'There was an insurgent whom I heard called Apollo.' --Les Misérables
It was quiet and dark for a long time in a not unpleasant fashion, rather like an after-dinner nap. Nothing much happened, and it was not clear quite how long nothing happened for, but this did not seem particularly important at the time. There was a feeling that perhaps he was waiting for something, but if so, it was not something that was late, and there was nothing to be done until it arrived but wait, so he waited.
After some time, or perhaps no time at all, he wakes up, though the place he wakes does not look the first bit like the place he went to sleep. He can vaguely remember that other place: it had been warm, but something had hurt, and someone was sad and it had mattered very much. This place is not warm, and it is not cold. He is under some kind of blanket, and he is naked. When he opens his eyes, the room is completely unfamiliar. It has a domed ceiling, not familiar dingy plaster. There is a faint scent of something that reminds him somehow of church.
It takes him several moments to be able to do more than open his eyes. Before he is ready to lift a hand or sit up and look around further, a reassuringly normal voice that makes every part of him feel at home says, "Ah, you're awake."
Grantaire blinks slowly. "Am I, then?"
Soft lips kiss his cheek. "Yes." Fingers touch his hair. "I expect you'll be all right in a few minutes, when you get used to not being sixty again."
He sighs, closing his eyes again for a minute, and absorbs this. "Considering," he remarks after a moment, "how long it took me to get used to being sixty..."
"Ah, but you've more practice not being sixty than being sixty, love. Give it some time, that's all."
"I suppose you're right." Grantaire takes in a deep breath, and lets it out again, blinking at the ceiling in bemusement.
"They tell me it helps if you move," a quiet suggestion.
"'They', is it?" He grins a bit, and after a moment braces himself to sit up. "Oh. Damn."
"Not that much," quickly. "Just -- a little. I would tell you to be patient," wryly, "but I'm not patient, and it wouldn't be precisely fair."
Grantaire protests automatically, "It's all right-- it's all right." He blinks again, hard, and leans back. "Not what I expected. Though I don't quite know what that was."
Enjolras watches him closely, for of course it is Enjolras, though he is wearing odd clothes and he looks twenty or twenty-five and different, somehow; more so, in an indescribable way. "You'll get used to it, I promise you that."
"If you say so," and Grantaire looks at him then for the first time and smiles, half-confused, half content.
There comes a soft rustling, reminiscent of women's petticoats, but in this case better attributed to artfully-- not to say miraculously-- arranged draperies, and a young man with curling golden hair and beard, bearing a striking resemblance to said Monsieur Enjolras, is standing by, leaning on a staff. "I should have known you'd be bothering the new arrivals, Father--" with a flicker of amusement "Or ought I to say, mon père?"
Enjolras (or whomever it is) blushes. "You could have timed your arrival less fortuitously, you know, but it would have taken more concentration." He stands, brushing a hand across his own draperies, and puts on a mock-menacing scowl. "If you start calling me 'mon père', I will have to -- to -- I don't know; all the threats I can think of at the moment don't apply. But you will be sorry."
Grantaire stares, wordlessly.
The curling beard splits into a grin. "Indubitably... Monsieur? As to my presence here-- the raising of the dead is somewhat more my province than yours, but I won't dispute the point." The grin broadens. "Not in this case, anyway." That appears to remind him of something and his eyes turn to Grantaire. "You are feeling better." It may very well be a question; it may very well not be. Never let it be said that a man clad in scanty draperies leaves nothing to the imagination.
"Give the man a few minutes, would you?" The vexed tone is very familiar. "It isn't every day someone goes through all of that." He looks at the ceiling in aggravation. "And as for the rest of you, I'm not ready for the whole circus yet. You can simply wait."
"I think so," Grantaire murmurs, and glances between the two of them in bewilderment.
The bearded man waves a hand. "I know my own business, don't I?" But it isn't really a challenge, and he caps it with: "It is good to see you again, Father." A mischievous grin, directed at the ubiquitous, if not currently manifesting crowd. "You're right. It isn't every day. They will be curious."
"It is good -- if a bit odd -- to see you, too." A slight pause. "Might I have a moment to myself with no one listening?" This question is delivered more to the wall than to the man with the beard.
The man laughs, tapping his staff on the ground. "No one? That is an ambitious request. Still, some of us will perhaps take a hint, if it is not too subtle-- oh, by the Styx, I forgot. I should introduce myself. Asclepius, son of Apollo." There is the suggestion of turning to walk away, and the said Asclepius is gone-- though his voice echoes behind him-- "I'll see if something edible can be conjured up, before Grandfather decides on one of those interminable banquets."
Grantaire blinks at the air where he was. "Chéri--" glancing over uncertainly. "I don't understand."
"You, young man, are going to be in trouble when I've time to deal with you!" Enjolras, or rather Apollo, shouts after Asclepius. He turns, shamefaced, to Grantaire. "I am sorry he didn't give me any time to warn you. It's odd, I know that, and I'd have warned you -- before -- if I'd remembered any of it." He spreads his hands. "I suppose the best explanation is that it is what it sounds like."
"Do you mean to tell me..." Grantaire's voice gives out on him without warning. He waves a hand, vaguely.
Apollo sits down and embraces him. "It's very odd, I know. If you don't want to do this, I'll let you go somewhere you belong, instead of in the midst of all of this."
"No." That requires no thought. Grantaire leans against him, childlike, for a minute. Then, suddenly, he laughs. "--All that time you kept telling me not to call you that."
"I had no idea," stroking his hair. "Absolutely none." Softly, "I do love you. Even if this looks like madness."
"Didn't you? Fair enough, then." Grantaire draws back, very slightly. "I--" But he hesitates, and falls silent, looking suddenly lost.
"I'm sorry, dearest," contrite. "I should have let you go."
"No. No," catching at his hands in sudden panic.
"Shh," pulling him close. "I won't, until you say you want to go. Please don't be upset."
Grantaire sighs, and relaxes somewhat. "Marcelin..." tentatively, as though he doesn't quite believe it.
"More or less," quietly. "More than less, my love. I did hope you would be all right."
A deep breath. "I will be. If I'm with you."
He chuckles lightly. "You would say that even if it was not true."
"I'm sorry," anxiously.
"It will be all right." Apollo kisses him gently.
Grantaire smiles, after a moment. "As you say."
"You have entirely too much faith in me," amused. "At least it isn't quite so misplaced as it used to be."
He glances down, abashed once more.
"Look at me." It is soft, but it is a command.
Grantaire obeys, not without a tremor.
He looks different, but certainly recognizable. It would be difficult to say how old he is, which is only logical, but certainly anyone who knew Enjolras in his youth or early middle age would be able to name him. His eyes have changed subtly; they are brighter now, and slightly luminous. "This will not seem strange, after a time, my love. If you are ever unhappy here, tell me immediately." He strokes Grantaire's cheek. "Don't tell me that you won't be, because believe me, there are things here that you would not want to imagine. Just listen. It will take me some time to become accustomed to the ways of it all, again. When I do -- they tell me I'll want to let you go." He frowns. "The thought of that hurts me a great deal. I am still the man you love, though I'll become less so over time. I am sorry." He looks away. "I did not mean to bring you here to hurt you. Believe that. I love you."
"I believe you." Grantaire's voice quavers a little, but he does not look down this time. "Beloved--"
"I don't know how to do any of this," Apollo protests. "I would have waited to bring you -- but they said -- I'm sorry." He looks wry. "I'm no more use here than I used to be."
Grantaire reaches out to touch his cheek, very gently, even cautiously. "Hush."
He smiles. "You are very brave, to say that to me, now. Brave, and trusting."
Silence for a long moment. "Should I not trust you?"
A ball of silvery light appears and coalesces into the form of a tall woman with gray eyes and a large helmet upon her head. "Apollo." She says irritatedly. "I've been looking for you everywhere."
He does not immediately look at her, but focuses on Grantaire for another moment. "You can trust me today, and tomorrow, for a week or a month, perhaps; I cannot recall the time it takes. After that, remember that I will change more than you think." Apollo looks up and gives Athena a courtly nod. "Where else would I be, beauteous sister, when I have but lately returned, and with a guest?"
She straightens her helmet. "A guest. How delightful." She nods curtly at said guest. "Brother dear, Ares is at it again."
Grantaire quietly studies the floor.
"How pleasant for him."
"Of course. But, as usual, Father has decreed that I straighten him out. Again. I need your assistance."
Apollo looks puzzled. "Whatever for?"
"Because I am tired of doing it by myself."
"And I am the only one capable of helping you? However did you manage without me?"
"By dint of a lot of whining," says another, slightly huskier feminine voice.
Apollo chuckles and stands to greet the new arrival. "I imagine so."
Athena bares her teeth in what passes as a polite smile for her. "Oh. Dear Sister. You've come to join us."
Grantaire watches, dazed.
She straightens from a casual slouch, grinning impishly at Athena. "So I have. Fashionably late, unlike you."
Athena smiles, in despite of herself. "Someone's got to be the Good Sister and be on time, right?"
Apollo embraces his twin for a moment, and then turns half-away from her and says, "Pardon me. Artemis -- or Diana, if you like, and Pallas Athene, François Grantaire, mon amour."
"Do they?" Artemis returns the embrace, and steps back, pulling a face. "What a name." She regards its owner with frank curiosity, tilting her head slightly.
Athena nods at Francois, several shades more friendlier than previously. But being of the impatient sort, she says, "Well?
"Charmed," Grantaire mutters, and pushes a hand through his hair.
"Isn't it amazing, chéri?" Apollo asks in a greatly amused tone. "No matter where I am, I have utterly impossible sisters -- and you haven't met the half of them. -- Athena, dearest, wisest one, tell Ares to speak to Father about it and have done."
Artemis nods politely, and interposes, in a tranquil tone, "I am never impossible. You are impossible. I am merely difficult and capricious."
Athena sighs. "I suppose I'll have to."
"I suggest you do that, now," Apollo says firmly, and turns away from Athena slightly, but enough that his attention is clearly not on her anymore. "And as for you, my capricious sister, I missed you."
Athena shakes her head in frustration and disappears.
"You did not," says Artemis, amused. "You mean you're glad to see me."
"If I hadn't had the family that I did, I would have missed you whether I remembered you or not." Apollo makes a broad gesture and sees Grantaire sitting silently. He blinks, and frowns for the barest instant. "You didn't meet them, more's the pity. -- Ah, but do sit down." He pulls up a chair that may or may not have been there a moment before he put it right behind Artemis's legs, and sits on the bed, an arm across Grantaire's shoulders.
Grantaire reaches up as though to take his hand, but ends up pushing his fingers through his hair again.
Artemis drops into a seat with casual, long-legged grace, and grins at the pair of them. "Pity, is it?"
"You would have laughed to see the lot of them. Papa with his airs; if he'd only had a beard he'd be our father, except pompous instead of powerful. And Maman --" For a moment, he seems human again, and his voice expresses the ache of having lost one's mother. "She was, dare I say it, more in control of her crowded household than Hera could ever hope to be. Chantal -- my younger sister -- reminds me of you, now that I know you again." Apollo blinks. "I hope she's all right."
A staff taps on the floor and Asclepius shakes his head, slightly reproachfully. "Father, Aunt Artemis and monsieur crowding the room. Kaos forbid there be any emergency that requires it." But, the rebuke delivered, he simply unhooks a satchel from over his staff and casts it on the floor. "Bread, mostly. I thought you might be hungry, but the pickings were doubtless better on earth. Old Prometheus might think it's funny, but I wouldn't argue over a liver or two, these days. Still, there's plenty of ambrosia and--" he winks "don't tell Dionysus I raided his cellar."
Artemis quirks an odd little smile at her brother, then looks up, laughing. "Ever resourceful."
Apollo nods to Asclepius. "Thank you. Did you want us to go somewhere else?" He squeezes Grantaire's shoulder gently.
Grantaire looks on in quiet bemusement.
Asclepius considers this, briefly and then shrugs. "All in all, I imagine the odds of a bloodbath occuring are minimal. It is purely" a capable surgeon's hand spreads around the staff so that it is propped between one finger and thumb "a matter of principle. And I'm not about to throw you out over that."
Artemis grins at him. "Very accommodating of you. Join us. Be companionable. Say your hellos to the little one."
Apollo winces. "They've met. -- Cher, you ought to try some of the wine. It might make you feel more yourself."
Grantaire gives an odd sort of grimace. "All right," muted.
Asclepius shakes his head, and falls into a newly acquired chair with a half hearted admonition. "Have a care what you say, Aunt Artemis. My mother was a mortal, after a fashion. Yes, I was removed from the premises quite abruptly, you might say-- Have a care to water the wine, monsieur. It is" he grins again "antique to say the least, and very sweet."
Artemis waves a hand. "Details."
Grantaire cracks a grin, then. "Thank you for the warning."
"I think I would like some of it, while you're pouring it," Apollo says mildly. "Some kind friend decided that for some reason, I ought to have no head for alcohol during that little sojourn. I wonder who I have to thank for it."
Asclepius lays his staff across his knees and reaches for a vessel decorated with a group of black painted figures, apparently intent on clubbing, stabbing or otherwise maiming and killing another group of black drawn figures, who look less than impressed about the fact, to pour. "O popoi; quite an inconvenience. Still, it is only fair, mortal frailties and all-- no offence intended, of course."
"It made matters entirely difficult," Apollo says irritably. "Mortality is bad enough. If one can't even escape from it in a glass of wine without --" he waves a hand "-- giggling, it's well nigh intolerable."
Grantaire shakes his head, looking half amused, half pained.
"I'm sure we're all very sorry for you." Artemis grins, leaning back with arms folded.
"Of course you aren't. It was probably your idea." Apollo runs a hand down Grantaire's back.
Asclepius pours what is presumably wine into an assortment of cups and, adding water to his own, raises it. "My august father, if it was so very intolerable, you wouldn't have gone."
"He has you there," Artemis observes, amused.
Apollo inclines his head gravely, then takes two cups. He adds water to one, which he hands to Grantaire, and keeps the other for himself. That done, he puts his arm around Grantaire's waist again. "There are compensations."
Grantaire accepts mutely, but his hand is shaking.
Asclepius raises an eyebrow and drinks, the grimaces faintly and adds a little more water to his cup. "Evidently-- mon père."
Apollo chuckles. "You will confuse everyone if you insist on calling me that."
Artemis shakes her head. "Are you collecting strange phrases, now? --Here, what's the matter with you?" This with childlike directness, to Grantaire, who is abruptly shivering.
Asclepius puts his drink to his lips again and smiles in satisfaction. "I don't intend to make a habit of it-- awkward language. Doubtless the amusement will wear out in a century or two." Then three thousand years of physician instinct assert themselves and he sets the cup down and subjects the hapless mortal to a doctor's universal detatched, professional scrutiny.
Apollo frowns and turns to Grantaire. "Are you all right?"
"I'm sorry-- I--" Shaking, Grantaire manages to set his own cup down before he drops it. "I don't-- I'm sorry. I-- God. Is there something I can put on, here?"
Apollo blushes to the tips of his ears. "I didn't even think about that. I'm so sorry." He reaches over to the other side of the bed and retrieves a robe that was not there before he picked it up. "I'm sorry."
"It's all right," Grantaire assures him reflexively, "it's all right, cher-- Thank you."
Asclepius sits back again, reclaiming his glass and smiling. Jestingly. "For shame, Father."
Apollo blinks at him. "What should I be ashamed of?"
Artemis laughs. "For not bothering to make your guests decent before showing them off, thoughtless one?"
"You didn't seem to mind," Apollo says dryly.
"There have been others with whom I would have minded less," she fires back, equally dryly.
Grantaire reddens, but does not otherwise react.
Asclepius laughs into his wine. "Uncle Hephaestus would disapprove, Aunt Artemis. The principle, honoured father- already you'd forgotten the mortal preoccupation with clothes? Should it ever be necessary to gather accurate information on them, someone else should be recommended for the position."
"I see everyone else knew what I'd forgotten," Apollo says with some asperity, and then, more gently, "I'm sorry, chéri. I'm rather confused."
"It's all right," Grantaire says again, and, more composed now, squeezes his shoulder.
Asclepius laughs again. "Poor Father. Still no sense of humour."
Apollo clears his throat. "At least I don't laugh at nothing."
Artemis claps her hands once. "Of course you don't. That would be unreasonable." She stands, not so much to imply that she's about to leave as in simple restlessness.
"I am often unreasonable," Apollo objects, "but rarely irrational, at least, not by my own estimation."
Grantaire half-grins at that.
When my family is crowding around, glad to see me back, eager to welcome me, it is hard to think of him. He belongs to another life from this, one that is over and can never come again. It does not hurt to think that Marcelin Enjolras is dead when I see the others here. I know that I am still who I have always been, temporary visits to the earth notwithstanding. They keep my thoughts here, on the eternal present and the things that are commonplace here and wondrous other places and other times. He is only a mortal. I can forget him and ignore his presence. He is no danger and no benefit to me.
Without them, the reality I have just left comes back. I know him again as the man I loved for two-thirds of a lifetime, someone so important to me that I could not let him go, though he died before I did and I had no control over my normal strength. He is with me because I cannot imagine existing without him, not while I think of myself as Marcelin. I need him here. I need him to love me.
That is too much to ask of any man. I abused his faith and love while we lived; it would be too cruel to bind him here always. There is a garden here of the people I have loved too much to let go, or who have loved me too much to be parted from me. I showed him the horror of it, for when I am with him and trying to think as I would if I were still mortal, I can see their pain -- Daphne reaching from the trunk of her tree to greet him and still, always, shying away from me; beautiful, fallen Hyacinthos bowing to the newcomer and studying him with jealous, shining eyes; Clytie, more than a sunflower, watching silently. I could not rid myself of them if I tried.
He was shaking when Daphne touched his hand and Hyacinthos took hold of his arm. They wanted to speak to him, she who hates me with all of her being, and he who will never stop loving me with that hopeless adoration. I saw him pale, and I stopped them. They are my past, as he will be all too soon.
It hurts more than I know how to express to think that I will lose him, and that I will stop needing him, wanting him, remembering him. Worse than that is the truth that he is mortal, and that as long as he chooses to remain in the memories of that life, he will love me, and I will not care. I want to care for him. I want to love him with the same devotion that he has always given me, but I have never had the right to stop being what I am, no matter how happy I was being someone else.
I could keep him here if I wanted to, as surely as I brought him here at first. I do not know if he could be happy, or unhappy, or anything. I know that once I am done being Marcelin, I will still love him, but it will be as though he no longer exists. I don’t remember all of them, or most of them. There were so many; if I mourned my lost loves, I would have no strength nor time to do anything else. The ones I know best are the ones I never lost, the ones bound to this earth by roots and devotion.
I have often thought of keeping others in the same way, when I have lived and I could not bear to part from them. It never seemed just, somehow; these children grow up without believing that such a thing could happen to them. It would be much more a horror than a blessing. I must remind myself that there are other people who loved him, and whom he loved. They need him; surely they miss him from their numbers if they know he has died.
I will not bind him here unless he wills it, and my dear love will not ask for that. Everything in me that has ever loved him cries out in anguish at the thought that he will leave, but all of me that loves him is held here and replenished by his presence. When he leaves, I will not remember him for all of the things we did together and the words we spoke. I will remember that he loves me, and that I love him. I will not miss him. When he is gone, he will be gone.
There are two of me. One wants to weep at knowing that I will lose him so completely, to blush at nakedness, and treasure every moment that I can spend with him. The other will be relieved when he has gone and this pain goes with him, freeing me again to do whatever I would like without worrying what he would think or say. He is only a mortal, after all, and I am not mortal now.
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