She is woken sometime after midnight by a kick in the ribs and a curse. Gasping, she scrambles up, and finds that she is still in the doorway. Her assailant is only a half-drunk stranger, who has tripped over her. He backs off a step as she climbs to her feet. "Sorry," he mutters.
Éponine rubs her eyes. "You want to watch where you put those boots of yours. I dunno where they've been."
He laughs briefly, starts to move past her, then stops. "Here, it's you again. What's your name, Aveline--"
"What are you doing here?"
She stares at him for a minute before she places him: the boy from the café in the Place St. Michel, what did he call himself? Grantaire. "Sleeping. Or was."
"In the doorway."
Idiot. "Oh no, in the best bedroom. I'm just takin' the air out here." Éponine pushes her hair back from her eyes and glowers at him, but Grantaire seems immune to sarcasm. He grins at her lopsidedly.
"I'll bet you were."
"Shall I show mademoiselle inside, then?" He offers an arm, with slightly wobbly ceremony, and Éponine glowers.
"I ent for hire to a schoolboy with two left feet."
"Oh, don't flatter yourself, I wasn't offering. If I wanted a girl, I could find one who's had a bath a bit more recently. Go on. 'S freezing out here."
Éponine surveys him with a jaded eye. She gets these from time to time, earnest university boys who lace their charity with laborious camaraderie, or even more laborious good manners. Honestly she prefers the louts who grope her in alleys; at least they don't prolong the agony. She considers, briefly, telling him to go to hell, but decides that it's too cold. "All right."
Grantaire nods gravely, and opens the door. Éponine tramps in after him, her toes curling at the feel of the smooth wooden floor. It is not precisely warm, but the absence of wind and snow is a comfort in itself. In a slightly more friendly frame of mind, she follows him up the stairs.
"Got no business snowing, anyway," he mutters. More than half-drunk, maybe. "Been enough of it already this winter, must be near the end of the reserves. Even God can't have an infinite supply of the stuff stashed away in his cellar. Think of the expense."
He fumbles in his pocket for a minute, comes up with a key, and fits it, with some difficulty, into the lock. The door swings open on darkness. "Mind the excavations," he says.
"What?" Éponine is baffled for a moment; then her foot snags on something, and Grantaire barely catches her before she goes sprawling to the floor. "Hellfire."
"There," he says. "Great men perish, but their words survive to bite you on the ankle, as I swear I'd like to do to them sometimes. Hold on, let me get a light..." There's a window, Éponine perceives as her eyes adjust to the darkness, but it doesn't illuminate much. She watches as he lights the candle, half expecting him to set fire to the place in the process. "There. You all right?"
The light reveals clutter: books, clothes, tossed carelessly on the floor and the furniture. She can feel her stomach tighten with envy. But Grantaire turns back to her with a look of vague apology.
"Not much for entertaining at home," he says wryly. "Bed's over there, it's just hiding. God, don't look so horrified. I won't bother you. I said."
As if she's got any virtue to lose. "I'll get your sheets dirty."
"They already are."
"I c'n sleep on the floor."
"Only if you can find it. Go on, would you?"
All right, all right, I won't spoil your good deed. Éponine is too tired to argue. She shuffles across the room and sits down, self-conscious, on the edge of the bed. She kicks off the remnants of her shoes, and glances over, defensive; but Grantaire has the grace to be paying no attention. With a sigh, she stretches out; the bed is softer than it looks.