Author: Pairing: Enjolras/Grantaire Rating: PG
"True poetry resides in the harmony of opposites. The real results from the completely natural combination of two types, the sublime and the grotesque." -- V. Hugo
"My friends, the time is upon us. We must act now to protect what few freedoms the damnable monarch has left to us, and overthrow him if we can, for there is little he can do to protect himself from the might of the people. We made him king, each of us by our consent, and we can unmake him as quickly, like you might unravel a knitted shirt by catching the edge of it on a nail. Let our nails catch at him, let our teeth be bared, let us cut him down and be done with him before he grows any farther. There is a custom like that, in different places, where a man is king only as long as he is vital, and then he is killed for the good of the people. We must kill not only the king but the throne, sink bullets into the man and the seat, and wash ourselves in the blood of monarchy as Achilles washed in the Styx. We must be invulnerable to the charms of tyrants, for only when we govern ourselves will we truly be free of bad government, for the only bad government is that which does not serve the people. The people serve the king; the king is a tyrant. We must sever the king from his power.
"I know others have spoken to you of this; they have spoken to me as well. There is movement in the streets, the mice rise to slay the cat and the country will be free. We must all be as brutal as Brutus to strike down Caesar. But my friends, there can be no minority victory. Only the people have the right to win this battle, but when they have won, oh, what a day that will be. Simple men like me will walk with their heads held high, for when we are in a democracy, every man will be king. There will be no Robespierre, no demagogue this time, for we have learned that lesson. No one leader can overtake us if we stand together. Stand with us, brothers, friends, and victory will be in our grasp."
There was a cheer, rough but hearty, from the audience.
"Right, then." The man nodded, acknowledging something to himself. "Anyone for dominoes?"
He sat among them and played at their accustomed game. During the noon hour, men came over and watched from time to time, talking in low voices of ethics, morals, and politics. He took their names, or what they gave in place of their names, and made small notes on a tattered piece of paper.
At one o'clock, the café door opened and fell shut again. "I must be going soon," the man's current opponent murmured.
"Very well," was the response, and they finished the game, stood, and shook hands over it. "Thank you."
The opponent left, and a fair, tall man who had been standing by the door came and took his place. "Dominoes, Grantaire?"
He blinked and gave the new arrival a crooked, homely smile. "A fine way to end a discussion."
"What happened to six hours?"
"It didn't take six hours. As it wouldn't have taken you five minutes, my silver-tongued friend, if you had had the time to spare for these poor souls. It took me rather longer, given that I have only been listening to your splendid speeches rather than composing them for the past four years."
Enjolras frowned. "How many are with us?"
Grantaire handed him the slip of paper. "That many, with their sworn allies."
He scanned it. "Cup, spoon, saucer, oats -- you have been recruiting the pantry quickly enough."
"Mental notes. Do you trust me as little as that? I'll read the list out tonight, at your meeting, with the real names, and give you a copy besides, but God knows who is listening here."
Enjolras stood. "Come with me."
"And leave the dominoes?"
"I must meet with the men of the Cougourde d'Aix; talk with me as we go."
Grantaire blinked and rose from his chair. "Very well, if you're in such a hurry."
"You will help me," Enjolras commands him when they reach the street.
"Do you think they will take me for a Provençal?"
"They ought to; your accent has not faded nearly as much as you think. How many names are on that list?"
"Then it's true that one studies law when numbers thwart him? Twenty-three."
"Twenty-three," Enjolras said to himself. "Nearly enough."
"Nearly enough? There were no more men in the place."
"Not when I reached it, perhaps, but there ought to have been more at that hour."
"There will be more tomorrow, I suspect, if they are beginning to stir. They gave me their names."
Enjolras wrinkled his nose. "And you made a mockery of them."
"What would you have me do, record the incriminations in plain script for all the world's police?"
"Incriminations? They were your opponents at dominoes."
"They were nothing of the sort!" Grantaire retorted, then caught himself. "Oh."
"Give me a list of them tonight, written out."
"I said I would."
"Twenty-three," Enjolras said again.
"And whomever you -- we can convince that lurks in this quarry."
"Quite. I suppose I owe you an apology."
"No," Grantaire said, looking at the pavement. "It's all right."
"I ought to have listened to you. For the sake of twenty-three men if not your pride."
"It's all right, Enjolras."
Enjolras touched his shoulder briefly. "I will make amends."
"Later. This is the quarry."
Grantaire fell unwontedly silent as Enjolras spoke to the men there and maintained his peace even as the crowd cheered, as they gave their names or held back. Enjolras smiled at them, these promising men who swore to think harder, to accept nothing as given, to believe in the beauty of a Republic that haunted Enjolras and whose most intimate secrets he described at length and with devotion.
When the men departed, each to his obligations, Enjolras sought Grantaire out and bowed to him shallowly. "I will see you tonight."
"Of course you will." Grantaire's smile creased his unattractive features into a grimace. "When have I last missed a meeting?"
Enjolras raised his eyebrows. "Until later, then." He strode off briskly. Grantaire shook his head and started off in an opposite direction.
Les Amis d'ABC were all present in Le Café Musain that evening, and each had his tale to tell of his afternoon's successes and setbacks. Eight had spoken, the trusted friends, and the men who had lately begun to visit told of their newest acquaintances. When Courfeyrac at last finished his account, Enjolras glanced at Grantaire and caught his eye, though Grantaire sat at the back of the room. Grantaire shook his head a little and raised his glass, standing with a loud, shrieking scrape of his chair that made everyone turn to look at him.
"My friends," he said, nodding to them to include them all in his toast, "let us all drink to the joy of debate that accomplishes little, and let those who will not drink smile, and those who will not smile may leave the room for all of me. Let us not make war with words, however fair we may find the process, for we are not here only to court Athena with her owl so much as bed her on the field of battle. For a virgin she knows quite a bit about swords and spears, and for the patron of the cradle of democracy, she knows little about diplomacy. So let us leave off babbling, my friends, and begin the fracas."
This brought him stares. Combeferre said, "If you do not believe in debate, Grantaire, why have you provoked one?"
He shrugged. "I provoke by my very appearance."
"Only on occasion," Bossuet said, laughing, "when you neglect to trim your beard."
"And you provoke when you neglect to wear your wig, Eagle." Grantaire sat down again. Combeferre shook his head and clapped one of the newcomers on the back, murmuring something to him about cauterization, while Courfeyrac raised his voice and began going on about ammunition.
The meeting was only long enough to allow them to reconnoiter. As the men were leaving, Enjolras went to Grantaire's table and stood beside his chair. "You owe me a list."
Grantaire reached into his waistcoat pocket and pulled out a crisp sheet of paper. "I've been keeping it beside my heart."
Enjolras read it. "There are twenty-four names."
"So there are."
He looked again. "You count yourself."
Grantaire grinned up at him. "Then you know my name."
"Stand up," Enjolras ordered him. Grantaire shrugged and complied, though he slouched. "I don't believe you're drunk."
"What sort of revolutionary comes drunk to his first proper meeting?" Grantaire spread his hands.
"And yet you said all of that."
"Speaking about problems accomplishes little. I meant what I said."
"You were not being provocative, then." Enjolras frowned.
"I was not merely being provocative, no." Grantaire essayed a smile but it faltered. "By God, Enjolras, they're only words."
"Words have power."
"Less so than --" Grantaire shook his head, glanced around the room, and kissed Enjolras lightly on the lips.
"You're mad," Enjolras said softly.
"I'm aware of that." Grantaire turned away. "I'm sorry."
"How can you dare such a thing?" Enjolras asked, his tone so light as to be almost rhetorical. "How do you know I won't denounce you?"
"I don't know." Grantaire leaned on the back of the chair. "Will you?"
"Ah." He laughed once. "Why not?"
"Did you mean to tell me that you are truly my friend now?" Enjolras' tone was detached, as though he spoke of weather, not emotions.
Grantaire bowed his head. "No."
"Then you meant to imply something rather more intimate than friendship?"
"Yes. I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Enjolras kissed his cheek lightly, brushing Grantaire's haggard cheek with his lips and touching the dingy shoulder of his paletot with one pale hand.
Grantaire gasped. "What do you mean?"
"Perhaps I forgive you. Perhaps I would prefer you never spoke of it again." Enjolras lowered his voice and murmured in Grantaire's ear. "Perhaps, if you swear to be discreet, I may allow you to continue."
"Anything. God, Enjolras, ask anything of me." Grantaire turned to look at him, biting his own lip fiercely.
"Silence. Better judgment." Enjolras squeezed his shoulder. "Stay away from trouble, when it comes. You would be in the way, particularly if you are drunk."
"I can't promise silence," Grantaire protested.
"On this subject, at least."
"I'll die before I tell anyone."
Enjolras studied his face closely, seeking any shred of deception, then nodded. "Follow me, then."