to hell and back (a les mis!au fic)
[so i saw this fabulous post and really wanted to write something for it (i apologize really a lot because my execution was not anywhere near as good as the idea itself sobs). also, please excuse the blatant mingling of the greek underworld and christian hell. i really couldn’t help myself.]
The boat-man does not allow mortals to pass. But he pauses when offered twice his usual fee in heavy gold coins. Grantaire supposes, as dark water laps against half-rotted wood, that he is more shade than man these days, anyway.
“You think to enter my realm and demand something of me?” the devil asks silkily from his dire throne. He does not look as Grantaire might have expected. Corruption has not sullied his beauty, nor the blind shadows of the underworld dimmed his brightness.
“Never, my liege,” Grantaire says, with a sweeping bow. “I propose a bargain.”
And oh, but it has been a long time since anyone tried that. Lucifer is intrigued.
“Eight?” He repeats, amused by the human’s hubris.
“Eight,” Grantaire affirms.
The first is easy. A lesser demon. He whispers threats of the punishments of Hell, and what should await the drunk if he fails. You will suffer beyond your ability to imagine it. There will never be any end.
They have underestimated Grantaire, who only hums the Marseillaise and pours himself three brandies while the other curses him in vain.
“You think any one of them cared about you the way you care for them?” the second demon hisses. This one looks like he was born hunched over, claws curving the ends of bloodied fingers and sharp teeth showing with each vicious smile. “You think they would brave the underworld for a wretched life such as yours?”
But Grantaire only laughs. “My friend, you say nothing more than I have thought myself, every day of my life.” He winks and raises a glass. “You will have to do better than that.”
But the demon doesn’t. He vanishes with a snarl and a knocked-over tankard. Grantaire reaches over to right it.
The woman is impossibly lovely, with blonde hair plaited loosely over one shoulder. She’s wearing a white blouse, brown trousers, black boots. There’s a singed tricolor around her waist and blood staining her side.
“Why these men?” she murmurs, tipping her head to one side as she sips at her drink. “They are not worthy of the risks you are taking for them.”
“You ought to get your stories straight,” Grantaire says, and tips brandy down his throat. “Am I unworthy, or are they?”
“Amon has never known the truth of things,” she replies with a sigh and a sad shake of her head. The hair is right, and something of the curve of her lips. A shade of the face he wants to see. “He sees only the surface of human affairs.”
“I? I see their hearts.” She reaches a hand across the table to rest upon his own, slim white fingers cool like glass. “Do not sacrifice yourself to save fools. You could have anything you wanted,” she tells him, and looks up from beneath dark lashes. “You could have me.”
“So you can see into my heart, my lady?” Grantaire raises his gaze to hers. The hair is right but the eyes are wrong. Black as night. “Then you know you are not what it wants.”
“You ask for this one to be returned?” the demon asks in a voice like razor-blades. Sallow skin, dark hair, darker eyes. “His lieutenant? His confidant? Why? So that you may be ignored and passed over and discarded, the same as you ever were?”
His voice is insidious, curling around Grantaire like snakes.
“If not him, it would be another,” Grantaire chides him. “Come now, my good fellow, I’ve had four and you only two. You’re falling behind.”
“You will fail,” Abaddon says.
“You lack subtlety,” Grantaire replies.
“But would it not be easier to give in and join them?”
The newest demon is perhaps even lovelier than Lilith, with absinthe-green eyes and white-blonde hair and delicately turned wrists.
He’s only downed one drink, before clasping his hands together on the table and looking earnestly across at Grantaire. “You need not suffer anymore. The world above is so cruel, so painful. Why would you ever wish to return there, when you might remain here with them instead?”
“Would it not be easier?” Belial asks again, lovingly, and Grantaire downs a new drink and wipes his mouth with the back of one hand.
“When have I ever made things easy for myself?”
The seventh says nothing at all. He only drinks, and stares, with Grantaire’s own face and despairing eyes which bore deep. Grantaire makes himself meet his own gaze, toasts himself with a newly-filled glass.
The door closes softly, and when Grantaire looks up he smiles crookedly. “Figures.”
Lucifer takes the seat across from him, lounging in it as if the simple wooden chair is a throne. He regards Grantaire, the empty glasses strewn across the table and the dark-haired man’s bloodshot eyes. He makes no move to reach for the bottle sitting between them.
“Why bother with the others?” he asks without prelude, pushing aside a discarded glass with two fingers. His eyes are grey and thoughtful. “We both know for whose sake you braved Hell.”
“Let us call it misguided loyalty.”
And the devil laughs. “The only kind there is.”
Grantaire summons up a smile of bravado. He cannot quite remember how much he’s drunk, but his vision is blurring at the edges. He feels fear clench at his gut, because he has come so far. He cannot lose now. “So, you are to be my last challenger?”
Lucifer shakes his head, slowly. “I tire of the game,” he says, waving one hand. “You may have him back.”
Grantaire freezes. He is no fool. “At what price?”
“You may have him back,” the devil says again. He is terrible and beautiful. Cities burn in his smile. “But you may never have him.”
The words pull a bitter chuckle from Grantaire’s throat. “I am fairly accustomed to that already.” He wets his lips. “You would restore Enjolras, and the only price you ask of me is to remember something I have always known?”
There’s a pause. The devil sits and watches him.
“He has the potential to love you,” Lucifer replies at last. The words are spoken as a caress, but they cut to the bone. “He will love you. Perhaps in a day, perhaps in twenty years. But he will.”
Grantaire attempts a smile. “I believed demons to be better liars.”
“You forget who I am,” comes the calm response. “Your belief makes no difference to me. He will love you, and you may never accept his love, or else lose him to me again. That is my bargain.”
Grantaire had been prepared to undergo trials, to face all the host of Hell himself, to trade his own life for Enjolras’. There is no decision to be made, not really.
Lucifer is a liar. And if he is not lying, well, then, it is Grantaire who will suffer, who will be pulled to pieces. Not Enjolras.
“I accept,” he says.