So, yeah, this has been stuck in my head. And it's dark and dreary, not unlike canon. Inspired by the song "Whiskey Lullaby" by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. Lyrics used belong to the artists. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. The musical by...a lot of people who are not me. In short, I own nothing. I changed the gender pronouns in the lyrics to match the story, FYI – it fits better. Also, not all of the lyrics are in order.

And, just in case you made it here without warning, grab a tissue. Character death. Granted, we come from a fandom where most of our beloveds are dead, but...still, I know it's a sensitive subject.

He put him out...

Like the burning end of a midnight cigarette

He broke his heart

He spent his whole life trying to forget

Grantaire stumbled out of the Cafe Musain, Enjolras' stinging words echoing in his brain. He drank to numb his emotions, but that didn't mean he didn't have any. Enjolras said what was on his mind and Grantaire valued that, but those words could cut deeper than any knife. Grantaire had gotten used to it over the years, but sometimes, it touched a particular nerve. Grantaire didn't care when Enjolras harassed him about his drinking. In fact, he usually smirked and took another drink, just to bait Enjolras. Grantaire didn't mind being pushed around for his beliefs – or lack thereof. Outside of alcohol, he subscribed to only one passion and that was Enjolras. Grantaire loved the Greek myths, much as he publicly pretended not to study. He knew the stories inside and out, and the glorious Apollo...well, if Grantaire had to believe in anything, it was that those myths had become personified in Enjolras. And when his god cast him aside, it hurt. More than Grantaire could admit to anyone.

"Why do you even bother to come?" Enjolras asked, not for the first time. "You disparage our cause. You're completely incapable of being serious – and, for God's sake, can you manage to be sober for ten minutes?"

"Sobriety is highly overrated." Grantaire shrugged, sipping his wine. "And, that, I'm serious about."

Enjolras scoffed. "What do you care of Patria?"

"I rather enjoy living here," Grantaire countered. "I feel for the poor. I do my part. I'm just saying you might do better to help the people than change the system. Why throw your lives away for another corrupt king to replace the one you throw out?"

"The people will never thrive until the power is in their hands," Enjolras argued.

Grantaire laughed. "And they're too scared to do anything. You want to fight the army by yourself? Because that's exactly what you'll be doing."

Enjolras crossed his arms. "Then so be it."

"You fool," Grantaire muttered. "You'd rather be a martyr than get anything accomplished."

Enjolras glared at him and stormed away. Everyone was watching him. He climbed back up onto his chair, as if nothing had happened and started to sing, the rallying song Les Amis had written to draw attention at their rallies. "Do you hear the people sing? Singing the song of angry men..."

The other students smiled at each other and quickly joined in. "It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again! When the beating of your heart echoes the beating of the drums, there is a life about to start when tomorrow comes."

Grantaire smiled, biding his time.

Jehan grinned, continuing the song. "Will you give all you can give so that our banner may advance? Some will fall and some will live; will you stand up and take your chance?"

And, there it was. Grantaire jumped in with his own bastardization of the next line. "The blood of the slaughtered will stain every corner of France."

Most of the group just shook their head, whispering to each other. But Grantaire had finally pushed Enjolras' buttons a little too precisely. Enjolras shook Combeferre's hand off his arm and advanced. "Stop wasting air in here and get out."

For once,Grantaire hadn't argued. The blazing disgust and rage he'd seen in Enjolras' eyes had been enough. He collected his bottle and left the cafe, the fall wind nipping at his ears. He didn't live far. But that look, that said more than words ever could. He heard footsteps behind him but he ignored them. There wasn't nearly enough wine left in the bottle to drown his sorrows. He needed something stronger from his stash at home, absinthe at the very least.

"'Taire!" Combeferre called. He ran to catch up with Grantaire. "Come on back. You know how Enjolras is."

"I do," Grantaire agreed. "He hates me."

"He doesn't." Combeferre sighed. "He can be cruel when he is blinded by a cause. He hates what the alcohol does to you. As strange as this may sound, he only pressures you because he cares."

"You're right." Grantaire nodded. "It does sound strange. If he cared, he'd shut up." He'd tried to quit, more than once. He'd thought he was going to die – and that was just the physical, never mind the return of the emotional pain that had driven him to drink in the first place. "He thinks he has it bad, poor little rich boy whose parents don't like his politics."

Combeferre touched Grantaire's shoulder gently, squeezing. "He doesn't know your story because you've never told him."

"Who says I want him to know?" Grantaire asked. He didn't want to be just another sob story in Enjolras' book, put out on the streets at fifteen after years of physical and mental abuse. Grantaire's parents had been upper class, but that hadn't made them any different from people like the Thenardiers. Maybe he should have been more like Feuilly, taking his losses in stride and adopting the people around him as family. Or Gavroche, who had embraced the street life and hadn't let anyone crush his spirit. But Grantaire was who he was and he had no desire to play at anything else. "Why should I give him any more ammunition, let him tell me what I could and should have done along the way?"

Combeferre sighed, looking resigned. "Fine, then. Go home. Rest. But I expect to see you again tomorrow night."

"If you insist." It was comforting, to know someone cared. But Grantaire needed time to lick his wounds.

"Would you like me to come with you?" Combeferre offered.

Grantaire shook his head. "Not really. I have a date with my sweet Fairy."

Combeferre sighed. "That's not going to solve anything."

"Says who?" Grantaire asked. "It's medicinal, after all."

Combeferre chewed on his lower lip briefly, then hugged Grantaire. "Just be careful, mon ami."

Grantaire smiled at him. "I always am."

Life is short, but this time it was bigger

Than the strength he had to get up off his knees

Several hours and several bottles of whatever was handy later, Grantaire still couldn't get the fire in Enjolras' eyes out of his mind. He threw his sketchbook to the floor, papers scattering everywhere, and he tripped over the book on his way to bed. Grantaire was nowhere near sober enough to control the fall and he struck his head on the desk. He didn't feel more than a sharp, brief pain, so he stumbled to his feet and continued on to the bed, touching the sore spot on his head. His fingers were wet and sticky. Great, he was bleeding. Annoyed, Grantaire fashioned a bandage from one of his shirts; he wasn't wandering back to the Musain for Joly to look at it. He didn't need to give Enjolras anything else to use against him. He'd had worse injuries before.

Sleep was one of Grantaire's rare escapes, that and his art...and he couldn't draw a straight line right then. If he'd had enough to drink, he'd wake fitfully a few times and need just a little more to get back to sleep, but he wouldn't dream. And that was worth the tradeoff. He pulled a blanket over himself, at least most of the way, and let the darkness take him.

Combeferre was restless. He was used to Grantaire and Enjolras fighting and Grantaire retreating, but something felt different that night. Enjolras' tongue had been sharper than usual. He didn't mean harm. He just expected everyone to share his passion once they saw the light. Enjolras had no clue that Grantaire was as committed to him as Enjolras was to France.

The meeting was winding down and only the core Amis were left – except Grantaire, of course. Combeferre began to approach Enjolras, but was distracted by Jehan's conversation with Courfeyrac.

"Do you think we should check on him?" Jehan asked.

"I'm sure he's fine," Courfeyrac replied, but he didn't sound convinced.

"Do you mean 'Taire?" Combeferre asked, looking at them. Normally he didn't intrude on private talks, but he wanted confirmation that they shared his concern.

Jehan nodded. "He looked really upset when he left. More than usual. You talked to him, 'Ferre. How'd it go?"

"Not as well as I'd hoped," Combeferre admitted. "He's hurt."

Enjolras wandered over after seeing Marius off, apparently catching the tail end of the conversation. "Who's hurt?" he asked, his eyebrows knitting together.

Jehan and Courfeyrac exchanged looks and then turned to Combeferre. Everyone knew that emotions unrelated to revolution were not Enjolras' forte. Combeferre was closest to him, so it was probably best he handle it. "Grantaire."

Enjolras sighed, sitting down at the table. "I admit, I may have been a bit harsh with him, but...he just keeps pushing and pushing."

"Well, of course." Jehan nodded. He was the expert on love, after all. "He's afraid of losing you. If he talks you out of this, in his mind, you'll be safe."

"Why would he care?" Enjolras asked.

Jehan laughed. "Are you truly that blind?"

Enjolras looked perplexed. "What do you mean?"

Jehan and Courfeyrac exchanged another look, this one more skeptical. They were always so in sync with each other, so it was hard for them to understand how Enjolras and Grantaire could occupy such separate worlds. "Enj," Courfeyrac said patiently, "he loves you."

Enjolras looked highly doubtful, but covered it quickly. "Well, I care for him, too, of course. I love all my friends."

Jehan reached out and lightly smacked the side of Enjolras' head. "No, he loves you. Have you really not seen the way he watches you when you speak? The little halos of light that surround you when he sketches?"

"I've never seen any of his sketches," Enjolras admitted, beginning to look uncomfortable. "He never offered."

"All you had to do was ask." Combeferre knew Enjolras was beginning to regret the way he'd treated Grantaire, but he wanted to make one final point before offering reassurance. "We all know little boys tease the girls they like. No one taught Grantaire how to move beyond that. He worries for you, so he tries to dissuade you. He wants to reach out, so he pesters you." He wasn't going to share too much of Grantaire's past without permission, but Enjolras needed to understand. "Gavroche and Eponine are spirited, but not all children are as resilient in the face of constant pain. Some become very bitter and world-weary."

Enjolras' eyes widened. "Are you saying Grantaire...?"

"That's his place to discuss with you." Combeferre stepped away from the table. "I do think we should check in on him." He looked around the cafe. Joly was the only other person who remained. "Joly, we're looking in on R. You coming?"

Joly nodded. "Of course. I was thinking of doing the same, actually."

Courfeyrac snickered. "Yes, he's not contagious, so it should be fine."

Joly nudged Courfeyrac playfully after coming over.

"I'm going too," Enjolras declared, a war of emotions on his face. "Unless you think it's a bad idea."

"On the contrary, it might do him good," Jehan said. "He won't believe anything we say about you unless he hears it from the source."

Enjolras nodded. "Then we should go. It's getting late."

He put that bottle to his head and pulled the trigger

And finally drank away the memories...

Grantaire didn't answer the door, but Courfeyrac had a key for occasions such as this. The first thing Combeferre noticed was the art supplies strewn about the room as if they had been thrown there. Not unlikely, if Grantaire had needed to vent. There were empty bottles everywhere, but it was hard to tell which ones were fresh.

The sketchbook was on the floor, and Jehan hurried to it. Grantaire may have abused his supplies from time to time, but never the final product. He cherished his artwork; it was the only healthy outlet he had. Jehan gathered up the sketches and Enjolras moved to help him, then paused, looking at the first one he'd picked up. It was a beautiful portrait of Enjolras, in his element, working a crowd. Enjolras stared at him and Combeferre patted his shoulder as he moved to the bedroom to check on Grantaire. It was going to take Enjolras some time to process.

At first it looked as if Grantaire had pulled the blankets up over his head, but Combeferre's pulse quickened as he realized it was a shirt and it was bloody. "Joly!" he yelled as he rushed to Grantaire's side. He'd spent some time in medical school before devoting himself to philosophy, but Joly was the expert. Combeferre quickly reached out to feel for a pulse – and as soon as he felt the cool skin, he knew.

Joly raced in, holding pressure on the wound as he unwrapped it, but it was clear he realized there was no hope. Despite that, he felt for a pulse as well, his eyes filling with tears. Joly checked Grantaire's eyes, then gently closed them when they didn't do so on their own. He played with his hands restlessly, then focused in on the head injury. "He should have...we were right there. I could have helped him."

Jehan and Courfeyrac wandered in, Enjolras following, and if Grantaire's unnaturally pale tone and the bloody shirt hadn't clued them in, Joly's sobbing certainly would have. Combeferre was fighting tears as well, but he held Joly, rubbing his arm.

"Oh, no." Jehan shook his head, frozen in his spot. "No, no..." He melted into Courfeyrac's waiting arms and they sunk onto the floor, clinging to each other.

Enjolras stepped around them, moving to the bed. He was clearly in denial. "Grantaire!" He shook Grantaire's arm. "'Taire, wake up!" He looked at Joly and Combeferre, his eyes wild and desperate. "Do something! Help him!"

Combeferre had seen the head wound, the amount of blood. Grantaire probably hadn't even realized how bad it was. Even if he hadn't had anything more to drink after getting home – which was doubtful – Grantaire had been drunk enough when he left the cafe to remain unaware of how serious his injury was. "I doubt he was in pain."

"No." Enjolras shook his head resolutely. "No, he'll be fine. Joly, you'll patch him up." He phrased it as an order.

Combeferre unwrapped one arm from Joly to put his hand on Enjolras' arm. "I'm sorry, Gabe. He's gone."

"No!" Enjolras snapped. He shook Grantaire again, his tone pleading. "Damn it, Ranier, this is no time for games!" No one used Grantaire's first name, ever, unless they wanted to face the full force of Grantaire's annoyance. For whatever reason, he despised it.

Combeferre hugged Joly, then moved to Enjolras, knowing Joly would understand. They all needed comfort, but Enjolras needed Combeferre the most at the moment. He pulled Enjolras away, physically restraining him. "Let him go. He's gone." Enjolras was strong and he fought it for a few minutes, but eventually slumped against Combeferre, tears slipping down his cheeks. "He would have been unconscious. I doubt he suffered." It was a ridiculous platitude, especially in light of the fact that Grantaire had already suffered a great deal throughout his life. But it was all Combeferre had to offer. He glanced to check on Joly, who had moved to join Jehan and Courfeyrac in their mourning. They had welcomed him into the fold. Combeferre shifted so that he was sitting on the floor, holding Enjolras firmly in his arms.

"I could have stopped this," Enjolras whispered, his voice choked with tears.

"You didn't-"

Enjolras cut him off. "No. I was horrible to him. If he'd stayed at the cafe..."

It wasn't Enjolras' fault, really. Yes, he'd been cruel, if unintentionally so, but from the look of things, from the blood stain on the edge of Grantaire's desk, it had been an accident. He'd been drunk and tripped, too numb to realize how seriously injured he was. He'd slipped away in his sleep. Grantaire's alcohol addiction went back years, long before he'd even met any of the Amis. In the end, it was a long series of unfortunate events that had culminated, causing Grantaire to die long before his time. Combeferre knew that, and he trusted his friends would as well, even if they were briefly angry at Enjolras in their grief. But Enjolras would be the toughest sell. He wasn't as emotionless as he wanted the world to think. He felt things deeply and he had a habit of taking personal responsibility for things he had no control over. "Gabe." Combeferre turned, pulling Enjolras so he wouldn't be facing the bed. "Gabriel, listen to me! This is not your fault. You didn't kill him."

"I may as well have," Enjolras said, his eyes cast down at the floor. "I sent him away and sealed his fate."

"And how many times did he return minutes later?" Combeferre asked. "I talked to him. You know I wouldn't have let him be alone if it wasn't safe. By your logic, the blame lies with me, for allowing him to go."

"Don't be ridiculous." Enjolras' muscles were still tense, but he wasn't actively fighting Combeferre's embrace anymore. Something crinkled as Enjolras shifted and Combeferre looked down to see Enjolras still had Grantaire's sketch in one hand – slightly crumpled during the chaos, but still intact. It was signed with Grantaire's signature stylish "R," and it broke Combeferre's heart all over again. So much potential, wasted, and while Combeferre could only blame the alcohol and the demons from Grantaire's past that had driven his addiction, he knew it wouldn't be that clear-cut for everyone – especially Enjolras – as grief took its toll.

The funeral had been a very small, quiet affair. Grantaire's parents had reacted to the news as if they had been told their dog ran away. In fact, they might have been more emotional if it had been the dog. Combeferre cursed them silently as he embraced Grantaire's younger sister, Michèle. She'd been just six when her brother was thrown out of the house, but she tried to keep in touch. For a long time, she was the only person on the planet Grantaire bothered to care about.

Les Amis had included Michèle, but other than her, no one seemed to care that Grantaire was gone. His parents hadn't even bothered to offer to pay to bury him, just telling Combeferre that however he "took care of it" was fine. Combeferre's loathing of them was beginning to approach levels he typically reserved for the Thenardiers. He and the rest of their friends had made sure there was a proper burial, underneath a willow tree in a field Courfeyrac's family owned. It was a beautiful spot, a peaceful resting place for a tortured soul. In twenty-five years, Grantaire had seen more heartache than anyone should have endured in a lifetime.

They hadn't bothered with a priest, knowing Grantaire wouldn't have appreciated it. Jehan read some poetry; most of them said a few words. Enjolras was silent, his face as marble as Grantaire often described it. The sketch from Grantaire's apartment was tucked into the pocket of his waistcoat and he touched it a few times, as if making sure it was still there. The discovery of the drunken scribbling on the back was no less emotionally devastating: "I do believe I will love him until I die." Grantaire had been just as poetic as Jehan in his own way sometimes.

There were more sketches that Combeferre had been sure to save from the apartment so that Grantaire's art wouldn't die with him. Dionysus and Apollo, Greek gods of wine and sun. Dionysus' face was unseen as he basked in the glow Apollo cast. Apollo, who had developed a striking resemblance to Enjolras in this interpretation. Combeferre and Joly had wept as they looked through the pages – an artist record of meetings, friendship, and the occasional fantasy. Combeferre had taken the picture of Courfeyrac and Jehan, absorbed in each other, and given it to them. It was a perfect moment, captured, right down to the rose between Jehan's fingers. Such talent, forever gone.

Grantaire was hardly the first creative personality to lose himself inside a bottle, to flee his demons. That didn't make it any easier, though, knowing Grantaire was now just another in a long line of tragic stories.

Breaking the news had been the worst part. Combeferre had put out the word that there was an emergency meeting and the grief in the room had been so palpable, it had nearly broken his heart. Grantaire had been loved, not just as a source of comic relief, but a friend. Enjolras had barely said a word since they'd found Grantaire. Combeferre supposed it would take him the longest to heal, given all the revelations that had been made, new questions of what could have been.

Not unexpectedly, Enjolras lingered the longest at the fresh gravesite, tenderly running his fingers over the petals of the floral wreaths Jehan had made. Combeferre kept his distance, letting Enjolras be for a few minutes, but then he sat at Enjolras' side. It was like gazing into the storm cloud of a dark, deep depression. Natural, at this stage, but it still had Combeferre worried. Enjolras did nothing in half measures. "Enj?"

"It should have been me," Enjolras said quietly. "I was supposed to be the first, to die for France or some higher cause. Not...this."

It didn't take a great leap of logic for Combeferre to follow Enjolras' train of thought. "I've already told you. It was an accident. Yes, it's pointless and tragic, but it's no one's fault."

"I had no idea." Enjolras shook his head.

"Of course you didn't." Combeferre settled beside Enjolras and waited. He'd be there as long as he was needed.

Enjolras stood after a long, silent moment. "This is going to sound terrible in light of the circumstances, but I think I could use a stiff drink."

"You aren't the only one." Combeferre forced a smile. "And it's not terrible. There's a distinct difference between a drink among friends and losing oneself to its pull."

"You're right, as usual." Enjolras patted Combeferre's shoulder as they walked away, to have a drink in memory of their friend.

The rumors flew...

But nobody knew how much he blamed himself

For years and years

He tried to hide the whiskey on his breath

It had been three years and nothing was the same. Grantaire had been an integral part of their group, but no one realized just how much until there wasn't an automatic snide remark to lighten a tense moment. It was all the little things that seemed so much bigger in the aftermath.

Meetings had continued. Talks of revolution went on. Les Amis continued to fight for the downtrodden. But they'd been shaken by loss and though the wound had healed three years on, there would always be a scar, an empty chair that should have been filled.

Enjolras had changed the most. His earlier obsession with the cause seemed like mild infatuation now. Combeferre had thought Enjolras might mellow, but it was exactly the opposite. He'd been wounded, deeply, and reacted like a wild animal to it – retreating and snarling at anyone who got too close. He hadn't shut out his friends entirely but he certainly wasn't letting anyone else in. His manifestos were his life. He no longer attended social gatherings; everything had to be business.

"It's like we lost them both that night," Courfeyrac murmured to Combeferre one night, when the subject had come up. Combeferre had to agree.

Enjolras spent a lot of time locked in his apartment, claiming he was working and couldn't be bothered. For a time, Combeferre had let him be, assuming it was just Enjolras' way of grieving. But it had begun to become pathological lately and so Combeferre posted himself outside Enjolras' door one night, making it quite clear he wasn't leaving until Enjolras at least came to the café for a few minutes.

After about twenty minutes, Enjolras finally opened the door, looking surlier than had become customary. His hair looked like it hadn't seen a brush in days and there was the very distinct scent of alcohol in the air – a combination of absinthe and whiskey, something Combeferre had been used to from Grantaire, but certainly not Enjolras. "Enj, are you okay?"

"No." Enjolras glared. "I'm trying to plan for the future of this wretched town and no one will leave me in peace to work."

Combeferre found himself thinking back and he kicked himself for not noticing earlier. He'd caught faint whiffs of alcohol off Enjolras before, but it had usually been at the café – the only place they saw him anymore – and everyone else had been drinking too. He scanned the inside of the entryway and noticed a few empty bottles in a corner. He shook his head. "Enjolras, what are you trying to do, torture yourself as some sort of penance?"

"I'm fine," Enjolras growled.

Combeferre scoffed. "If I had a franc for every time I've heard that from you, we wouldn't have to worry about funding for our revolution again." It wasn't his way to be pushy, but alarm bells were going off in his mind and he was led to intervene. "How long has this been going on?"

"What, the oppression of innocents?" Enjolras asked. "Since time began."

"You know full well what I mean," Combeferre argued. "How long have you been drinking like this, hiding it from us?"

Enjolras' upper lip curled angrily. "Funny – you didn't seem to mind when 'Taire drank."

Combeferre sighed. "That was different. He was a slave to that path long before he came into our company. You don't need to do this. You have friends who care about you."

"God knows why." Enjolras turned, retreating into his apartment, but he didn't shut the door. Combeferre took the opening and followed him in. "Some friend I managed to be, ignoring the suffering that was right in front of me."

Combeferre cursed himself for not being more aggressive about discussing the matter sooner. He'd made the dangerous assumption that the façade Enjolras was showing the world meant he was healing in his own way. It seemed there hadn't actually been much healing at all. "How long, Gabe?"

Enjolras grabbed a bottle of whatever was closest. In a painfully familiar move, he swung it around and took a defiant sip. "He was right, you know. It's a lot better not to feel anything at all."

Combeferre crossed his arms. "Losing yourself to addiction won't bring him back."

"And neither will anything else, so I might as well be numb." This had to have been going on for some time; Enjolras was clearly intoxicated but steady on his feet and not a slur in his voice. "I could have loved him. I don't know. I never got the chance to find out. And you know why?" Enjolras didn't give Combeferre the chance to argue. "Because I drove him away. Because I couldn't see what was right in front of me."

"So, what then?" Combeferre was trying to stay calm, but he couldn't stand to watch another friend destroy himself. "You work yourself to death?" It was time for a dose of cold, hard truth. "The people are losing interest. You aren't the charismatic leader you were before. Your friends stand by you and we always will, but you're not the same."

"Then so be it." The words were almost a growl. "You take over. They'll listen to you. I'll follow."

"That's not what this is about." Combeferre had no problem with assuming command if needed, but this wasn't how it was meant to be done. "This is about you, what you're doing with your life. Don't throw it away. You owe Grantaire that much."

Enjolras slammed the bottle onto a table with so much force Combeferre was surprised it didn't shatter. "Spare me your lectures. I owed him kindness. I owed him a chance."

They weren't going to get anywhere with this argument, at least not until Enjolras was clear-minded – and Combeferre had his doubts it would happen any time that evening. "I'll see you later, Enj. But this conversation isn't over."

"So you say," Enjolras muttered darkly.

Enjolras had come to realize what a fool he'd been. At first it was just a few drinks to numb the raw pain, but then it took more. And then more. And eventually it wasn't just something he wanted to do; he needed it. It crept up on him slowly, but soon Enjolras realized exactly why Grantaire had been so firmly opposed to giving up his alcohol. It hurt, physically and emotionally, and all the suppressed feelings roared to the surface.

` It hurt too much to talk to Michele, though Enjolras knew many of his friends kept in touch with her. She'd come to him one night, probably sent by Combeferre, to plead with him not to follow the path that had led her brother to such ruin. Enjolras had pretended to entertain the notion for her sake, but he settled down with a drink as soon as she was gone.

Enjolras had found a particularly good batch of absinthe in downtown Paris and he was quite enjoying it. Ironic, how he'd considered such a vice disgusting for so long. It was exactly what he'd needed to open his eyes to the world. He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and produced a lovingly worn sketch – the one he'd found in Grantaire's apartment that horrible night. It was a picture of the world that should have been.

"Oh, Apollo."

Enjolras jolted at the voice. He'd have known it anywhere, but Grantaire was three years dead. And now he understood that nickname he'd so often hated. "'Taire?"

Grantaire joined him on the couch. "Boo."

"How are you here?" Enjolras asked.

"Always have to analyze everything, don't you?" Grantaire chided teasingly. "Considering you've been spending ninety percent of your waking hours as drunk as I used to be, it's a wonder we haven't have this conversation sooner."

"You were right," Enjolras admitted. "It's better this way."

Grantaire shook his head. "No, it's not. It's what I had to do because no one taught me how to cope. And it's what you do because apparently I taught you how to cope. Sorry about that. You'd have been a lot better off listening to Ferret or Jehan."

Enjolras almost laughed. "Did you just call Combeferre-?"

Grantaire cut him off. "Yeah. I did that all the time. Don't you remember?"

"I…" Enjolras was at a loss. "I never paid attention. I'm sorry."

Grantaire snatched the bottle and took a drink of his own and now Enjolras was sure he must have been losing his mind. "Don't apologize. It's a sign of weakness." He smiled wearily. "You're tired. I can tell. I know how it is. Just relax. Close your eyes. Let it be."

"Why?" Enjolras asked, as he felt the darkness begin to close in.

Grantaire's tone was bittersweet. "Because I'm tired of watching you suffer. And I'm a selfish bastard."

Enjolras closed his eyes, puzzling over what that meant.

We found him with his face down in the pillow

Clinging to that picture for dear life

Combeferre had been brokenhearted, but not surprised when he found Enjolras that evening, having gone to the apartment when Enjolras failed to show up for a meeting. Alcohol poisoning, Joly inferred from the surroundings and presentation. And for the first time in nearly four years, Enjolras looked peaceful, his fingers curled around Grantaire's sketch.

Enjolras had family, even if he'd been distanced from them, but they'd allowed his friends to take control. And Combeferre would have fought them if they hadn't. He made sure Enjolras was laid to rest beside Grantaire, with the willow tree to keep watch over them both.

France was free, in time, and Les Amis proudly joined the revolution in their friends' memories, using the tactics and wit they'd learned. The empty chairs – or in some cases, tables, as Enjolras had been partial to standing on them – remained. But it was something of a balm to know they were together and neither of them were suffering any longer.

Enjolras blinked against the bright light of the sun, hearing a welcome chuckle behind him. He turned. "Taire."

Grantaire stepped forward, moving to embrace him. "You shouldn't have followed that path. But now that you're here, I can't bring myself to be sorry you did. I told you I'm a selfish bastard."

Enjolras held him tightly. "I should never have let you go."

"I should never have let you try." Grantaire smiled and gave him a gentle kiss. "Come on, we've got forever to argue about whose fault this is. I've got a lot better things for us to do in the meantime."

I'd say I'm sorry, but I'm really not. Reviews would be lovely! Please don't hate me. ;-D