Beyond the walls of the Convent were a mystery to her, but after ten years, Cosette was more than grateful to leave the world of prayers and down-turned eyes for the bright flare of real Paris beyond her small home – suddenly opened like the inside of a clam shell, just waiting for her to discover pearls untold.
Jean Valjean was not simple; he knew that he could not keep Cosette confined as long as he would have liked to, but still he let himself worry as they set out - after all, ever shifting Paris was a dangerous place – and not only for the secrets it threatened to uncover.
Gavroche (as he liked to call himself) knew there was a trick for disappearing into a crowd – as a child, and gamin at that, he was invisible to most eyes, which made him ideal for swiping purses and ammunition alike.
"I do not believe in anything other than the warmth of a full bottle," Grantaire muttered, his fingers white knuckled on his glass; still, his eyes caught on a flash of gold and passionate words, knowing very well how easily he could be moved to put his faith in earthling man once more.
The crimson of the flag was cool and serene, flowing like Moses' red sea on his fingers (darkened by enemy blood and the gratitude of the freed multitude), and with closed eyes he tried to take that strength and fervency of colour onto himself in preparation for the days to come.
The case of Jean Valjean was still open, still cold, and although his superiors would breath a sigh of relief if and when he ever declared the matter truly closed, Javert couldn't quite move himself to take that final step as he tilted his head in the wind - as if he were a wolf scenting prey; and then slowly, he let himself smile: his old friend was back, it would appear.
The shy smile Marius gave her was easy and light – innocent, almost, and Éponine raised a hand to her face as if to feel an imprint of its warmth – and a part of her found herself longing for that smile to be directed at her again again, filled with that clean easiness that could never just be an absence of mire on the skin, but on the soul as well.
"Come now my good man, a bit of riot is good for the Romantic soul - perhaps it will spur those poems of yours on," Jehan looked dubious, but followed his friend anyway, words falling from his mind to spot his papers later – all speaking of ideals and the things given in exchange for dreams.
Kneeling down by the puddle, Éponine curiously splashed some of the water against her face, trying to wipe away the mire of the streets from her skin, but while the dirt came off, the dull cast of her skin and the bags under her eyes would not go away – her shoulders jutted out angrily, the bony knobs of her wrists yelled out a miserable tale to any who would care to listen, and in frustration she raked her hand through her reflection, dissatisfied with it.
"Are you really my father?" Cosette dared to ask on an exhale, giving voice to the whisper of doubt and yearning for truth that had itched beneath her skin like an old scab – determined not to heal.
The child before him looked more and more like her mother with every passing day, and with a pang Valjean watched as Fantine's eyes smiled and laughed in her daughter's face, given a chance at happiness that she had been denied.
"Baron Pontmercy," Marius signed his name for the first, and even on the path that he was embarking on – homeless, disowned, Bonapartist without Emperor, revolutionary blooded without a revolution to fight in, with a mere thirty francs to his name – he felt a sense of pride and accomplishment fill him as he acknowledged his father's legacy openly for all to see.
"And they died an equal death – the idler and the man of mighty deeds." Grantaire mocked with Homer's words on his lips when Combeferre's annoyances with him grew higher than he could tolerate, slightly avenged with Jehan snickered in amusement at his choice of words, Courfeyrac reaching out to cheerfully tap his friend on the shoulder when their leader gave them all a cross look for being distracted from his papers and plans.
Valjean was not blind to the young man who awaited them every day in the Luxemburg Gardens, and furthermore, he was not blind to the careful sort of interest that Cosette let bloom in her eyes – and like generations of fathers before him, he wondered – not completely kindly – why the young man didn't have the courage to approach him directly to have the opportunity to court the girl.
"Who is she?" Marius breathed on a baited breath, and at his side Éponine was strangely silent as she heard the unconscious note of awe and devotion invade his voice – it was easy to spot a man bewitched, and before her she saw her castle of dreams slowly crumble like the rain falling from the sky to feed the greedy river below.
Georges Pontmercy knelt in the back of the church, his lips forming his prayers without giving them word, his eyes almost greedy on the little boy who was his own but never his to hold – not while sympathies and governments built and torn asunder stood between them; an insurmountable barrier to climb.
"Inspector Javert, First Class," the harsh man finally muttered near the end of their meeting, and Marius blinked at the clipped sort of pride that entered the man's voice at the title – as if he held it more dear to him that a Count held his name in flippant haughtiness, the cadence of it speaking of years spent clawing his way to a position that he now cherished.
"Dear God, where did Grantaire get the violin from?" Bossuet cringed as the drunken man managed to turn a rowdy bar tune into a rather flagrant and off key ditty about several of Enjolras' attributes – few of them having little bearing on their cause at all.
"Cosette," the girl whispered, her fair cheeks turning pink in the dim garden light, and Marius let his heart burst into his eyes as the name of his love magnified and sealed the attachment that had been settling in the deepest parts of himself – sure as he was that he had most certainly found the missing half to his whole.
The bustling of Paris' streets was at its height at the end of the day as workers returned home and the bejeweled city came to true life under the fall of night – and masked by the masses, Éponine delighted in lifting a purse here and another there – enjoying each and every scandalized look that crossed Marius' face.
It was only a matter of time before Javert found him again - after all, a dog could only shy away from the wolf so many times before his trail was discovered – but still Valjean hesitated over the idea of taking Cosette away, this time, not only moving within Paris – but to another country all together.
Sometimes, at night, when the city was hers and her thoughts made the world enchanting around her – she would see the good Inspector (de Loup Garou) stalking on the other side of the river, seemingly carved from marble like the stone saints within a cathedral – the only light in his eyes that reflected from the lamps, and Éponine reflected, that even gamine though she was – she still had hopes and dreams to counter the soot on her face.
Sometimes, at night – when the city was his to patrol, and his thoughts were made steady by the stars above him, he would stand directly in the middle of the Pont de Change, seeing a symbolism in having a direction to choose on either side of him - the river rushing on determined and uncaring beneath him as it had been doing for far longer than he'd been alive, and as it would continue doing so long after he was gone.
"I know this house, gents – an' the pay will be great an' sweet indeed," Thénardier grinned a crooked grin to the grisly crew that had collected around him as he outlined his plan.
Some men were born leaders – and Enjolras, with his angel's face, and Micheal's own wrath in his veins could inspire even the stones to rise up and give cry for his Republic when his voice called out – composed as it was of hymns and a choir's chant, with all of the undertones of Hell waiting beneath its silken tones.
Ironically, their paths had crossed once – the convict and the Inspector - it was morning, and the fog was thick as Valjean watched from across the street as Javert stopped in a small bakery, the owner's wife almost desperate with thanks for the return of her daughter (apparently, the Inspector's sharp eye had returned the kidnapped child), and the whole way home, Valjean pondered thoughtfully - for so long, the man had played the part of irritant in his own tale, and he had never truly paused to consider whether or not he had played the part of savior to someone else's life.
"Éponine, Éponine – cruel and fair," came Montparnasse's sultry voice to her ears, as horrible as it was lovely, "why do you continue to turn away from me?"
Éponine smiled as best as she could at her younger sister, arranging her skirts on the straw strewn floor, pleating the folds in the patterns cast by the shadows from the cell bars, "There now, 'Zelma," she comforted, "at least here you get fed daily – which is more than you can say for out there."
"Is Joly dieing again?" Courfeyrac asked, "I say we drink to his memory once more!"
"And of course, Musichetta, if you feel the need to play the part of grieving lover in accordance with Joly's demise – I lay bare my heart and soul as balm to heal you aching wounds . . . no, my dear?"
Marius looked down at the two pistols in his hand - the two that the Inspector had given to him, and then out the window to where the sky was darkening – the western sky, where Cosette would be disappearing to, while he would fight for freedom alongside those who fought not of a broken heart, but for the chance of the Republic of their dreams.
Cosette played nervously with the sleeves of her dress, looking up like a startled doe every time a gunshot sounded in the distance, frantic prayers wrenched from the deep of her as she pleaded for Marius' life – unseen by her, Valjean observed her struggle, a war wagging within his own heart as he debated what path to take.
The pain from the bullet striking through her hand was a new sort of agony - greater than she would have imagined, and so by the time the bullet reemerged, just to settle next to her heart, Éponine looked down in almost numb inference to the blossoming stain on her chest (dear God, but there was so much red) – knowing that the escape that she had been looking for would only bear her away, for she could not stand by to let him fall as easily as she thought she could.
"Come now, child – you have a knife, and wasting a bullet on me is something that you can ill afford, where is your courage now?" Javert mocked the golden haired youth that all of the other schoolboys seemed to bow to, a black triumph spiking through him when the young man faltered for just a moment – revolutionary he may be, the child could not yet bring himself to kill what he could stare in the eye . . . yet.
Marius remembered little of his trip through the sewers – only the pain that was burning a black hole into his skin, and the feel of alternately being dragged or carried; the smell of human refuse, and the sound of a curse or two from the gentleman who was secreting him away to safety.
On the gate, the other girl's hand was very small, pink and rosy against the grime and dark cast of her own skin, and Cosette whispered, "I forgive you, Éponine, perhaps . . . perhaps, someday, you can do the same for me."
"A rare sort of eccentric," Combeferre noticed with a raised brow, taking in the older man in the uniform – as hard of eyed as any young revolutionary there, but with a purpose to him that Combeferre couldn't quite put his finger on (for, who came to the barricades not to fight?).
"Give me the spy, Javert," Valjean bid in a quiet voice born of iron, drawing a snort from the Inspector as he reflected that the world was turning backwards on its axis for such a mockery of law and order to be taking place (for even still, there was no hate in Valjean's gaze, only a quiet determination and an even more baffling . . . understanding that Javert couldn't comprehend no matter how hard he tried).
"Madame le Baroness Pontmercy," Cosette would say with an impish smile on her face whenever she wished to lift her husband from a dark mood (memory and regret and so many other things dragging him under like a current), the old title a secret source of laughter to them.
He felt like a candle being burned at both ends – what was right, and what was just, at war within him until the wick of his ideals frayed from misuse and the flame threatened to leap into an inferno in his mind – in the end, the only solution to see justice properly served was to douse the flames and take himself from the equation entirely.
"I think I would have liked to have been a baker," the young man murmured, slipping in and out of his delirium as Combeferre tried his best to cease the bleeding in the artery – he couldn't tell if the man he helped was student or solider, but in the end it didn't matter – human life was human life, and all walks of it suffered in the idea of something more awaiting.
Beneath her, the street that had been her mother, and the wild rain that had fathered her seemed to give her strength as she felt herself bleed away into the night, her last moments on Earth made peaceful by Marius' arms holding her, and the promise of a kiss goodbye once she was dead to him once more.
He let his bottle roll away from him as he stood, swaying somewhat unsteadily on his feet as he stumbled over to Apollo; then, staring the emissaries of Hades in the eye (trying his best to look bored and confident while his very being quaked in an instinctive fear), Grantaire murmured, "Kill me at his side."
There was a simple stone in the Père Lachaise cemetery, and for the longest time, Valjean stood and stared at its inscription - as if by doing so he could gaze upon the man whose spirit inhabited the grave, if not the body – he had been running for so long that he was quite unsure now how to stand still, knowing that this time, it would be him following the good Inspector into death's waiting jaws.
Cosette dressed for her wedding without help, and the knowledge that she had no Mother to give her last minute advice, or Father to give her away tugged at her until she couldn't be sure if her tears fell from grief or happiness – she wiped them away with a very white hand, not wanting her husband-to-be to have to suspect grief for their flowing, the same as her.
In the end, Death had rained down in Paris on the night of the sixth of June without thought or distinction for victim – the corpse of the guard laid flung upon that of a student's, the drunkard by the sober man, the child by the elder man, the poor by the rich, the just next to those who died for their duty – all were made brothers in arms on a night that would not be remembered with patriotic glee, but sobering pity for those who had been torn away in the name of an ideal.
"You've got something on your face," Éponine grinned as she wiped a playful hand across the grime darkening her brother's cheek, delighting in the irked look that Gavroche chose to give to her, looking his age once more as he scowled a scowl known to siblings across the years.
"I always knew the good Inspector wasn't completely right in the head," one of the younger officers dared to mock at the solemn memorial held for their fallen comrade, and at his side, his companion only nodded mutely – not daring to give his agreement, seeing as how the Inspector was one ghost whom he most certainly didn't want to see walking home that night.
As she read her Father's last words, she leaned almost desperately into Marius' arms – needing his support as she found her tears (a culprit of the grief she could not shake) running freely in memory of those who had loved her – their legacy now a treasure that she would always carry with her.
It was a single truth known to those truly weary and rundown: that where deliverance could not come from on high (be it from God's law, or the law of earthling man who governed their fellow beings by), then hope and true joy amongst the mire was gained in its purest form by loving another person, and having the strength of that simple, sustaining devotion in return.