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Title: Life About To Start
Fandom: Les Miserables (musical)
Relationship(s)/Character(s): Enjolras/Grantaire, Les Amis
Rating: PG13
Word Count: ~5,000
Warnings: character death, violence
Summary: Grantaire is only waiting to die, even as he's learning to live.
Author's Notes: Thank you to Cherie Shark for beta-ing, thank you to chat for putting up with my feelings about dead french revolutionaries, and of course, thank you to the 25th anniversary concert cast for being so effortlessly tragic and inspiring all the plot bunnies.

"Oxygen levels critically low. Forty minutes remaining," says the cool, clipped voice of the onboard computer.

"Do you think we ought to cut that in half? Because there's two of us?" Grantaire fidgets with the control panel, but there isn't anything he can do to steer the little ship or extend their oxygen. What rudimentary controls the escape pod had, have been knocked out by the final explosion that destroyed the Starship Villette. There's nothing they can do, really, except drift aimlessly until they run out of air.

"I imagine it accounts for that," Enjolras says. "It's a sophisticated enough ship."

"I suppose you're right," Grantaire says with a sigh. "You're very rarely wrong." He admits it like a forbidden secret, like Enjolras has wrenched the statement from him.

They've been drifting for hours. The cut on Enjolras's scalp has long since stopped bleeding and when he touches it gingerly, he can already feel a scab forming. He feels tired, so bone-achingly weary. It's in the way his hands shake, and his muscles clench up and burn. Every breath seems so difficult to draw in and all he wants to do is sleep. They don't have much longer now, though, so he won't sleep just yet. There will be time enough for that.

"Do you regret it?" Grantaire asks, trying to turn and face him. He's all but sitting in Enjolras's lap, the two of them crammed into a space that should barely fit one.

Enjolras has to try the word out in his own mouth first. The entire idea is too foreign. "Regret... No. Never. I only regret what I did not do."

"All our friends are dead."

"Everyone dies, Grantaire, every one of us. Would you rather waste away under the unrelenting pressure of years, feeling your strength and wits fly away and die only after time has wrung every drop from you? Or die side by side with your compatriots, with the firm knowledge that you've done everything you could for a better tomorrow and a song of freedom in your heart?"

"I would rather live a lifetime old and decrepit if it meant I got a proper lifetime. I don't see the glory in dying young."

"It's not glory," Enjolras says, biting back a sigh. "It's what is fair, just, and right." It's an argument they've had a hundred times, maybe a thousand, and neither ever seems to budge on his point.

"No matter," Grantaire says. They both wince a little when he shifts around enough to meet Enjolras's eyes. "Let us not fight about why and how we must die, my friend. Let's just get on with it."

Enjolras laughs, a bitter sound, but to Grantaire it sounds a bit like magic anyway. He lets himself fall forward, his forehead resting against Grantaire's shoulder blade. He's too tired to hold himself up any longer, and besides, he feels just a fraction warmer now.

Grantaire's head pounds, and he feels like he's going to be sick, but he forces himself to stay still with more willpower than he's exerted on anything before. Enjolras is saying something, his lips moving against the rough fabric of Grantaire's jumpsuit. Grantaire strains to hear the words.

"... descendit ad infernos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Dei Patris omnipotentis..."

Praying then, Grantaire thinks. He closes his eyes and breathes deep, trying to remember the words. They don't come to him.

"It doesn't seem so bad out here," he says instead, even though he knows it's not true.

Enjolras shifts and sits straight in the seat. As close as they still are, Grantaire regrets the loss of contact. "It is beautiful out here," Enjolras says softly after a moment or two of looking out the glass sides of the escape pod. "The lights and stars, stretching to infinity. I can imagine such a better world out there, waiting for someone to find it."

"I meant..."


"Nothing. You're right again, my friend. It's the prettiest sight I can imagine. I don't think I ever realized it before."

Enjolras sighs and his breath warms the back of Grantaire's neck. "It seems we only have regrets at the end."

"But only the things we never did?"

He laughs again, and to Grantaire it seems softer, far less bitter. "Yes."

"Did you ever... Did you ever love a person so much as you loved the world that would come after the barricades fell?"

Enjolras takes so long to answer, Grantaire wonders if he's died before their air ran out to avoid the question. "I never loved you, Grantaire."

"No," Grantaire says in a whisper. "I don't suppose you did."

There's nothing else to say, really. All the words in all their extensive vocabularies wouldn't dare be spoken now.

All that's left to do is to breathe deeply and wait to die.

"Incoming missile. Impact in ninety seconds," says a cool, clipped voice of the ship's auto-pilot computer from all around him. That's the first thing Enjolras is aware of.

"Go! Go, go!" And then Grantaire is shouting in his ear, pushing at his shoulders.

Enjolras lets himself be manhandled for a moment, shocked into compliance by the unprecedented urgency in Grantaire's voice. The only thing Enjolras has ever heard him shout about before was women or liquor.

Grantaire stumbles then, and Enjolras opens his mouth to make a scathing comment about the sort of cheap brandy one can buy in gallon jugs, but as Grantaire catches himself and stands again, Enjolras sees the blood on his face and neck.

"Move, you awful bastard," Grantaire croaks, shoving at him again. Enjolras backs up, hitting his back roughly against the edge of a door.

Except all the doors on the Villette open and close automatically, so there shouldn't be anything for him to run into, unless... Enjolras looks down instinctively to see what was propping it open and found himself looking into the cold, glassy eyes of a Guardsman's corpse.

Enjolras recovers wits he didn't realize he was lacking and looks around. All around the bridge, it's carnage. Courfeyrac's body is closest to them, missing one of his arms. His eyes are open wide, his mouth twisted into a shape between shock and laughter.

He sees a foot in a charred boot, missing the rest of its body here and over there an arm clinging to a body it didn't belong to. And blood, so much blood. Suddenly, he's on the floor and retching, muscles clenching and trying so hard to force everything out. He doesn't know what happened, exactly, can't pull together the strings in his mind, but if the picture didn't let him know, the smell of burnt flesh and hair and melted plastic would have.

The computerized voice interrupts his misery again. "Incoming missile. Impact in sixty seconds."

"An explosion?" he murmurs, as Grantaire hauls him to his feet. "We thought they'd never..."

"You were wrong," Grantaire says, shoving the dead guard aside with his foot and pushing Enjolras down the hall, away from the Villette's bridge.

"Where are we going? Grantaire, no, we must not abandon --"

"Everyone else has!" Grantaire snaps, and then a little softer, more broken, maybe, "they're all dead. There's nothing left to stay for."

But still Enjolras hesitates. Grantaire all but carries him to the escape pod bay and jams him into the one that looks to have taken the least damage in the firefight. All the while the floors and walls of the Starship Villette tremble with the effort it takes to power what's left of the shields.

"Incoming missile. Impact in fifteen seconds."

And the shields won't help them for much longer.

"But --"

"No. I don't plan to die here," Grantaire says shortly, climbing over Enjolras's legs and fitting himself in the last remaining space in the pod. He slams his hand down on the release button and the lid closes around them, hissing as it seals.

There's a rumble and spin that makes whatever's left in Enjolras's stomach come rising up again, but he forces it down and clamps his hand around Grantaire's wrist -- the first thing he can grab. He's always hated the docking and undocking portions of space travel, hating how it makes his head spin. It was at once the opposite of the light, nearly weightless feeling of being in orbit at the University Station and the heavy, earthy feeling of being planetside. Caught between both sensations was the least desirable place to be.

But it's gone almost as soon as it had started, and his stomach settles as the pod ejects from the starship. They sail through space, the soft beep of the life support system and their own heavy breathing the only noise in their now suddenly quiet surroundings.

Just as Enjolras feels righted again, Grantaire moves his hand. Not the one Enjolras is still clutching, but the other. It can't be comfortable, Enjolras thinks, as Grantaire tries to turn his body enough to free the hand trapped between himself and the glass wall of the pod. But Grantaire manages it and finally lays his hand over Enjolras's, twining their fingers together.

Sentimental fool, they both think, but neither of them move.

The little pod shakes suddenly, just for a moment and they both manage to turn around in just enough time to see the Villette struck by the Illudium missile. There isn't any fire, no air to burn up because most of it was vented when the first infiltration strike cracked the port side hull, but the Villette starts to crumble in on itself until it's just a little mess of rubble floating, and spinning just so slightly, in the middle of space.

Within moments, it's starting to heat up inside their little pod. Soon, it's almost unbearable. They're both drenched in sweat, soaking through their suits, unable to move far enough apart to stop their skin from sticking where bare arms touch.

As they travel away from the blast site (the site where all their friends were just killed, but they won't think of it like that), it cools off and they can breathe without panting again. The smell of sweat and blood lingers on.

"Oxygen levels critically low. Forty minutes remaining."

"Steady, boys," Enjolras says over the beeping from the ship's sensors. The alerts are getting louder and closer together, letting everyone on the bridge know that the hull has been breached and the enemy is getting closer.

"Give control of the bridge over to the men when they arrive and you won't be executed," says the captain of the guard, smiling smugly on the relay interface screen.

Enjolras ignored him and noted with not a small amount of pride that his friends were doing the same.

"Your deaths won't change anything. The government is stronger than ever and a few sad, confused children throwing their lives away won't make a difference."

Combeferre scowls and fires his lancer at the screen. The boys cheer as the face of the captain cracks, flickers a few times, and disappears.

"We won't stand down," he says, catching Enjolras's eye.

"We're not afraid," Courfeyrac adds, though he trembles when he says it. Gavroche's blood is still tacky on his hands, staining the stock of his gun.

Enjolras nods, does his best to appear stoic and steady. He needs now, more than ever, to lead by example. His friends are scared of what is coming, but they've all had their chance to leave. Last night, when it became apparent they were the only ship at the barricade, he told them all to turn and go home, if that's what they wanted. He wouldn't blame them, nor hold it against them. They stayed, for the most part, and waited out the long night telling old stories and singing old songs, anything to make the time pass quicker. Knowing you would die was one thing, but waiting out the time could drive a man mad.

Only Grantaire had walked away. Enjolras might have been a touch disappointed, but he wasn't surprised; he'd been waiting for Grantaire to walk away for weeks now. He was never as involved as the rest of them, always more apt to crack a joke or pass out drunk than to contribute anything useful. Still. He'd gotten used to that stupid, selfish grin and the rumbling laugh that went with it.

The proximity sensor on the main computer is sounding in a long, solid tone now. They can hear low voices outside the secondary doors, and at one point, a cruel sounding laugh. They'd built a secure barricade of debris and explosives just inside the main doors, but when the guards came up against it, they'd sent a team to come up the back way through the maintenance ducts and once they're inside the bridge, the main strength of them will be through in no time.

"Easy, lads. Fire once you see their faces," Enjolras reminds them. He re-adjusts his grip on his own lancer and hefts it against his shoulder. "Bahorel, how long will the doors hold?"

"If they try to open them normally, the circuits will jam up, it will take them hours."

"What do you mean, if they --?"

A loud explosion rocks the bridge and the door bows inward dramatically. Several people are thrown to the floor.

"There was always that option," Bahorel says with a sigh, hauling himself to his feet. "I can hack any sort of government starship, but I can't defend us from C4."

There's another crash and the door is blown out of it's frame. There's a ringing silence while the smoke clears and no one moves a muscle. Enjolras is holding his breath, ready to shout an order or maybe just to shout. There's been a lot of shouting in the last few weeks.

The smoke finally clears and there's a scrawny man in the bright blue and red of a French Guardsman jumpsuit. Enjolras opens his mouth to give the order to fire, but there's a scuffle and a shout and the man crumples up as if struck from behind. Grantaire sidles in around the bodies, as there are certainly a few more in the hallway.

"You... horrible, stupid, beautiful man," Courfeyrac says, lowering his gun and striding across the bridge to take Grantaire in his arms and spin him about. "We'd thought you abandoned us."

"I tried to," Grantaire says, pushing Courfeyrac away. "But there are too many twists and turns in this place, I couldn't find the shuttle bay."

There's much laughter and clapping of backs as the boys welcome Grantaire back. His reappearance boosts morale and puts genuine smiles on faces that looked so worried moments before.

Enjolras catches his attention, quirks his eyebrow in an unspoken question. Grantaire looks away, knowing Enjolras can see right through him.

"You're a coward, Grantaire."

"A drunken coward," Grantaire whispers back hotly, taking both an offered gun and a place next to Enjolras. "I know all the things I am, all my failings and flaws, every pathetic intricacy to my existence. Why do you insist on bringing it to my attention when I'm clearly trying to so hard to escape said knowledge? You're an impossible man to love."

"You are a coward, but you're a present coward. I just.... Thank you." Enjolras doesn't know why, of all people, he feels better to have Grantaire next to him in this moment, but the tremour has gone out of his hands and he can stand a little taller.

Grantaire doesn't know what to say, but this moment warrants something poetic. He opens his mouth to respond but there's a shout at the main doors that cuts him off.

"We're coming in, boys!'

"The barricade --" Courfeyrac says, stepping towards the pile of debris wired with C4 and blasting gel with his gun in hand, probably intent on warning them off. Grantaire sees all the ways this will end badly flash before his eyes yet again and ducks behind the closest computer console. Once a coward, always a coward, he supposes.

And then the main doors slide open and the entire thing goes off.

Everything seems like it's in slow motion for a moment or two. Grantaire hears the noise, all muffled and roaring in his ears. The sound consumes him, swallows him up until there's nothing else at all. He barely feels the pain in his face when something slices across his cheek, doesn't react to the body colliding with his even when Enjolras's face swims into view, blood covering one side of his face and head hanging limply to one side. Everything is booming sound of the chain of explosions, overlaid with angry shouts, terrified screams, and the sound of crackling fire.

He breathes, forces himself to take air in and let it out in measured bursts, until the last echoes of the explosions fade away. Then the noise is the exchange of gunfire. Everyone not taken out by the blast is doing their best to clear up what the exploding barricade missed.

Grantaire hears his name called once, maybe twice, and then a few shouts of 'mon dieu, s'il vous plaƮt,' and then nothing. He's shaking when he lifts his head, wiping ineffectively at the blood.

"Corporal Beaulieu, report. Corporal Beaulieu, do you copy?"

When Grantaire finds the source of the relay communication, he knows Corporal Beaulieu won't be responding.

"We're engaging the Illudium Modulator Missile. Corporal Beaulieu, if you copy, you and your men are to fall back now."

Grantaire has heard whispers of this Illudium Modulator Missile before -- they said it could split an entire planet in half. If any of Gavroche's underground rumour mill was to be believed, it had been a gift from the Pilot Jack Warlords for setting up the trade embargo that was strangling the French people in the first place.

Grantaire shakes his head free of the history lesson -- truly, he must have taken in more of what Enjolras said than he realized -- and goes to gather everyone to make a break for it so they can survive to try this stupid plan again. Grantaire resolved to get as far away from these hot-headed lunatics as he could, but he'd leave them to their struggles and gambits if that's what they wished.

But as he stands and looks around, he sees he's the only one standing. All around him, at his feet, by the main console, sagged against the walls, are what's left of his friends. To a man, they are dead and gone, and he is the only one left alive in this cold place.

"Combeferre?" His voice is small and shaky, and Grantaire would hate it if he wasn't shaking all over. "Marius?"

No one answers.

He turns, spinning madly, trying to find --

"Enjolras!" Grantaire trips over another body without caring to look and see who it was, collapsing to his knees next to Enjolras. He cradles the bloody face in his hands, throat clamping shut around a shout. Enjolras still holds his lancer, though it's bent and useless now.

"You stupid --" Grantaire starts, but he's unable even to come up with the appropriate curse for the first time ever. "How could you...?"

"Incoming missile. Impact in two minutes." Grantaire is startled by the computer's message -- if not the content, then at least the fact that it's still working. He glances around again, but no one has stirred. He really is the last one, and he has no intention of dying here.

He stands, ready to run, to find the escape pods where he slept last night but didn't have the courage to use, but he feels rooted to the spot. He pulls the lancer from Enjolras's slack hand and tosses it out of the way. It seems he has no conscious mind, as if he's running solely on auto-pilot now. Grantaire pulls Enjolras up with strength he didn't know he had, bracing with his shoulder.

He has to pick his way around the bodies, friends and foes alike, dragging the solid, uncooperative bulk of their fearless, brainless leader with him. Grantaire tries desperately not to count down the seconds in his head, but he has always had a mind for numbers.

"Come on, come on," he mutters to himself, trying to hurry without falling flat.

"Grantaire?" Enjolras sounds groggy, like he's waking up from a long rest. His lips brush Grantaire's ear, and for one heart-stopping moment, Grantaire thinks he must have died after all. But Enjolras is moving, trying to get his feet under himself and stand on his own. Grantaire lets him go, tries not to cry out when Enjolras opens his eyes and begins to look around.

"Incoming missile. Impact in ninety seconds," the computer reports, cutting through the immediate sense of relief and replacing it with cold terror again.

"Go! Go, go!" Grantaire snaps, pushing at Enjolras to make him move. They don't have much time left.

"Are you still with us, Grantaire?"

"With you," Grantaire mumbles. He looks up to Enjolras and feels dazed and shaken, for which he'll blame Enjolras and the liquor in equal proportions. "Am I...? What's going on?"

"Everyone's gone home. You slept through the meeting." Enjolras leaves Grantaire slumped in a booth while he gathers stray papers. They've gone completely old school for the meetings now, no trace on the planetary grid for anyone to find and track them through.

"My wit was missed, I'm sure," Grantaire says. He checks the glasses on the table, but they're all empty.

"You can't still be thirsty," Enjolras says, scorn evident in his voice. "You practically drowned yourself tonight."

"Practically means not all the way. And if at first you don't succeed..." Grantaire wriggles and stretches, calling on muscles that seem to have abandoned him until he's in a standing position and very proud of himself for getting there, thank you.

"Grantaire, must you?" Enjolras has an armful of books and loose leaf notes, and one hand on his hip like an unimpressed school teacher.

"I must," Grantaire says, though he's not sure what he's agreeing to. He just wants to keep the conversation going long enough to gather his bearings. This is the longest Enjolras has spoken to him without getting disgusted and walking away in weeks.

"Can you get back to your apartment all right, or should I call someone back to escort you across the station?"

Now that Grantaire thinks about the last time Enjolras spoke to him civilly, and "No, I'm... fine. Please don't feel the need to care for me at all."

Enjolras stares for a moment, as if he's got a hundred things to say but he remains quiet. He just sighs a little, and Grantaire tries mightily not to notice the little flash of tongue that wets a lip and the way Enjolras's hair is a little more mussed every time he runs his tired hands through it.

Right at the door, Grantaire turns to say something else, but he loses his footing on the smooth metal floor. Enjolras catches him by the arm before he lands heavily on his knees.

"Steady there." Enjolras pulls Grantaire up with an iron grip and when Grantaire looks up to meet his eyes, they're dark with annoyance, exhaustion, and probably everything except concern. Grantaire pulls his arm free and rights himself, dusting his jumpsuit off with exaggerated care before tipping his invisible hat in Enjolras's direction.

"Steady," Enjolras reminds him as he leaves. As if that's even a hope any more.

Grantaire takes a deep breath and tries to remember how to live.

Enjolras sits down across from him and kicks his feet up into the empty chair next to Grantaire. "Smile a little, Grantaire! This should be your night -- a night we can finally celebrate." He catches Combeferre's eye and accepts a glass of something with a grateful smile.

"Celebrate?" Grantaire says suspiciously. Granted, he tuned the meeting out an hour ago, but no one sounded in the mood for celebrating then.

"Yes! Gavroche brought us word from Bahorel. He was able to find the plans we need to get to the Villette. The plan will go full steam ahead, as they say." Enjolras clinks his full glass against Grantaire's nearly empty one, a few splashes of wine overflowing and down over his hand.

"Ah. Then celebrate we will." Grantaire watches Enjolras drink, can't look away when he flicks pink tongue over pale fingers and deep red wine. Then he smiles, open and truthful and such a contrast to his serious frowns and the near-permanent wrinkle of concentration between his eyes.

"You don't look happy."

"I am never happy," Grantaire says with a sigh. He feigns disinterest and tries not to look up and make eye contact. He comes to the Musain night after night now, to hear Enjolras talk on about trade embargoes and secret deals and the people starving planetside for want of just a scrap of what the government is holding back. Grantaire hangs off to one side for hours, listening to the plans and the ploys and all the rest, if only to hear Enjolras talk with that pure, unbridled passion.

Grantaire thinks he's so enraptured by this not because he particularly cares what happens to the debased dregs of France-Neuf, but merely because he's lost all his own passion. He's got to subsist on the excess passion of others, and no one has more of that than Enjolras.

And maybe it's got something to do with the way Grantaire feels when Enjolras turns those eyes, dark with fervour and noble ideals, on him. Enjolras asks him what he thinks, or how he feels, and genuinely cares to hear a response. Grantaire hates the questions and gives a flip answer, but the eyes... He could have those eyes on him any day.

"You're never happy because you actively work to destroy the happiness that seeks you out," Enjolras says, interrupting Grantaire's thoughts.

"If that's true, maybe you've found your next mission, after this revolution is done with."

Enjolras huffs a little laugh, then takes a long sip of wine before he replies. "I fear there might not be an 'after' for me, and even if, I fear you'd be a lot harder to crack."

"Not so," Grantaire says, risking a glance up to meet Enjolras's eyes. "If anyone could find a way, it would be you."

"A way? A way to see you happy?"

Grantaire doesn't answer. Enjolras's foot is nudging his knee under the table and Grantaire is wishing he had another drink to make his head stop spinning. "Stop looking at me like that," he says after a moment. There's a growl in his voice and it's louder than he meant it, but the Musain is almost empty now; all their friends drifted out in twos and threes while Grantaire was extricating himself from the maze of Enjolras's eyes.

"Your apartment is on the other side of the station," Enjolras says carefully. He's got his eyes fixed on a place beyond Grantaire's shoulder -- taking to heart Grantaire's grumbling order to stop looking -- but his foot is still heavy against Grantaire's leg.

"I'm not so drunk I've forgotten where I live," Grantaire snaps.

"No, you're not drunk at all. I know the look of you when you are," Enjolras says. He stands then, leaving the rest of his wine. "I'm not that far, just two blocks up."

"Are you inviting me to your home?"

"Yes." Enjolras answers slowly, like he needs to mentally check again, and then leaves without another word. Grantaire catches up with him just past the back door to the Musain.

They walk in silence that's slightly less than companionable until they reach a dingy, unmarked door and Enjolras swipes his identification card to get in. Grantaire follows him into the darkness past the door and is barely over the threshold before Enjolras has double back and is pushing Grantaire to the wall.

He doesn't kiss him, not really, just presses himself against Grantaire with enough earnestness and ardour that Grantaire is momentarily stunned into freezing.

"Why me?" he hazards eventually. He thinks it's telling that that's the only question his mind can come up with when confronted with the moment. Not 'why?' or 'are you sure this what you want?' or even 'what do you think you're doing with that mouth?' Just 'why me, why am I the lucky one, why am I, of all the scared, broken people you know, the one who you will bless with this moment?'

"Sometimes I think you're the only one who understands," he says, voice muffled slightly against Grantaire's collarbone.

"Understands what? That you can't hold your liquor worth a damn?"

"Hush you," Enjolras says as his fingers work clumsily at Grantaire's zipper. He presses a smile against Grantaire's neck. It's not a quite a kiss, but if it's all he'll get, then by God, it's nearly perfect.

Grantaire lets his head fall back against the wall with a little thud when Enjolras finally gets his hand against bare skin.

"Shh," Enjolras says, somehow mistaking the sound of Grantaire's brain shutting down for a protest, as if that were remotely possible.

When Enjolras finally decides to bless Grantaire with a kiss, it's nothing like Grantaire ever imagined it would be. It's not chaste, it's not careful, or restrained, or thoughtful, the things Enjolras seems to be. It's the things Enjolras is when he talks about his revolution (oh, and it is his, the entire galaxy belongs to Enjolras when he's like this). The kiss is potent, alive, and electric, driven by force of will and all that passion that Grantaire fears he'll never feel again.

Grantaire is panting when Enjolras pulls away. It's too dark to see much, but Grantaire imagines a smile.

"Are you still with me, Grantaire?"

And of course he is, there's nowhere else he could possible go now.

September 2017

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