Love thy brother


The priests' cells were cold at night, colder than the students' dormitory. The fathers hoped that the young men in their care would learn self deprivation, but it was not forced upon them as it was upon the men. When a young man had to speak to a priest after evening services, he had to walk down a long, unheated corridor without a candle to light the way. Students were not allowed to use illumination save for reading.

The door to Father Lessard's cell was unmarked and forbidding, especially when the priest closed it. One did not knock on such a door for fear of interrupting prayer. It was open when he knew that someone would come to talk to him. After the last services that the students had to attend, one boy walked tentatively down the hall, pausing by different doors and looking at them out of the corner of his eye. His blond hair glinted in the light from the candles. In between them, heavy shadows obscured his face and the light grey of his clothing. Father Lessard's door was the only one still open. The boy stopped before it and took a deep breath, straightening his shoulders, then stepped within and bowed.

Father Lessard looked up from the tome he had been reading. "Ah, Raphael my son. It is good to see you, though I'd rather it was for a different reason." Raphael looked at the stone floor by the priest's feet. "Tell me why you hate me."

Raphael looked up in surprise, meeting Lessard's eyes before he remembered that he should not. "Father, I do not hate you."

"No?" Lessard's eyebrows rose slightly. "Then you hate the order, and you have been rude to all of your teachers?"

"No, Father," Raphael answered, blushing.

"Why do you persist in contradicting me when I teach if you do not hate me? Do you believe that I am wrong?"

Raphael studied the floor for several moments. "I don't know, Father."

Lessard watched his contemplation, then nodded. "I don't know if I'm wrong or not. I'm not infallible, but the things I have been teaching are widely accepted."

"I know, Father. It's just that --" Raphael faltered, then found his words and gained confidence. "Some things are not a matter of belief. We should learn to see past the way that countries have always been and discover the way that they should be."

"Men have tried, my son," Lessard said gently. "Were we better with Robsepierre than the king?"

"You would know better than I, Father. You remember those times, and I only know what I have been taught."

In a stern classroom voice, "That is not an answer, Raphael."

"Yes, Father."

Lessard stood, turning away from his desk. He was of a height with his supplicant; as the youth grew, the old man diminished. "You will not even answer my questions, my son. Do you truly believe that you can have a place in the Church if you are evasive?"

Raphael's hands clenched into fists at his sides. "I don't know, Father. My parents think that I might."

"Do they know what is best for you?" Raphael did not answer. Lessard put a hand on his shoulder. "Do they?"

Raphael looked at him, meeting the priest's dark eyes with his blue gaze. "I don't know, Father."

"Nor do I, my son." Lessard shook his head sadly and turned away from the boy. "They must believe that this is best for you, though you hate it here."

"But Father --"

"Must you contradict everything I say? I fear for your future in this school, let alone the Church, if you cannot simply listen to the truth."

"I love it here, Father," Raphael protested. "The services, the other students, the lessons, everything."

"Now you lie to me. You do not like me or my lessons." Lessard paused. "Close the door, my son." The heavy oak resisted, then swung into place with groaning hinges. "I shall tell you the truth, now. You don't need to like my lessons. You don't need to believe them or take them to heart." Raphael began to object, but Lessard continued. "Your place may not be in the priesthood, no matter what your parents say. If you don't trust in the Church, how can you expect to lead other people to God?"

"Father, I --"

Lessard looked sharply at Raphael. "The only imperative at this school is that you obey your teachers and treat us with respect. While you harbor such resentment toward me, I don't believe you can learn anything here."

After a moment, the boy asked quietly, "Are you going to send me home?"

"You have not learned what we try to teach you, young man. One of our first lessons is that everyone must try to love his fellow man, and you cannot find it in yourself to love everyone, even here among men of God."

"I can learn, Father. Please help me."

"I wish I could, my son, but you can't accept my lessons." Lessard bowed his head. "I'll have to speak to the headmaster tomorrow."

Raphael looked at the floor, his eyes shut tightly. "Let me try once more, Father. I beg you."

Lessard let a long silence gather in the room. "You must learn to love me, my son. If you can do that, I will be able to believe that you are not as full of hatred as you seem. Do you understand the magnitude of that task?"

"I don't know, Father."

Lessard nodded. "You will learn. Put out the light and pray with me, Raphael."

With the candle extinguished, the cell was profoundly dark. Raphael heard the rustle of the man's robe as he knelt and the whisper of fingers on cloth as he crossed himself. Raphael knelt beside him and made the sign of the cross, then bowed his head to pray silently. After a long interval, he felt fingers brushing his cheek and sat up, startled.

"It's all right, my son," Lessard assured him. "We have prayed. Let me bless you that your prayers may fly more swiftly to our Savior's ear." Raphael bowed his head and waited for the blessing. Instead, he felt another touch on his cheek, and one on his chin, lifting his face. "It's all right, Raphael." Something brushed his mouth lightly, then again, pressing against his lips. He began to ask what this blessing entailed, and found himself being kissed by Father Lessard. He tried to pull away and found the priest's hand on the small of his back, holding him close, sliding under his tunic. He held absolutely still for a moment, then accepted the blessing.

* * * * *


Raphael Enjolras listened to his friends talking in the Cafe Musain. Courfeyrac, Combeferre, and Joly were discussing the production of a play they had seen the week before. L'Aigle and Bahorel were discussing a more efficient design for a printer's shop. Prouvaire had read one of his poems to the group, and Feuilly was delighting in taking it apart with him. Despite all of these men, anyone with half an ear could hear that Grantaire was dominating every conversation, not by joining them but by bellowing above them so that his meaningless points could be heard. Enjolras pressed his lips together tightly. Feuilly drew him into a discussion of verse in general and particular, and he half-forgot his earlier anger until he heard Grantaire shouting something about women's petticoats.

"Will you be silent for once?" he expostulated, and the room obeyed for a moment. Every man there turned to him, perplexed at his outburst. He blushed at the sudden attention, then handed the poem back to its silent author and fled into the street, buttoning his overcoat as he went. No one followed.

Despite the cold winds that swept the streets, he walked for several hours,trying to understand why he had spoken so violently. He had managed to learn patience and some humility at the monastery's school, though he left at the age of seventeen. He did his best to keep their ways of life and revered his memories of his instructors there: Father Pourcel, Father Lessard, Father Aulaire. Enjolras imagined that they would think his outburst childish and felt his cheeks heat with embarrassment again. They were wise men and knew far better than he how to instruct men's hearts. Their ends were not the same as the ones that Enjolras had adopted, but that did not mean that their methods were faulty. He was allowing Grantaire to distract him instead of becoming the man's friend, and allowing himself to dislike the fellow instead of trying to help him. Both were self-indulgences that he should not permit.

These thoughts drew him back to the vicinity of the Cafe Musain with a new resolve. Grantaire often bragged of the convenience of his room to the cafe, enough so that his acquaintances all knew precisely where it was, whether they cared or not. The concierge was a sleepy-eyed woman who was clearly about at all hours of the night tending to her boarders. She swept Enjolras with a piercing look and muttered that he didn't seem like any of M'sieur Grantaire's other friends, but who was she to argue with him, when he was handsome and gave her money? Grantaire's room was cleaner than Enjolras expected it to be. It did not seem like a home so much as a place to sleep. The lone chair seemed as though it had been built to serve as a second bed. Enjolras had meant to pass the time by reading, but after an hour his eyes closed and he barely remembered to blow out the candle.

An oath woke him. He opened his eyes, startled. Grantaire had arrived with a candlestick in his hand and was staring at him. "What the hell d'you think you're doing, coming in here like this?" he asked, making Enjolras wince at both his tone of voice and the curse.

"I'm sorry, Grantaire," he said earnestly in a voice meant to soothe. "I wanted to speak to you, but I didn't want to return to the Musain after being so rude."

"So you just waltzed in here, is that it?" Grantaire was more bemused than angry. "Guess I can trust you not to swipe anything."

Enjolras winced again and reminded himself that his own intolerance had brought him to this room, and that he had to go beyond it. "You can trust me, yes. I wanted to speak to you," he said again.

"You do that all the goddamn time, don't you?" Grantaire asked, unconvinced. He leaned against the wall next to the door. "What's on your mind?"

"If you'll pardon my candid speech, I can't stand your company." Enjolras's cheeks turned pink at this admission and he ducked his head, tucking a stray piece of hair behind his ear.

Grantaire stared at him for a moment, then laughed. "You came all the way up here to tell me that? Try again. See if you come up with something I don't know."

"I feel as though I should make amends for it, and try to change in some way so that there is not such animosity between us." Enjolras looked up at him. "There is too much to be done for us to allow ourselves this rivalry."

"Rivalry? God, man. Like I'm trying to steal your golden throne away from you like you took my chair?" Grantaire shook his head, a rueful smile on his face. "I'm not trying to be you. Wish I could, but there's no point in trying, because I won't be."

Enjolras blinked at him, trying to understand. "I meant the discord between us more than any sort of vying for power. I'm at fault in that; I ought to know how to accept you as you are." He smiled hopefully. "I'm sure that once I know you, I'll realize you aren't as bad as I thought you were."

"You'll realize I'm worse," Grantaire said dourly.

"What does it matter if you are? Our Savior surrounded himself with people that society maligned. If He could do so well and help those who had nothing, shouldn't we all aspire to do the same?"

"He died, m'sieur, godhead or no. D'you want to die?"

Enjolras stood, his eyes bright. "He died and was reborn. Surely you believe that." He caught himself and looked at the floor. "I'm sorry. I know that you must believe that, even though you scorn everything else. I do apologize. Please, would you pray with me?"

Grantaire frowned at him from the declamation. It deepened as Enjolras continued. "Pray? On this floor? It hasn't been cleaned since Zeus wore swaddling clothes."

"Trousers can be washed, my friend. Please." Grantaire looked at him in perplexity until Enjolras knelt by the chair. With a begrudging air, Grantaire joined him.

"My old grandma used to make us say our prayers every day."

Enjolras smiled. "She wanted to give you a good start in life, then."

"Haven't said 'em since," Grantaire continued, as if he said nothing.

"God will still listen, I'm sure." Enjolras bowed his head and closed his eyes. After a moment's hesitation, Grantaire imitated his posture, but did not close his eyes.

Enjolras prayed silently for several minutes, wishing that he knew a better way to ask for what he needed. He could hear Grantaire mumbling Our Fathers and Hail Marys in a monotonous alternation. Like everything else about the man, his prayers were grating. Enjolras quelled that thought and replaced it with a prayer that one did not have to be ordained to be able to win another's heart as Father Lessard had won his.

He leaned to his right and kissed Grantaire's stubbled cheek. Grantaire, muttering about the valley of the shadow of death, broke off, leaned away, and stared at him. "What -- what was that?"

At this close range, Enjolras could smell wine on his breath and see the dirt on his collar. This would be completely unlike Father Lessard who was always sober, always cleanly. Retreating would be difficult by then, so he had to continue despite the difficulty. "I want to be able to love you as a brother, and I can't, yet. Please," he caught one of Grantaire's hands, ignored its dirty, broken fingernails, and kissed the hairy back. "Let me do this."

Grantaire had not moved after the first startled jerk. He watched Enjolras incredulously and made no move to recover his hand. "What the hell do you mean?"

Enjolras took a breath to calm himself, then leaned forward and kissed him. The taste of wine, the scent of Grantaire's body, these were things that he had to accept if he were to accept the man as a whole. It took him a moment to realize that Grantaire still hadn't moved.

The incredulity had only increased. "Enjolras, Enjolras, have you been drinking?"

"No," Enjolras answered firmly. "I am quite in my right mind."

Grantaire put a hand on his shoulder, tentatively at first, then more firmly. "Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure." Enjolras frowned, but the frown was interrupted when Grantaire kissed his cheek.

"It's all right," Grantaire said reassuringly, "I know you've gone mad, but ah, God, you shouldn't have come here and done this. D'you have any idea --"

Enjolras felt exasperation undoing the good work of the prayers. "I am not mad."

"Shhh, my love." Grantaire brushed his cheek gently with his fingers. "I know. I know. Kiss me again before your sanity comes back."

"I'm sane now," Enjolras insisted, then tugged the unresisting Grantaire into his arms.

After several moments, Grantaire laughed, beyond his earlier drunkenness, beyond disbelief. "You are sane, certainly you are. Don't wake me from this dream."

Enjolras said sharply, "You're not dreaming, man. I am trying to share a sacred thing with you. Would you be silent and let the Lord do His work?"

"If you insist," Grantaire said lightly. Enjolras, at the end of his patience, silenced him with a kiss.

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