Cosette opened her eyes, and instantly closed them again, feeling the pounding of her head.
"Oh!" she said, and sat up in her bed, bring up a hand to touch her face. She gasped- pain shot through her arm when she tried to move. "What... Papa!" she cried out. "Father!"
It was only a moment or so before she heard footsteps in the hallway outside her door, and then it opened. Her father came into her bedroom, candle in his hand.
"Cosette! You're awake," he exclaimed, putting a hand to her forehead. "How do you feel?"
"My head hurts, and my arm hurts..." She was so confused. Was it nighttime? It must be. But where were they? "What... happened?" she forced out weakly.
"Don't you remember?" he said, his eyes concerned.
"I don't know," she said, frightened now. Had something happened to her brain, too? She had deluded, clouded memories of soft voices, wet clothes, and pain. Stern men's voices- a doctor? Obviously she'd been in bed a long time. But she didn't remember how she got there.
"The fighting?" he asked. "You snuck out, and there was fighting."
"Oh..." she said, the memories stirring. "Yes... yes, I do remember. I was shot, wasn't I?"
"You were," he said.
"What day is it?"
"June thirtieth," he said. "If it's past midnight."
She nodded, nausea filling her and making her head spin. She closed her eyes, finding that she felt better.
"Am I going to be alright?" she asked, her voice weak. The pain in her arm was pointing to a 'no.'
"Yes!" he said, trying his best to be reassuring, but sounding rather panicked. "Yes, yes you will! I've been praying for you to wake- why, from now on everything should be much better, that you're awake. The doctor was worried before- he said the wound was treatable, it's your fever he was worried about, but you're already recovering!" She nodded, and then remembered Marius. The whole reason she'd gone into the fighting- Marius, to keep him from doing something horrible when she went to England...
Her eyes opened suddenly and she sat up a little straighter, worried. She didn't know whether she could bring up Marius, because she didn't know what had happened since that night. Her father had been so angry! Maybe Marius had left, gone somewhere else...
Her eyes drifted in her thoughts, and her father sighed. It was obvious what she was thinking about- he was hoping she'd forgotten him. But from the look on her face, it was quite the opposite.
"He's come here every day," he said, resigned.
"He has?" she said, touched by this.
"Yes. And I fear we should tell him you're awake- he's been very worried, as I have. But that can wait until morning," he said, smiling serenely. Cosette lay back down. "God always comes through," he said, almost to himself, a hand on Cosette's head and tears spilling from his eyes, "Cosette, I was so scared..."
"Papa, it's alright! I'm going to be fine, just like you said."
"I know. I know," he said, finally breathing again. It had taken almost a month, but he was finally breathing again. Still inhibited, though- he would not be alright until Cosette was standing and walking as she used to.
"Why don't you try to go back to sleep?" he said. She nodded and settled herself in, but she knew she wouldn't be able to sleep yet. There was too much on her mind. However, her father did not leave her bedside- poor Jean Valjean was now fearing that, after coming around so quickly, Cosette would regress with the same speed. He stayed and watched her steady breathing.
On her part, when she noticed he was not going to leave, she pretended to be asleep, knowing he was worried. She had grown very good at keeping her father happy. She knew he was overprotective, because he loved her- so she did her best to console him and reassure him of her safety. So that he had even refrained from banning Marius from the household was a good sign.
Her thoughts were tangled- she wondered what had happened since she'd been shot, was worried about her health, was in pain, was thinking of Marius and her father, was thinking of England... until her weakness put her to sleep.
A knock sounded on Marius' door at eight o'clock in the morning. He'd just risen and was drinking some tea, so it was surprising that someone had called on him already.
It was Madame Toussaint, the maid from Cosette's house.
"Monsieur Pontmercy," she stuttered. Her face looked incredibly worried. Her eyes were wide in fear, and Marius, instead of remembering that this was how Toussaint alwayslooked, overreacted and grew frightened. He gripped the door frame, tense, trying to be polite and not snap at her for not finishing her sentence earlier. "I am here from Monsieur Fauchelevent to tell you that Mademoiselle is awake."
He grabbed his jacket off the back of a chair and ran out the door.
He cursed himself for living in a city that took a long time to navigate through, but eventually made it, Toussaint huffing at his heels. He caught his breath for a minute before talking to the porter, who had been expecting them, and was led upstairs.
Earlier that morning, Cosette had woken and was feeling immeasurably better. The doctor was due at nine, but she had wanted to get out of bed. Valjean allotted her about twenty feet- she walked out of her bedroom onto the couch in the living room, when she was draped in a blanket and supported with pillows and essentially put right back into bed.
When Marius knocked on the door to the apartment, Cosette dropped her end of the conversation she was having with her father, staring at the door and looking like she was trying to peer through it. He sighed and went up to answer it.
As soon as the door was opened, Monsieur Pontmercy was talking. "Monsieur! I heard she was awake, and I came as soon as I could-"
"Marius!" Cosette said, from her place on the couch.
"Cosette!" he exclaimed, and walked inside, kneeling beside the couch. She was upright and energetic. It was habit to reach for her hands, but he stopped himself halfway through the action, not wanting to hurt her. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently. He used the vous form, very concious of her father behind them.
"Fine, actually- last night when I woke I had a headache, but I think it was from sleeping so long. I couldn't fall back asleep after I awoke- understandable, because I'd been sleeping for days and days, and my headache went away. This morning, for breakfast, Toussaint made me soup! To think, soup for breakfast! She says it should help me get better, but I don't know how chicken soup is going to help my arm heal-"
"Cosette," her father said somewhat warningly.
"Oh. Right. My father said to make sure I stayed restful." She took a deep breath and relaxed against the pillows. "There."
"Does your arm hurt?"
"You can say tu to me," she said, confused. "You used to. Remember?"
He blushed, his act completely falsified. "Right. Does your arm hurt?" he revised.
"A little. Well, yes, actually it hurts horribly. But if I think of other things, I've found I can distract myself."
"You sound as though you've been awake for days instead of merely hours."
"Well, I need a coping mechanism," she said, her eyes sparkling. Alive, he thought. Her heart was beating. That was what mattered. "Distract me- tell me something that's happened in the past month. What have you been doing?"
"What have I been doing? Working, and coming here," he said. "Nothing terribly interesting."
"How are you?" she said, concerned. "Your friends..."
"Are gone," he said simply.
"How are you coping?"
"Distraction," he said, then his face clouded over. "And you have provided an excellent one by doing something so incredibly thoughtless!"
"I'm sorry," she said sincerely.
"You should be. It was ridiculous, you being there-"
"I meant about your friends," she interrupted. "That's terrible. But I'm not sorry I came to the barricade."
"I'm not. If I hadn't come, you would have died. I think this is a fair trade-"
"Cosette! You had no business being at that barricade! It was dangerous and impulsive and you don't even know what could have happened to you!"
She wrinkled her brow at him. "Really? I thought my father had lectured me about this enough for the both of you. Father, is he even allowed to lecture me like this?" She turned, demanding a response from Jean Valjean, infuriated that they both had turned on her.
Though Valjean did not want to agree with Marius Pontmercy, after all the havoc he had reigned on Cosette, Valjeanfelt himself sharing an opinion with him.
"Most definitely," he said. Cosette frowned.
"Fine. Let's all make Cosette feel bad about herself," she said miserably, pouting. Marius laughed, but grew serious again.
"I won't bring it up again if you promise not to do anything remotely as dangerous again," he bargained. Valjean balked- not bring it up again? That was ridiculous! She needed to grasp what a hell she'd put him through!
"Alright," Cosette said, and shook his hand. "On the condition that you never do anything as dangerous again."
"But I had a reason," he hedged.
"So did I," she said, knowing she had the upper hand.
Marius did not point out that, though they were both in danger of guns at the barricade, she had been in far more danger being out on the streets alone, especially considering she had absolutely no knowledge of the city of Paris and how to walk about it at night. "Fine. I promise if you promise."
"It's a deal," she said, and they shook on it again. "But... aren't you even a little glad?"
"That I'm not dead?" he asked seriously. She nodded. He brought her good hand up to his cheek. "At this moment? I'm so much more than thankful."
When he returned home that afternoon- Cosette finally grew tired again and he left- his spirits were so high that he whistled while walking. The doctor had come in, declared Cosette on the upswing of the road to recovery, rebound her arm, and left. She felt fine, except her arm still hurt of course. But her fever symptoms were gone. And Monsieur Fauchelevent was nice to him! The whole time he was there, the three of them made friendly conversation.
But when he turned the corner to his hallway, he found Eponine there, again- enough to dampen his mood significantly.
"What do you want?" he groaned. "What will make you go away?"
"Will you please listen to me?"
"Fine." He turned and faced her. "What is it?"
"I didn't want to make you angry," she confessed. "I went to the barricade, and I brought Mademoiselle there to bring you home. That's all," she said.
"You're lying," he said through clenched teeth. "You knew more about the streets than she did. You brought her knowing she was in danger, and you didn't warn her. And you tricked me into coming. You told me to come, and told Cosette to come- if you hadn't interfered, neither of us would have gone and we would have been together. What was your idea, Eponine?" he spat out. "What did you hope to gain?"
"You," she said weakly.
"I... I can't help it. I know it was wrong, I'm sorry. Please, don't think me evil."
He glared at her.
"I think..." she gulped, feeling a lump in her throat. "It pushed me to do something thoughtless, I should have known what I wanted to do wouldn't work, because it made me lose common sense and you'll think I'm terribly selfish, but really I didn't mean to be-"
"What's 'it'?" he interrupted.
She stared at him wide-eyed. "You don't know? You haven't guessed?"
He just gave her a confused and impatient look.
"I would have thought, after how I rambled to Mademoiselle, she would have told you... I made it perfectly obvious, I'm afraid... Monsieur Marius. I did all that... I wanted to bring you home because... because I'm in love with you." She said the words finally, the words that she used to dream would make him drop everything and hold her tightly to him and kiss her until she was breathless... but now, she knew they would elicit no reaction from him. "At least, a little," she backtracked, trying to preserve some of her dignity.
"I don't... understand," he said slowly. "How can you be in love with me?"
"I can't control it!" she defended. "All I know is that I couldn't let you die and I couldn't watch you waste away over her. And you know you would have, if she went away to England-"
"Please stop," he said curtly. "Wait." He held up a hand. "How did you know Cosette was going to England?"
"She... she told me," Eponine lied nervously.
Marius' eyes bored into her, and this time she told the truth. A small fragment of it, anyway.
"I read it in the letter she sent you. Then I told her you were going to the barricade- but you must understand, I was trying to help!" He didn't need to know that it was she who had interfered, drawing the fears out from Cosette's father, forcing him to leave with his daughter, for she alone knew his secret.
"And you thought... bringing her to the barricade where she would die would fix that? And bringing me there to... to what? To watch? That's evil." he said, glaring with hatred in his eyes.
So she had elicited a reaction from him... it just hadn't been the right one.
"I don't know what I wanted to do," she said weakly. "I'm sorry."
"Please... just leave me be."
"Will you ever speak to me again?" she asked, not letting herself feel hope.
"No. I think that would be best. For both of our sakes," he said coldly.
"How is she?" Eponine asked, hoping that maybe an inquiry over Cosette's health would win him over.
He faced her head on. "She woke up today. For the first time in a month. I hope you're happy."
Then, he turned and entered his apartment, shutting the door firmly behind him, and then locking it. He kicked off his boots and removed his jacket, before sitting, seething, on his bed. He rested his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, and felt his temples throbbing. He was so angry... and yet she was lucky to have spoken to him on this day, this day when Cosette had woken up, because his mood was brighter than otherwise.
What she had done was inexcusable. What kind of person comes up with a plan like that? A plan to hoodwink someone by dragging them to their death?
The realization that he and Cosette had just been mere puppets in her game was more than unnerving. He and Cosette had both nearly lost their lives, because of this girl's petty jealousy. And how could she love him anyway? They barely knew each other.
He shuddered, wondering what she wanted from him, what she saw in him. What had he done to attract someone so terrible? The thought of being with her made him grimace. It was not that she was ugly, for she was not that ugly, when one looked at her closely. But she was wretched. She was torn up inside, poverty and evil seeping through her skin, making her dark and twisted and willing to steal and claw and push people to their deaths to get what she wanted...
But she loved him. Well- could she be completely evil, if she loved? Love could not be evil, if it was indeed love she felt.
Marius was kept up all night wondering over these facts, turning her words over in his head. The love he felt for Cosette... it was undeniable, pure and good. Not good in the sense of his other morals- he was upright and refused to break laws or do anything dishonest. That was 'good' by the book- no. Love was good in the sense of God. Loving Cosette felt like a connection to the sublime, the divine. It was a light, impossible to vanquish, sinless and white. If Eponine had anything like that inside of her... the rest of her could not be as perverse and sinister as he thought.
Or could those things exist side by side?
In the morning, he was almost on the verge of forgiving her. Not for doing what she'd done, for it was foolish and evil, but she was obviously an uneducated mixture of child and adult, with the worst examples to teach her morals. She had learned to take what she wanted when she wanted it- how could he expect her to do anything different?
But then, when he went into the Fauchelevent's living room, he saw the doctor changing Cosette's bandage. A month later, and the wound was still enough to draw tears from her eyes, making her clench of fist in pain until the knuckles were white. He felt his stomach flip, his soul turn in anger toward the one who had done it.
Even someone with thieves for parents must be held responsible.
Don't hate him...
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