Author: Pairing: Prouvaire/Joly Rating: G
Things have a tendency to blur and mould together; shapes and colours and sounds. Sometimes the clouds part and they become clear, but mostly it's just spinning.
Things are purple-blue right now, hazy and incomplete. There's a woman singing over it all, her voice fading and dipping into the haze, the notes she sings twisting around the drowsy background of grey and through to the violent blood red streaks that slip in without warning or explanation. Then the window opens again, glass sliding over glass, making the other world plain and obvious. It's nothing compared to this dream of strangeness and beauty.
But I look out anyway, seeing the people out there walking along briskly, not noticing a boy making his slow way somewhere no telling where, but somewhere gazing at the sky. It is a sky, but it's blue of a different shade from my gentle violet.
My eyes alight on a young man my age, though maybe a little older. His hair is pale, limp yellow that curls madly, and his eyes are the same blue as his sky. He's wrapped in a coat, and there are numerous handkerchiefs drifting from the pockets. As I watch him, he catches my eye and sneezes. The noise is a little shocking, and I remember why I don't look out here often. It's an ugly place, with sickness and hatred.
So I duck back through the window and let the glass slide shut again. The woman is still singing, and the words aren't anything I know; perhaps her song is in another language. I don't mind that, though, I'll just listen. It has such a soft lilting to it.
Then everything jars harshly, and the window jerks open, showing me the face of the pale-haired man. I've walked into him. He stares down at me, speaking in a voice quite as soft and beautiful as the woman's, something I hadn't expected because of his sneezing.
"Are you all right? You mustn't have been looking where you were going."
I stare back, drinking in the expression in his eyes. His confusion and concern show, and that's nice, because in my world there is no other person save me, so no one ever looks worried over me. He's waiting for me to say something, but I'm not sure what I should. I'm trying to sort out what I ought to use I don't speak much when I'm not here. There's no need.
The words come out on their own. But that's all right, because it was the thing to say. His face clears, and he smiles.
"That's all right."
For a moment, I almost want to stay here and not go back into my own world, but to stay in his. That passes quickly, and I smile in reply, then turn aside and go back through the window.
The giant white horse is beside me within slow seconds, a glorious thing, with huge wings, feathered and furred and glittering all at once. The white is so strong I want to look away, but I don't. Her mane is like a sheet of pure dove-white silk, and her tail the same. Her eyes are deep, deep and brown tinted with metallic blue. Her nose, soft as velvet, pushes me in the chest, and I nearly loose balance. I catch myself, and reach out carefully to stroke her coat, gleaming and shining and brilliant. She makes a sound of pleasure, a sound far down in her shimmering, vibrating throat, a beautiful sound.
I've never seen her before. She contrasts so sharply with the rest of everything, which has changed to a muddy brown-red, like old blood. I don't like the colour, but she distracts me from it, clean and pure against it. She nuzzles me, and I blush at the attention, still stroking her.
Suddenly, horribly, she begins to change. The white is black now, deeper, a kind of well, terrible from the pouring fountain that used to be. Her eyes hate me, frightening bright green, boring into my soul.
My world has never turned on me before. This is all too wrong. It must be an unreality; perhaps I have crossed into the other world again. But it can't be that my own lovely, safe place is against me now.
Her wings aren't feathered any longer; they're stretched out long and scaly, like snakeskin. She's coming towards me, teeth bared threateningly. She can't be the same wonderful creature I loved moments before.
I slide the window open so hard and fast that the panes smash, little glass slivers flying everywhere. Yes, the middle of the street, as before. I don't trust anyone here, though, don't know them, don't like them.
The young man.
Terrified, I search for him. I must find him. Then my eyes stop on his familiar hair. The sound of sneezing. I run. I'm too afraid that she might follow me, although I know I am the only thing able to come between the worlds.
Running is easy. My legs move without my thinking about them, and every step must bring me closer. But as soon as I think I'm almost there, he begins to blur, seeming further away. I can only keep running, and not let him get out of sight, but watch him, get to him.
With another jarring crash, I collide with him. He turns quickly, and catches me as I cry, pressed to him. I've never cried before over something that happened to me. I've cried over the people who live in his awful world, the women and the children. I've cried over the thoughtlessness of this place. I've never cried over myself, because nothing ever made me want to. Nothing ever hurt me. But now the tears can't come fast enough, choking me, stealing my breath.
He draws us aside, out of the crowd, away from the people walking. He's speaking to me, but I don't bother to listen. The soothing, the soft crooning that it's all right, they are treasures. I don't need to hear the words. I need to breathe. I need to stop the convulsive gasping in my throat. Slowly, nightmarishly slowly, his murmuring and my forced self-control bring me to normal...whatever that is.
He holds me away from himself, hands on my shoulders. His face is gentle, worried. He's speaking again, and this time I have to listen.
"What happened? Are you all right? What's wrong?"
When I shake my head, not wanting to tell, because that would be admitting my peace is truly shattered, he sighs deeply.
"Can't you remember, then? Are you ill?"
Again, I offer no sound in answer. Oh, to keep looking at the only face I remember ever having cared for what I felt. Questions don't really matter, nor answers.
"Where do you live? Can you tell me that? You need to go home."
Home? My home was in my world, and it's been ruined and torn from me. I haven't a home. Why is he asking me that? It hurts; I don't want to think of it.
He closes his eyes, and carefully puts an arm around my shoulders. "Very well. You'll come home with me until you can remember or you'll agree to tell me. My apartments are close by." He's leading me, and I don't mind, I follow him.
I barely see or take note of the place to which he takes me, or become aware of the bed that he directs me to. I sleep, for I am heartbroken, and too wearied to do anything else. For a moment, I wonder why he should be taking care of me. I am nothing to him, and from what I've seen, the people in his world don't often show kindness. But the moment of wondering passes as a deep sleep claims me.
I awake to see him watching me, a chair drawn up to the bedside. The instant he realizes that my slumber is gone, he smiles cheerfully.
"What's your name? Mine's Dominique. Domi Joly."
My name...? I'd almost forgotten I had one. I never needed it. I call it back to me, dredging up the long-lost words.
"Jean Jehan Prouvaire. I I pleased to meet you!"
It escapes me in a gasp, courtesies I barely remember, but know are correct. Perhaps not, however: he looks surprised. I don't know what I've done wrong, though it must be something to do with what I've said. I reach to take his sleeve and ask, then wonder if that might not be wrong as well, and withdraw my hand. I move my eyes to try and find something that would distract his attention from my mistake. They alight on a small vase full of flowers daisies, white lilies.
"That lily. It arches so gracefully. Like a...a girl in a white dress. Or the ghost of a bird. It could sing. Something old and sweet. The bird, it is a sparrow. A wisp of breeze trapped in a small warm body. And now it is free and invades this delicate flower."
He claps appreciatively. "You're a poet then, Jehan? You must be. That was beautiful."
A poet? I suppose I am. I could be. If he thinks I am, then I will be. Another memory of words I should say arises.
"Merci, M'sieur Joly."
He rolls his eyes pleasantly. "Please. Dominique, or Joly. No m'sieur. We're all equals, certainly." He pauses. "I say, I've been so worried over you, but I've been feeling rather down lately. Could you perhaps tell me if you think I look ill to you?"
I don't know. He looks fine. Handsome, even. I consider his words, not sure what is proper to say this time. At last an internal prod provokes me to answer with what might be correct.
"You look well, actually."
His face falls.
"Though...a bit pale..." Is this right? Is this what he wants? "You seemed as though you might be coming down with...something..."
He beams at me, and then starts. "Dieu! What am I thinking? Are you hungry, Jehan?"
No. "Yes, a bit."
He offers a small plate to me. Upon it rests two rolls, soft, fluffy, white things. I can't think of anything I'd rather less eat, but he wants me to, he's anxious, so I do it for him. He laughs as I devour them, seeming pleased. They're like clouds, spun clouds, too light. They taste familiar I'm certain I've eaten this sort of food before. But while I did I must have been in my world. I don't recall the things that happen outside; I do them without thinking. That must be where I remember this from. He waits till I'm finished, then lays a hand on my forehead.
"Warm. You should sleep, Jehan, after all this. I'll wake you again later, if you want. Maybe you'll tell me where you live then?"
I don't live anywhere. I wish he wouldn't ask. But the touch of his hand pushes the desire to sleep, to do as he says, back into me. My eyes close and I sink deep into a daze.
Once again, I'm seeping back into my world. The colours of things are swirling, twirling, whirlpooling around me, with sounds tinting them. His voice mingles into it all, a few golden sounds in the greyish-blue of the aura. For the first time, I notice how drab and pale it is, how it's blank compared to his world. It's safe here, yes, much safer than anywhere else, but I feel a tugging at my mind, a gentle but persistent pulling at my consciousness. Suddenly I don't want my world as much as before, for all it's returned to normal and released its nightmares. Suddenly I don't want to slide the magically repaired glass panes together and close out what lies behind them.
* * * * *
It must be several days of his time before the window consents to open and let me out it wants to keep me inside. I finally force the fragile, translucent sheets to open before me and allow me to knot my hands in the pillowcase, sweating.
I become aware of cool hands over mine, and that they detach my palms from the pillow and spread them out flat, pressing something long and equally cool, something smooth and hard, with a scent to it like smoked wood, into them. My eyes flutter open to focus on what's been given to me.
It's a flute. A beautiful, slender cylinder of burned-out wood. Five holes in the top and one in the underside. The smell is stronger now. It's so...intoxicating. It is like the bonfires that are lit in the country on New Year's. I press the body of the gorgeous instrument to my lips, flattening it against my chest, arms wrapped around myself. It's so glorious.
"You like it, then? You cried so much while you were feverish... I wanted to bring you something for when you awoke at last." His voice is quietly happy.
I swallow hard. He bought this for me? With a sharp determination, I raise it to my mouth, caressing the sweet wood with my lips, searching for the first hole, the first note. When I find it, I let my breath out, blowing carefully, praying I'll do it right. I want to make his gift worthwhile.
One lilting, superb, shivering, hanging note sweeps out and lingers in the air, quivering. I didn't know I could do this. Did I perhaps have a flute before? No matter. What matters now is playing it. I heard his delighted intake of breath. I know what he wants.
My fingers quickly slip to the holes that belong to them four little round circles cut into the lovely thing. It's easy to find them and I know how to do this. My fingertips tingle as they lift and fall back to the notes, a whirring song, a simple, swift melody. My eyes are shut tightly, not daring to look at him for fear of making a mistake. But I'm still doing it right, and it sounds... it sounds wonderful. I didn't know I could create anything this wonderful. I didn't know. A huge bubble of joy is swelling deep in my chest. At last this song, that I never learned and still know, comes to an end. I open my eyes at last, desperately finding his face.
His mouth is open slightly; he stares at me. "Dieu... dieu, Jehan, that's... dieu..." He finishes weakly, "That was a wise choice, non?"
I nod furiously, pushing myself up. "Merci, merci, thank you, thank you so much!"
His hands push me back down. I'm surprisingly aware of his warm, worn palms pressing down on my skin through my thin shirt.
"You're welcome..." I gain one of his smiles. "Jehan, I was wondering... Well, I'm part of this group. We're called les Amis de l'ABC, the Friends of the People, you know. I thought... I thought perhaps you could join." Hurriedly, he continues. "You would like it, I'm sure the men are quite nice people and you'd be able to get around, and then I well, I wouldn't have to stay home to take care of you, I could keep you with me. I mean, until you'll tell me where you live, I can't very well turn you out. -- Not that I want to, of course."
I've never seen him flustered before. It's a new thing. But I want to make him happy, and from what he's trying to say, this will be a good arrangement for him, so I'll agree. "I'd love to. You're right. It's a good idea."
He beams again, relieved, and the smile twists the bubble in my chest, but not in an unpleasant way... with a nice feeling. I want to give him something for it, though I've nothing. Then I realize I'm still clutching the flute. A burst of euphoria floods me, and I begin to play his magnificent gift again, sending out the net of delicate notes that makes both him and me happy.
* * * * *
More days pass before he allows me to leave bed. He says I was sick. I don't know what went on during that time I was making reluctant trips into my world, drifting through the waves of slurred colour and sound and shape.
The cafe is a small one, and we go through a door into a back room. There are many men there, and I almost want to take hold of his arm and cling, frightened, but they are smiling to greet us. In only a short while, I know all of them.
There is Enjolras, the leader. He is impatient and short with my Joly, offended, perhaps, by the way Dominique is always ill. He looks terrifyingly beautiful, like a god from Roman or Greek mythology. He laughs rarely, but when he does, it rings deeply. He drinks no wine, nor does he ever speak of mistresses, as the others do. He thinks my poetry silly, saying that I dream of girls who will never see me. He doesn't know that those long sheets of pretty words, which I would never have called poems, are about the woman from my world who sings.
There is Bossuet, who is Dominique's closest friend. They talk together often, and they hurt me when they do, though I'd never trouble him by saying so. He is mostly like the other men inconspicuous, good-humoured but he has no hair and no luck. Joly says this is Fortune playing cruel jokes.
Combeferre sometimes stops by my separate table to ask if he may look at my papers. He really needn't ask at all; I don't mind them being read. No one understands what they're about anyway. He's a gentle man, a philosopher, and Enjolras likes him best.
Courfeyrac pokes fun at me, telling me that I shouldn't write about these girls until I have courted and bedded them. I was frightened and horrified the first time he said so, but Joly assured me it was only in jest. I wish he would not insult the singing woman so, but I cannot stop him.
Feuilly and Bahorel barely notice me, and I don't notice them either. Feuilly talks quietly yet passionately about freedom, and Bahorel about things going too slow, and nothing ever being accomplished through meetings.
Grantaire is the only one I pay true attention to, besides Dominique. He reminds me of myself, in another world of hazy pictures and unclear sounds. Though the way to mine is simply through a glass window, his is through deep winding spirals of green liquid, and it drowns him harshly at the same time it admits him to the safe dreamlike difference. He loves Enjolras, it's plain; admires him and would raise him up if his arms and courage were strong enough. As it is, he hides behind a bottle at the corner table and watches. Often he offers cutting words and sarcastic, cynical remarks to shield his obvious devotion. Enjolras never can tell.
I visit my world less and less and less as I spend time at the cafe and with Joly. I never am able tell him where I live. I suppose I must have lived somewhere before I found him, but I could only get to it unconsciously, while wrapped in my dimensions. I can't find it at all, being alive like this, becoming a part of this world.
Days speed by, months, ensconced in the back room of la Musain and listening to Enjolras feverently declare our cause. He says we will fight, and I cease to listen. I will not fight. The best part of my world was being able to escape that, and I am afraid to flee back into it, but I might if he makes me fight. Fighting isn't for me.
* * * * *
Tonight is such a warm evening that Dominique had the windows flung wide, declaring that for all the wicked germs that could creep through, it was too hot to do anything else. Watching him push them open reminded me of my own glass panes, and I wanted to curl up in the bed, away from the memories, but I didn't, because I am trying to stop the haunting of that world.
He stands beside me at the desk now, allowing me the chair. I sigh and lean slightly against him, wearied and happy with how much and how long I have belonged to a place outside my world. I belong to him, I think. He cares for me, feeds me, shows me the things I don't understand. However, I would have no one else as a master, so I don't mind in the least.
When he feels my head against his side, he drapes an arm about my shoulders, and his fingers fondle my hair tenderly, as though he doesn't even know what he's doing. It's not the first time, but just as every time, it makes me tense with a drowsy happiness. A few blissful moments we stay like this, then he squeezes my shoulders gently, and I stand.
"Bedtime, Jehan. Eleven o'clock."
"When will we will Enjolras... do something?"
"You mean, hold his insurrection. With luck, not soon, because I'd hate to have my allergies and break out so I couldn't hold a gun." He feels my shudder, for he embraces me comfortingly. "Don't worry. I shan't make you fight if you're frightened. It's to be expected, really, and I did drag you along in the first place."
"I'm not afraid of that! I'm afraid of hurting other people who are just like me! I don't want to kill anyone..." I tremble again at the idea.
"No one will make you do anything you don't want. If you don't want to shoot other boys, you can stay here, Jehan. Just don't," and I receive a small quirky grin, "expect me to include you in the list of men who liberated France."
Upset as I am, I can't help smiling back, looking into his face and his eyes, peering into his sweet emotions. It is without warning, unexpectedly, that he leans forward and kisses me.
It's as though I've been waiting for this since I first saw him. My mouth is willingly against his, my arms about him, my eyes closed in pure joy. A tremor spreads through me, an extraordinary sense of light-headed elation. At long last, just when I think I must either die from lack of air or from the thrill, we break apart, and he continues to hold me, gasping a little.
"A bit awkward, standing like this."
I nod against him, and he leads me to the bed, and we both sink down into it.
* * * * *
There was never a thing my world gave me that was a wondrous and beautiful as this. I'll never go back; I'm certain of it, sure of it, determined of it. New crashing waves of love and delight splash over me as I lie awake, watching the early sunlight stream through the open window and play across the bedspread, Joly sleeping beside me.
I shan't wake him. He looks peaceful asleep. I only want to watch him, see him. He's on his side facing me, one hand curled up under his chin, the other pillowing his head. I'm still moving my eyes over the hair coiled about his ear when my lids droop closed and I sink into the same sleep that holds him.
* * * * *
I never fail to come to la Musain, staying at my own table, scattered about with inkwells, quills, and parchment, but he sits at it often, smiling, talking with me. It's like a rose that we planted. It grew, it budded, it blooms. But unlike with a real rose, its lovely white petals edges with delicate pink never fade, never die. It lives, flourishing.
I only half-listen to Enjolras now. I haven't entered through the sliding glass window since that night. I am possessed of a dream. There is but one thing wrong, one thing that hurts me softly, prodding me.
I am free of my world; I have gained a glorious love. But Grantaire still twists himself into the deep, swallowing, sharp green of his world, alone, saddened, melancholy. I have nothing to say to him. I can no longer offer my unspoken understanding. It would be lying. Therefore it bites my insides to watch him barricaded at the back of the room, refilling his glass over and over. And it also troubles me that I think of him less often, wrapped in my happiness of Joly and myself.
It is troubling me, however, on the day that Joly dashes to me through a crowd of men who I walked along with, unaware. He smells slightly of alcohol, the mild cloying of wine.
"Jehan! Do you realize where you are standing?"
My first reaction is to look down, then look up again, confused. "On the street...?"
"Silly, cher, we're building a barricade here! On the very cobblestones under your feet!" He takes my hands and dances around me. "Vive la Republique! We're going to fight! Lamarque is dead, you know!"
Yes, Enjolras said something about that. I hadn't been listening, as usual. A barri "A barricade? You mean the fighting's begun?"
"It has! We're going to free our France! Our lady Patria! Isn't it wonderful, cher, we're going to save a nation!"
"On this very spot." His excitement dies and he regards me solemnly. "Oh... Jehan... if you want to go home, I won't... stop you..."
Him? Dominique? Alone here, bloodying his hands... without me? To be home, not knowing whether he was alive or dead?
"No! No, I'll fight with you! You're right! It is wonderful!" I smile at him.
"That's the wonderful part! You here, with me! Come on, we've got to build, haven't we?" He drags me along, all his bubbling excitement returned.
* * * * *
The day happens in flurries of action that flash past my eyes in jerking, unattached strips of memory: Building, positions, shooting, deaths... It fights over my sense, taking me prisoner. I want to hide from the gunsmoke, from the screaming, from the noise of guns firing. I can't bear this, and Dominique isn't beside me just now.
Suddenly, forcefully, a lucid window slides open in my mind, smashing itself with the speed. Although through it I see the prospect of escape, I almost turn away, but I hear a scream somewhere near me, a dying call.
It only takes a moment to rush through the gate to freedom, a blessed, cool wash of security flowing over me. The world is spinning, slipping, blurring all together into a deep haze of pale, unhurtful pastel green. It comes with small wisps of white, fluffy cloud kissing my closed eyelids and neck and hands. The pain and ache from my chest is gone, seeping out with reality. A sweet, beautiful voice begins to sing an ancient melody the woman. Her song is curling into the clouds, cleansingly pure compared to out there.
Through the broken window I can see men fighting all around me, concentrating too much on their battles to see me, but I've dropped my gun and I stagger drunkenly in no definite direction. I don't know where I'm going, but I couldn't care less. Anywhere is better than this mountain of tables, chairs, bodies, and blood.
When a hand grabs my arm, I'm somehow not surprised. Roughly I'm pulled away, not resisting it. In moments, I'm vaguely aware of guns pointed at me. I can't comprehend what it means amid the foggy haze of incoherent pale green, ivory, and shreds of song. I don't mind whatever it is they plan to do.
Then I see Joly's eyes. His face. His whole form. In a miracle, it is he. He frowns deeply at me, and murmurs, "What are you doing? What is this place?" He cups my chin is his hand and kisses me gently, and my body is suddenly rigid.
I race for the window, seeing the men raise their guns, hearing the "Ready? Aim..." of the sergeant, knowing what has happened all at once. I'm tearing for the shattered glass, desperate to get out. The scream rips its way from me, searing my throat.
"Vive la future! Vive la France!"
Blood wells up in my mouth at the same time that pain explodes all over my body, overtaking my last sprint to the hole that could set me free. Choking, I fall forward, skidding on slivers of the window. My outstretched fingers meet something that feels like smooth wood, and then the world spins worse than ever before, not even blurry shapes and sounds, but an endless whirlpool of everything, and I sink into it.