June 5th, 1832
Francis tightened his grip on his musket as he stared at the monstrous barricade at the other end of the street. He simply couldn't understand it. Why did these students want to bring more violence to his people? It had only been two years since the revolution of 1830; couldn't they leave well enough alone and give the new monarchy a chance first?! Besides, didn't they realize all the horrible, horrible things that had happened the last time? Sure, he had supported it himself, at first, but then things had gone out of control. The system that these boys wanted simply didn't work.
And why now, of all times, when cholera was sweeping the city and the people were already frightened, why make things worse? Francis shook his head in disgust.
Stupid, idealistic schoolboys, he thought. This is the real world.
They had almost managed to take the barricade a short while ago. But then some boy had appeared, as if from nowhere, atop the barricade. He was holding a keg of powder and a torch, and had threatened to blow up the barricade and everyone in it if the National Guard didn't leave. Francis shuddered at the memory. The boy's face had seemed almost feral. While he might have expected that from one of Angleterre's people, it was disconcerting to see on one of his own.
_ _ _
The barricade had fallen. Earlier that morning, the National Guard had begun to bombard it with grapeshot. Soon enough, the structure had collapsed, and the remaining insurgents were fleeing into the wineshop beyond. Francis grinned viciously as he and the other soldiers pursued them. They'd give those little brats exactly what they deserved.
With difficulty, Francis and several other soldiers managed to reach the second floor of the wineshop. The stairs had been cut away. Amid the wreckage of the room, one boy was still standing. His carbine broken, he had backed into a corner and had placed an upturned pool table as a last defense between himself and the soldiers.
Miraculously, the boy was still unscathed, and Francis couldn't help but notice how similar the boy's appearance was to his own. Nearly the same color hair and eyes. In the boy's face was an unwavering determination, despite the hopelessness of his situation.
What a shame, Francis thought. He could have been great someday.
"Shoot me," said Enjolras.
And, throwing away the stump of his carbine, and crossing his arms, he presented his breast.
Twelve men formed in platoon in the corner opposite Enjolras and readied their muskets in silence.
Then a sergeant cried, "Take aim!"
An officer intervened.
And addressing Enjolras, "Do you wish your eyes bandaged?"
"Was it really you who killed the sergeant of artillery?"
Almost against his will, Francis began to feel a glimmer of admiration for the boy. If he were afraid to die, he did not let it show. And he truly seemed to believe that he was fighting for the good of his country. For France.
Ah, mon fils, if only you knew.
Francis raised his musket and took aim, but was interrupted by a strong voice beside him.
"Vive la République! Count me in."
Soldiers and insurgent alike froze and stared as a man strode across the dilapidated room to stand against the wall next to the blond insurgent. He was thoroughly disheveled looking, with unkempt clothes, messy brown hair, and a bit of stubble growing on his chin. He smelled strongly of alcohol, but there was no trace of drunkenness in his countenance. Standing next to the blond boy, he seemed even more ragged. The two really couldn't have been more different. And yet
"Two at one shot," he said.
And, turning toward Enjolras gently, he said to him, "Will you permit it?"
Enjolras shook his hand with a smile.
France raised his musket again and aimed at the two rebels. They were brave, he admitted that. He admired their courage. Almost, he wished it wasn't necessary for them to die. He really hated having to kill his own people. If things had been different, he would have been proud to perhaps work alongside them someday.
Francis closed his eyes and pulled the trigger.
The smile was not finished before the report was heard.
Enjolras, pierced by eight bullets, remained backed up against the wall as if the bullets had nailed him there. Except that his head was tilted.
Grantaire, struck down, collapsed at his feet.
France looked at the two bodies in front of him. He didn't know which of them he had shot. He didn't want to.
As France gazed at the two boys, a strange feeling came over him. Something was coming, of that he was certain. Things were changing, and he knew that someday, he would recall the events of this day and the things he had done. And it would hurt.
_ _ _
155 years later
Just after the end of a World Conference
"~Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes!~"
A loud voice was singing from across the room. The extremely popular new musical, Les Misérables, had just opened on Broadway, and America was singing one of its songs as he packed up his things. Hearing what Alfred was singing, France paled, and stared intently at a spot on the table.
Noticing this, for once, America finished gathering his things and walked over to France.
"Hey, dude, you okay?" he asked.
Francis started, then nodded his head stiffly, images of that barricade from over a century ago filling his mind.
America frowned a little. "'Cause, I mean, it's originally from your place, isn't it? I'd've thought you'd be really proud of it, seeing as it's so popular."
France smile weakly and nodded. "Ah. Oui."
Again, he saw in his mind images of the bloodied bodies of those two boys.
Alfred grinned again. "I mean, it's one of the best musicals EVER! It's so totally awesome! And that Enjy guy is totally heroic! The rest of the characters are pretty cool too."
Somehow, Alfred's grin actually seemed to get wider with each statement. Still grinning, he walked out of the room, humming yet another song.
France stayed sitting in his seat as he thought about what America had said. A new image came unbidden to his mind. He saw again those two boys, such complete opposites, not bloodied and lifeless, but bold and defiant, eyes shining as they bravely stared down the barrels of the guns, past which they could see a brighter future.
A small, but genuine smile worked its way onto France's face.
"Oui. Oui, I am proud of them."