A/N- I can't decide if this counts as uber-fluff or character-building. You be the judge.

I've had this half-written for months, but my ADD-aflicted muse decided to wander off to another fandom for awhile and I couldn't find it in me to finish it. I'm full of inspiration for this and all my stories, but I seem to be stuck with a complete inability to put words into sentences that make any sense. Everything comes out flat and uninspired, for which I'm rather sorry. Full of brilliant thoughts without the brilliant words in which to couch them... GAH.


Chapter 16
January 5th, 1831

Enjolras resisted the urge to sigh as he tried, for what had to be the tenth time that morning, to return his disrupted attention to the book he was trying unsuccessfully to read. The snow had piled up during the night, preventing them from even leaving the building. Attempting to reach the university was impossible let alone the cafe, and he had thought to dedicate the day to catching up on some reading he had been putting off, but it was beginning to seem that this might be equally unlikely. He had known from the start that his wife had a tendency to chatter. She could out-talk even Grantaire, on a good day. What he had somehow failed to notice until now was the fact that Éponine also sang.

She was wandering around the little flat, singing what he guessed must be the latest popular aria in what he was quite sure had to be the most distracting manner imaginable. Her voice was not ideal, being a little rough from brandy and bad living conditions, but he noted that she had a surprisingly good sense of pitch.

This continued for some time, and he could not restrain a wince as she butchered the Italian lyrics.

"Do you always do this?" he asked.

She broke off and glanced at him, dark eyes inquisitive. "Do what?"

"Sing."

Éponine smirked. "Am I annoying you?"

"Just a little."

At that, she laughed outright. "No, I don't always, but sometimes it is nice to sing a bit, don't you think? It brightens up a day when the weather is bad." Suddenly, a shrewd look crossed her face as she eyed him curiously. "Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever heard you sing."

Enjolras shook his head. "I don't sing."

"What?" Éponine exclaimed, looking disbelieving. "I can't believe that!"

He shrugged. "I don't."

She sat down on the arm of his chair and pulled the book from his hands.

"What are you doing? Give that back!" he protested.

Éponine smirked in that way he had come to associate with yet another round of teasing. "Not until you let me hear you sing!"

"No."

"Come on, Antoine, I want to hear you sing!"

"Éponine, I do not find this amusing. Give me the book back," he said sternly.

She must have seen from his expression that he was serious, because her delighted expression slipped somewhat and her shoulders sagged as she extended the book to him. As he took it back, he noted that she had held his page for him.

"Sorry," she muttered, avoiding his eyes. "I just wanted to hear your voice."

"Believe me, you don't," he said firmly. "It's why I don't sing. I just haven't the voice for it."

"Well, neither have I, and it doesn't stop me!" she said, spirits rising again. "Sometimes it doesn't matter whether you sound nice or not. The music speaks for itself!"

He looked at her in utter bewilderment. He knew many "accomplished" women, and the pride of their little collection of petty skills was invariably a fine singing voice. Even among the ladies his friends entertained on a regular basis, it was rare to come across one who had not spent some time training her voice, in order to provide entertainment for her friends and lovers. Any of them would have been mortified by Éponine's suggestion that the music, and not the singer, was of higher value.

"You are a strange girl," he said quietly.

"So they say," she said with a little smile. She slipped off the arm of his chair and returned to her own usual seat, taking up the book she had abandoned an hour earlier.

Companionable silence reigned in the apartment for some time, but Enjolras found it was no easier than before to concentrate on his reading. His eyes kept being drawn back to Éponine quite against his will. She continued to draw him in, and he couldn't explain it even to himself. He had never had a friend like Éponine in the whole of his life and he didn't know what to make of her, even after living in the same quarters with her for nearly a month.

She looked better, he observed. The unhealthy color malnutrition and exposure had given her skin was gone, and the starved, skeletal look was starting to fade. With good food and regular bathing, her hair was starting to get shiny again and her complexion was beginning to grow rosy.

He realized suddenly that he had been staring at her for several minutes. He quickly turned his eyes back to his book.

"What is she like?"

Enjolras looked up at her again. "Who?"

"This woman your father wanted you to marry, that started all this-" She gestured between them, "-in the first place."

"Does it matter?"

She shrugged. "It's not important, but I'm curious. What kind of a girl does a man like your father think is appropriate for his son?"

"A very dull kind," Enjolras replied ruefully. "Hyacinthe is the daughter of one of my father's rather well-to-do associates and that is, as far as I am concerned, all that she really has to recommend her."

"How tremendously insightful," Éponine said, voice dripping with sarcasm. "I could have guessed at least that much, or something close to it, on my own! Tell me really, what is she like? Have you known her long?"

"Yes, I have known her all my life. Hyacinthe, François and I grew up together in Lyon."

Éponine studied him with a puzzled look on her face. "But if she's an old friend, shouldn't that-"

"No."

"But you've known her for so long. Surely you-"

"No. Hyacinthe was a pest as a child and has grown into an annoyance as a young woman. She is beautiful, yes. She is educated, yes. But she is also vain, and vapid, and incapable of thinking beyond the end of next week," Enjolras said firmly, and perhaps a bit more loudly than he had intended.

Éponine's eyes widened at his outburst, and an amused chuckle burst from her throat. "Oh, you would kill each other in a week!" she exclaimed.

Enjolras' lips curled up in a little smirk. "I doubt that very much. I would stew and grouse and grow very annoyed with her, and she would bend compliantly to everything I said. She would never argue, even if she thought I was wrong... if she gave thought enough to any matter to decide for herself! She would never cross me intentionally, and when she did so unintentionally she would immediately do everything in her power to rectify it and appease me. I would hold court in my own home, commanding her to my whims even when I did not particularly want to do so."

"Her own nature would force you to be a tyrant. Bound to her, you would become exactly what you most despise, in miniature," Éponine observed, nodding in comprehension.

He stared at her. "Yes," he said quietly. "I had not thought of it quite like that, but that is precisely true."

"Well it's a good thing you've married me, then!" she said with a delighted grin. "You can try very well to command me, but whether you'll succeed or not is another matter!"

Enjolras couldn't help but smile at that. "I know that to be the truth!" he said. "You do not comply to anyone's wishes easily... even when it might be in your better interests."

She nodded, looking exceptionally proud of herself. "No chance of you becoming a tyrant with me around, no indeed!"

"If anything, there's an even chance of you becoming a tyrant," Enjolras said thoughtfully."

Éponine shuddered and made a face. "Lord, I hope not! I'm already far too much like my father for my own comfort."

"I do not think you are," Enjolras replied.

She raised an eyebrow at him, and smiled in the manner of one who is appeasing the delusional. "You're sweet to say so, Antoine."