I am not saying that the lighting is implying something but the lighting really is implying something.
He knew he was dead the moment he opened his eyes. Had he been asked how he knew he would not have been able to say – he certainly looked the same as he always did, and the street around him seemed like any other street of Paris, albeit much cleaner and devoid of passing strangers. Around him his friends too were looking around, and a little ways a few guardsmen still in uniform watched the revolutionaries with guarded eyes. Combeferre knew with the same calm certainty that they too had died, lives lost in service to their cause and their country.
“Well this is a bit dull, don’t you think?“ Courfeyrac had come up behind Combeferre and clapped him on the back now, eyes bright and face devoid of the exhausted strain that had seemed a near-permanent accessory during those last weeks. “I always thought dying would be something grand, not just the same as living. Perhaps the purpose of Hell is to bore us all into second death?”
“You seem quite certain that we have ended up in Hell,” Combeferre remarked absently, eyes scanning the assembled figures in an effort to see how many of them had survived. Not many, it would seem. The visceral reminder of such a loss of life would have depressed him ordinarily but now he felt only calm acceptance, a serenity that he had never quite achieved in life despite his best efforts. Joly and Bossuet huddled close to each other, checking each other for injuries, while Prouvaire and Feuilly looked around with wide eyes at their new surroundings. One of the guardsmen made his way hesitantly towards them – Combeferre realized somewhat belatedly that there were no weapons in sight anywhere – and Prouvaire drew him into their budding conversation, gestures as grand as ever.
“Where else would a philandering revolutionary like me end up?” Courfeyrac asked, the grin on his face making it clear how much he believed his own words. “Though your presence is surprising, I will admit.”
Combeferre shrugged, clambering to his feet. “Perhaps your hypothesis should be reevaluated,” he said. “Certainly this appears closer to limbo than the inferno. If nothing else our standard conceptions of Hell would most likely not permit socializing among the souls of the damned.” Even as he spoke Prouvaire let out a burst of laughter and clasped the guardsman’s hand in delight while even Feuilly seemed amused.
“They do seem quite lax on that point,” Courfeyrac agreed. “Tell me then, man of science that you are, what has happened to us?”
Combeferre shrugged. “I haven’t nearly enough data to speculate,” he said.
“Use your imagination, then!”
“You asked me my opinion as a man of science. If you want flights of imagination you would be better off joining Prouvaire.”
Courfeyrac laughed. “Perhaps I shall,” he said, words undermined by the fact that he made absolutely no move to leave Combeferre’s side. “Maybe someone will come explain things to us.”
“You expect an orientation into the afterlife?” Combeferre asked, raising his eyebrows at his friend.
“It would be impolite of them to leave us without even a specter of understanding,” Courfeyrac said with a grin. It only broadened as Combeferre rolled his eyes.
“You are truly incorrigible,” he said, shaking his head.
Courfeyrac was about to retaliate, no doubt with another pun, but in that moment a nearly blinding light began filling the street, engulfing the buildings and pavestones as it grew. Combeferre and Courfeyrac looked at each other.
“Is that the understanding you desired?” Combeferre wanted to know.
“It’s a start,” Courfeyrac allowed. “I assume we’re to give ourselves up to it and be transported to the next plane of existence.”
“That would be a logical assumption,” Combeferre agreed. Neither made any move to step closer.
It was not Prouvaire but Bossuet and Joly who passed into the light first, walking hand in hand, radiating joy and confidence. They paused just before stepping into it, Bossuet looking back with a brilliant smile. Then they were gone, bodies engulfed by brilliance.
A few of the guardsmen were quick to follow, passing quickly across and leaving nothing to mark their presence but an intangible feeling of rightness and serenity. Courfeyrac and Combeferre glanced at each other. Slowly the others trickled through, all looking equally contented. Combeferre had never seen Feuilly so wholly relaxed nor Prouvaire so utterly blissful. At last it was only them left. Neither spoke a word, though they both knew why they hesitated.
It seemed to take a long time and yet not long at all before Enjolras appeared. His golden hair glowed more fiercely than ever, and the smile on his lips made it clear that he had accepted his fate with open eyes and eager arms. Grantaire lay next to him, hand pressed against Enjolras’ in a way it never had been when they lived. He too smiled.
The two woke nearly simultaneously, faces smoothing out as they took in what had happened. Combeferre kept Courfeyrac back, though he too wanted nothing so much as to embrace his friend. There would be time.
Enjolras let go of Grantaire’s hand and leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to his forehead and murmuring something too low for the others to hear. Grantaire laughed, a laugh so devoid of bitterness that it seemed to come from a different man entirely, and clapped Enjolras on the shoulder. With a jaunty wave towards the other two he sauntered into the light, vanishing as the others had. Only then did Enjolras turn to his friends, and his smile lit up his face even more than his glorious hair or the light that beckoned them all onwards. Without a word he draped his arms around Combeferre’s shoulder and Courfeyrac’s waist, pressing their bodies close to him in a silent promise. Combeferre and Courfeyrac found each other’s hands behind his back and together the three friends stepped forward and into the light.