I'm falling asleep, and I don't know if I'll be able to stay up until midnight/not pass out right when I get home tomorrow, so you're getting my fanfic now. Ignore my extremely lame quoting of Les Mis lyrics and OOC Valjean.
Prompt: Valjean, bottle, empty.
It was happening again.
It wasn’t really, Valjean reminded himself, he’d left the barricade-- and all of its inhabitants-- weeks before, when on that sunny June morning, he dragged Marius through the sewers. But he could hear it again, the shots ringing in his ears, the singing of Gavroche, the screams of the young students as they were gunned down. How old were most of them? Nineteen? Twenty? They couldn’t be much more than boys, and now they were gone.
He couldn’t have done anything for them, though. They’d made the decision to fight and die for this before he had even come. But still, he thought to himself, the blood that ran through the sewers had accomplished nothing. Only death. He’d tried to forget the revolution, and to forget men who were beyond saving, but he had neglected to save someone once before and he could not do it again. So, he’d disguised himself as a National Guardsman, not just to find Marius but to save as many men as he could. And he’d done his best. He really had.
Five had gotten away, he reminded himself. At least one of them could not have done it without him. But still, this was not enough for him. What about the other leader, the handsome one? Enjolras, had it been? He didn’t look more than twenty-two. And what had become of the others, the one who’d yelled after Gavroche, and the one who’d looked at Enjolras with such tenderness in his eyes? Where were they? And why did he not know, if he was such a saviour?
The truth, he told himself, was that they had died. They had been shot, just like the rest of their comrades. They were lying in a ditch now, in a pauper’s grave. These boys, who’d been destined for great things, who could have been doctors, lawyers, artists-- all of them gone. None of them remembered.
He chided himself for coming here in the first place. He’d been in search of Cosette and Toussaint, thinking that perhaps they’d gone to the Luxembourg, and his legs had carried him here instead. Back to the Corinth. Everything was as it had been. People still walked these streets, seemingly unaware of the fact that mere children had been slaughtered there only weeks before. But that was the thing about life, Valjean thought to himself, it was only for the living. What could the living do for the dead?
He found himself wandering towards the Corinth, and he noticed one thing that was not the same. The cafe, which had once been so lively and bright was now closed, and evidently had been for quite a while. The door was covered in a thick layer of grime and dust. He traced the closed sign on the door with his fingertips. Where had the owners gone? They’d locked themselves away, he remembered. Where were they now? In an attempt to forget, he pushed at the door once, and it creaked open. He stepped over the threshold and tried to avoid thinking about any of them.
The blood had been wiped from the floor, for the most part. He wondered who had done that job. Had it been random men or women, having to mop up blood of their enemies? Or had it been the families of these boys, forced to clean up their sons’ and brothers’ and husbands’ blood and know that their sacrifice had been for nothing? And what had become of these women, anyway? Without any income, had they starved? If not, what had they had to do to make money? With a shiver, he thought of Fantine, and he wondered how many Fantines this had created. He thought about the Battle of Waterloo, and of the July Revolution. And he knew that this would not be the last barricade. Where there was failure, there would always be another attempt. Many more men were more than willing to fight and die for this. And women, perhaps willing and perhaps not, to suffer the consequences. Was it not, he wondered, the men who had died to be pitied, but the women who had been left behind?
With a shiver, he began to climb the stairs. They creaked underneath him, and he wondered if they would fall in. Upstairs, there was but one room, and it was into this room that Valjean entered.
And in the room, he saw nothing. No blood splattered on the walls, no bodies on the floor. Just empty chairs at empty tables. The only thing in sight was a bottle lying on its side. It looked as though it had been thrown away in a hurry, or perhaps not even thought about. Valjean walked over to it and picked it up, surveying it. The bottle, Valjean realized, was not entirely empty. A drop remained, and Valjean recognized the drink immediately. Absinthe.
He wondered who the bottle had belonged to. It was clear that it had been one of the boys who had lost their lives that morning, since he was evidently the first person to have visited since then.
He picked it up and ran his finger across the label. Maison Pernod Fils. This was good absinthe, Valjean thought to himself. And since Enjolras had not allowed them to drink, whoever had thrown this away without drinking the last drop had evidently been in a rush. Who had it belonged to? Marius’ friend, the one who had called after Gavroche, Courfeyrac? The fiery revolutionary, Feuilly? Combeferre, the one who had wanted peace? And then Valjean knew. Grantaire.
The one who had looked so tenderly at Enjolras, and who Enjolras had met with cold, hard fury and passion. The one who’d told his friends that their revolution was unimportant. He’d disappeared into the tavern during the night, hadn’t he? Had he been passed out and ambushed, waking up to find shots firing into his back, dropping his bottle in shock? Or had whoever cleaned the Corinth had to pry it from his cold, dead hands? What had become of the cynic who had loved the believer?
No, Valjean decided, he could no longer torture himself like this. He knew that they were all dead, and he would never know what had become of them. He had to forget the cynic who believed in something, the fire in the eyes of the revolutionaries, the speech that Combeferre had given, all of it. Torturing himself would do nothing. He shut them out of his mind, or tried to, and left the shop.
But when he entered the street, he was stopped by a prostitute. “Fancy a go, monsieur?” she asked him gruffly.
“No,” said Valjean, pressing a sou into her hands. “Actually, I was hoping you could tell me about the men who died in there. This June, remember?” The woman’s face softened, and she murmured, not to him, and not to herself, but seemingly to no one.
“Weeks ago, I was at the top of the world. I lived with my brother, and he was a student who refused to go to classes, but he’d come home sometimes and he’d bring me some food and some coffee, or we’d go to a cafe together, and we’d just talk about whatever was going on in our lives. It was so lovely, Monsieur. And he was part of this group, not because he believed in anything they were talking about, not the revolution or France or men or the future, but because he believed in this one boy. And you know which group he was in, don’t you Monsieur? Them. Those boys. Les Amis de l’ABC.
“I ran into them once or twice, I remember. They were marching and waving flags and screaming, and I asked them what they were doing. ‘Are you rioting?’ I asked, and the little boy, Gavroche, said, ‘no, citizen. This isn’t a riot. It’s a revolution.’
“The boy next to him, I think his name was Courfeyrac, he told me to hide myself, since they didn’t want pretty women like me getting hurt.” The prostitute smiled, lost in the past in which she hadn’t lived in the streets.
“Anyway, so they go and they fight and they lose, and as soon as it’s done the captain of the National Guard comes out, and I run to him and I ask him if it’s really true, that everyone’s dead. The man looked terrified, almost like he was the one who had been shot dead and not the republicans. He nodded once and then stumbled away, like he wasn’t sure exactly what was happening. I yelled after him, and I asked him if he had seen anyone who was drunk, or anyone who was frightfully handsome. He told me, ‘don’t think about such things, my dear. I would tell you to leave it to the men, but men do not deserve to experience something quite so painful either. Please, mademoiselle, for your sake and for all of our sakes, forget what you saw and heard last night.’
“‘But please, Monsieur, I cried. ‘My brother was a Republican! Was he there, was there a group called Les Amis de l’ABC? A man called Grantaire? Please, Monsieur, was anyone drunk?‘ The man nodded once, and told me in a haunted kind of way. ‘There was one man, mademoiselle, and he woke up and stood with the leader, the pretty one. They were Orestes and Pylades. The drunk one awoke, and he screamed about the republic, and requested to be executed with the leader. The clasped hands, and then it was over. Orestes and Pylades, both gone, leaving only blood and corpses. The shot separated them, because nothing can withstand an army. Not hope, not ideals and certainly not men.’
“I was horrified, sir. The captain tipped his hat at me, and he stumbled off into the street. The next day, I was cleaning his blood out of the gutter for a little bit of money, and the day after that I was evicted from my home. What else is there to do but this? I cannot join my brother in death, sir. I have to survive, in any way I can. I’m terribly sorry I bothered you, sir, I see now that you’re far too good to want me.”
The prostitute, who Valjean supposed to be Grantaire’s sister, walked off into the night. She couldn’t have been more than fifteen or sixteen, Valjean thought, and her poverty was so immense that she had approached him of all people, a total stranger, and told him her entire story. She must have been so lonely, he thought, to tell him anything. The girl was far too young to be so alone.
He mulled it over as he walked back to Rue Plumet. Enjolras and Grantaire, reaching for each other in death, and the sister of Grantaire, starving on the streets, selling her body. None of it was fair, but it wasn’t as though life had been particularly fair to him over the years, either.
Still, it was all Valjean could think about that night, and the night after. He thought of the girl he had met every day, when he was lying in bed at night and when he was discussing Cosette with Toussaint. He couldn’t get her off his mind.
The clock struck two, and Valjean awoke. He knew what he had to do, and as he pulled on his trousers, he was sure that he was going to do it. He would have to risk looking like a criminal, because he could not make the same mistake twice. He could not allow another young woman to drown in the same misery that Fantine had. Even if he couldn’t save this girl, he knew that he needed to do something for her. Some small act of kindness, to give her the smallest glimmer of hope in humanity. He pulled twenty golden francs from his drawer at his bedside, and crept out into the night. He returned to the place where he had met the girl, just outside of the Corinth, and left an envelope on the ground. In it, he enclosed the money and a brief note, that he had scrawled just before leaving his home.
The captain was wrong. An army cannot stop an idea that’s time has come, and the revolution will live on, no matter what weapons the National Guard throw at it. They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord, the chain will be broken, and Orestes and Pylades will never again be separated.
Last edited by Rachel
on Sat Jun 08, 2013 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Clearly, I have fantastic
luck in the dating field.
Quotes to live by:
"This is highly illegal!" ~Inspector Javert (The Girl Nextdoor)