images of his friends' faces, twisted beyond recognition before melting into dust and smoke, to keep him company.
Well. That's not quite true, but Grantaire always tended to lean towards artistic hyperbole. Hugo is still sleeping soundly, curled up against his arm, snoring in the way older cats do, with his paws twitching - restless, just like him. Beyond, Enjolras lay, perhaps the faintest of frowns creasing his brow. Otherwise his beauty, at that moment augmented by his restful state, was resplendent, and he was a fresh and rosy picture of serenity, blond hair almost white in the monochrome darkness, framing his face like a halo.
He doesn't know that moments before, Grantaire saw him backed against a wall, trapped by guards and the corpses they had left strewn around him. That he had to shoulder past soldiers, step over the motionless bodies of his friends, knowing already there was no hope in saving the insurgent called Apollo because he had already declined, with complete acceptance of the situation, to be blindfolded for the execution, but that he couldn't bear to not take his place by his side.
He shook his head - it was less foggy, these days, quicker to clear. Bizarre dreams of a different time. The bitter taste they left in his mouth was as familiar and potent as absinthe.
Grantaire rose to his feet with a start, stretched out his arms, rubbed his eyes, stared, yawned, and left. Crossed the apartment without stopping to find shoes, ignorant to the protest of a cat disturbed, took the stairs rather than waiting for the lift down to street level.
It's not like he was unfamiliar with Paris at night: the street lights which made the paving slabs glow almost red are the same ones which have guided them home many a time after nights of drinking or planning or both. He is used to the way the buildings seem slightly jagged in this light, comforted, even. Not too far in the distance, he can hear a wailing siren, thumping bass, tipsy laughter. For now, his street is quiet.
There were riots in the 60's, cobblestones were prised free from the ground and hurled as missiles at the police. When it was suppressed, so too were the very pavements which had answered the call to arms, and now most of Paris has been covered in tarmac. That narrow residential street where they live, however, has not. The edges of the stones pressed firmly into Grantaire's bare feet as he walked the familiar road - he could never place exactly when it first became familiar; From the moment he found that particular nook of the city, it felt as if it always had been, as if his feet had been pacing those cobblestones for centuries - no. Artistic hyperbole.
Something that he wouldn't have to exaggerate for effect, however, was the knot in his stomach, and a nausea in his throat that he hadn't felt so strongly for almost six months, when he finally managed to get something of a hold on his excessive drinking. But he's not drunk, at that moment, it's just the sensation of something ominous, something inherently wrong, coming, ghosting on the edge of consciousness, like a dream or memory. His fingers itch. The shadows cling to the buildings like a translucent film, as if he might be able to peel them away, see the light behind them, light erupting from the guns which had turned his friends into gurning bodies...
It had happened before. Many times. He didn't talk about it, ever, to anyone, and when Bahorel or Feuilly or Éponine noted how pale he looked on a morning after he'd borrowed one of their sofas, he could justify it as nothing more than the regular kind of hangover. Maybe he ought to say something, maybe it was some strange impact after years of boozing, or something rooted in his childhood, maybe he needed a therapist to tell him he had issues with his father and it was alright to cry or something else equally cliche to make the dreams go away - he knew Joly would have jumped on the chance, or Combeferre, since he also liked to dabble in psychology. But maybe didn't exactly sound like good odds, and it wasn't worth the risk of exposing himself that way: Pity was his nemesis, yet it followed him relentlessly, and had done for as long as he could remember; always, he was terrified of being a burden, yet always, the looks of sympathy or despair reinforced that he was nothing but. Alcohol had always made that kind of look more frequent, but his reaction to them could be subdued that way, it was how he had coped.
But he was getting better, slowly, so he incurred pity less frequently, and it was better than he'd felt in a long time. He had Enjolras to thank for that, although his boyfriend refused to take any credit for the sense of self-worth his gentle, persistent affection had instilled in him. But to confess his deepest trauma would be to open himself to criticism and jeopardize his standing in the eyes of his friends, guaranteeing a return to the guilt and resentment that had weighed on him for so long. The dreams weren't that regular. He could contain it. It would feel too much like a betrayal to let it go - both of his own progress, and of the poor soul who would end up horrified and afraid after learning how he'd dreamed of a massacre in which everyone he cared for was slain.
He reached the construction site halfway down Rue Rambuteau, just at the corner with Rue Mondétour, which led up to the main boulevard. He could hear it buzzing with traffic even then, but the road itself was obscured by the café jutting out at the other end of the street - closed, of course, at that hour - but Musichetta and Joly and Bossuet lived in the flat above, and he knew from experience that he could go knocking and the three of them would drag themselves out of bed, switch on the fairy lights, and in the half-light sit at the bar with him, drinking lime sodas or wine and talking for hours 'til he felt a similar glow in his chest as that of the sun peeking through the window. He loved those nights, but this didn't feel like it was meant to become one of them. Those three had seemed agitated, anyway, the past couple of days, maybe in the same way Grantaire was now. They didn't need to be disturbed by the uneasy superstitions of a man who already knew he should know better.
He turned the corner - no destination in mind other than his bed, only that he would return to it when his head was as calm as his street - meandering towards the cafe, stopping a few metres away lest he should forget his decency in the urge to knock for his friends. The rhythmic pacing, the pressure underfoot and the cold air - early June ought to be warmer - were doing something to revive him, to quiet his racing heart. He'd go home in a few minutes, maybe press his icy feet against Enjolras' legs so that he'd wake up and he'd have an excuse to wrap themselves together anew as they did at the start of every night, holding him tight enough to reassure himself that he was safe and there.
For just a moment, though, he looked at the road, then at the sky; headlights were the closest thing they had to stars, the light pollution too strong, so close to the centre of the city, to see the real thing. But that was alright. Whatever the nagging unease tugging at his stomach told him, he had yet to reach the stage of life where one looks to the stars and reaches for their lover as the world crumbles away like a lullaby in a terrible, glorious burst of light, to fall away as if struck by a thunderbolt.
He needed to get back to him.
He turned back, retraced his steps, somewhat calmer and significantly more ready to retire to bed.
But something caught his eye at the corner, and he hadn't ever noticed it before but he also hadn't ever paid particular attention to street signs to notice anything beyond that they always bore the street name, the arrondissement number, and sometimes a couple of words about the electricity supply or a famous person who once lived there. The words below Rambuteau were none he'd read before - nor that he would read again, for when he next stopped to look it would be the typical information about construction date and the year they changed from gas to electricity. But on that night, the smaller words below the street name read:
Juin 1832: rébellion dans ces rues, un groupe qui échouait passer à l'histoire mais qui ouvraient la voie au changement
He blinked, breathed, and it was in his mind again.
the soldiers dislodged the last remaining insurgents, who had taken refuge at the top of the house. They fired into the attic through a wooden lattice. They fought under the very roof. They flung bodies, some of them still alive, out through the windows. Two light-infantry men, who tried to lift the shattered omnibus, were slain by two shots fired from the attic. A man in a blouse was flung down from it, with a bayonet wound in the abdomen, and breathed his last on the ground. A soldier and an insurgent slipped together on the sloping slates of the roof, and,as they would not release each other, they fell, clasped in a ferocious embrace. A similar conflict went on in the cellar. Shouts, shots, a fierce trampling. Then silence. The barricade was captured.
"Thank God, R. You alright?"
The sort of halt which the tumult underwent in the presence of Enjolras was a shock to his heavy daze. It had the effect of a carriage going at full speed, which suddenly comes to a dead stop. The persons dozing within it wake up. R faced him, helpless to refuse the smile lighting his face at the sight of mussed blond hair and tired eyes. Concern was painted sublimely on his features, the beginnings of panic flickered in the corners of his lips, yet for the first few seconds Grantaire had room for nothing but love.
Enjolras wasn't a stranger to his boyfriend's restless nights, and the odd wonderings that came along with them. Grantaire remembered to be thankful for that every day of his life, but this wasn't one of those treasured occasions he wanted to share every musing in his mind, though he had no doubt that he could, if he wanted. "Yes. Fine. I just couldn't sleep. Bad dream."
Whatever reserved smile Enjolras wanted to return wasn't complete, distorted somewhat by the yawn that forced it's way out the instant his mouth opened to answer, "Me too. I couldn't wake myself up, but you must have disturbed Hugo when you left, so..." He shrugged - and that was weird. He did a good job of hiding it, but Grantaire knew him well enough to recognize he was spooked. "I was worried, when you were gone. I know that's stupid, it's just. You were in it."
"Weird. You were in mine."
Enjolras sighed, bemused if still slightly anxious. As if teasing Grantaire about it could chase the image from his own mind, he pressed, "Don't tell me we died in yours, too."
He blinked, surprised. "You were going to be shot, but you were pretty calm about it. I woke up just in time to join you, fell by your side." He wasn't going to talk about it, to anyone. But he could, to Enjolras, and Enjolras had asked, even though, too late, it looked like he wasn't ready for that answer. His face fell, and when he spoke his soft voice had dropped to a murmur.
"Yes. And in mine, you could have escaped, but, you didn't... Vive la Republique, you were one of them. One of us. You died for me." Enjolras repeated the words Grantaire had only uttered in another timeline.
Enjolras seemed surprised, as if somehow he was under the illusion that the behaviour he'd witnessed when sleeping wouldn't be repeated, if the situation were ever to arise, in life. Unwilling to let him think so a moment longer, Grantaire didn't hesitate: "Always. There would be nothing without you."
A fit of drunkenness reaching its end resembles a curtain which is torn away. One beholds, at a single glance and as a whole, all that it has concealed. All suddenly presents itself to the memory; and the drunkard who has known nothing of what had been taking place in the past 24 hours, has no sooner opened his eyes than he is perfectly informed. Ideas recur to him with abrupt lucidity; the obliteration of intoxication, a sort of steam which has obscured the brain, is dissipated, and makes way for the clear and sharply outlined importunity of realities.
In the street that night, two blind souls caught a glimpse of the life they'd left behind in hearing one another's dreams.
And then Grantaire was closing the distance between them because anydistance at all was infinitely too far in that moment, just as it had been in another timeline, you're here, you're here and I thought you were gone, and I died because there was no life without you, not so that they could both die like the ghosts that haunted their memories, but so they could live, and cherish that life which still coursed thankfully through the two of them. Altogether more emotional and shaken than they should have been, it was all grabbing arms, sharp fingers, tight embraces - ridiculous, I know I didn't leave that bed even ten minutes ago, talk about clingy, he couldn't help but scold himself, and yet you're here, you're here, we're here, I was terrified that you might die without me, I could never let that happen - as the harsh cruelty of their subconscious struck them both at one blow, and there were tears, unexpected tears of guilt, but still more of relief.
Mouth pressed against Enjolras' shoulder, Grantaire mumbled, "Thank you. I'm sorry you were afraid."
"It's not your fault, is it," was whispered into thick black hair as a hand knotted tightly into it, more frightened than he dared to confess with words, "It was just a dream. I know, it's... Please, never risk your life for me. I don't ever want to think of you being hurt for my sake. You're safe, that's, that's... you're here. We're safe." His other hand clung desperately tightly to his shoulder, just to be absolutely certain that Grantaire really was.
"It felt real, Enjolras, it feels real, like somehow I've lost you, I know that sounds -"
"It doesn't." Enjolras extracted himself from his boyfriend to cup his cheeks, ensuring their eyes - haunted, damp, weary but blazing with love - met. He repeated, breathless with abundant faith in him, "It doesn't. I know, I do, and I trust it, what you feel. A bad dream, an awful one, that's all. The same one for us both, but that doesn't sound too strange to me. We're, we must be impressionable fools, both of us. If ever it was real, it isn't any longer. I promise you." He wanted to laugh, but held it, lest Grantaire think it was out of mockery rather than relief: It had been real for him, too, in those moments before he realized the one who had left the space in his bed was just in the street outside. Sincere again, "It's fine, R, really. You're here, I have you. I won't let go."
He waited, before the slightest nod from Grantaire gave him permission to kiss him lightly once, twice, then rest his forehead against his brow.
The hands dropped from his face to slip over his shoulders and down the length of his arms, before stepping backwards. "Come home with me."
Grantaire was a fool, and Enjolras was tired, but not of him. That had to count for quite a lot. He caught Enjolras' hand just before it returned to his side, tenderly keen to maintain contact. And turning gently to Enjolras, he said to him: "Do you permit it?"
Enjolras squeezed his hand with a smile.
This smile was not ended even by sleep that night, whereupon the two laid, pressed together as fiercely as they had been in the street, content that just as once their hands were locked together in death, their hearts would forever be bound together in life.