It's Archer, here. I am so ADHD that whenever something shiny and new comes along, I'm distracted from everything else. For example, Les Miserables is very shiny and new to me. So I'm going to play with it until I break it, and then miserably crawl back to my other fanfictions. This is my first story without an original character, and I want to do well. If, for any second, I am Eppie-bopping, do me a favor and shoot me in the head. I can't stand Eppie-bopping. Review with your opinion! Thanks, and enjoy!
Blame Hugo, that genius started it.
Eponine heard rather than felt her back slam against the brick wall of the tavern. A jolt of pain shot up her spine, numbing her arms. She crumbled to the ground in a miserable heap, head in her arms, hair tossed over her face. The figure standing above the peasant girl laughed harshly, and delivered a sharp kick to her ribs. Eponine cried out briefly, but hadn't the will to fight back. So she just laid there on the ground, with her forehead pressed against the cool stone, every inch of her throbbing with pain.
She let herself close her eyes and sink into the darkness of her mind. In vivid imagery, she relived the horror of the last three hours. Until now, she had just shut down. She didn't see, she didn't feel, she didn't live it through. Until now. Now she watched it again. Behind her eyelids the terrible show played. Her body had been twisted in ways that it never should have bent, she was strangled and restrained and beat in turn. All for the pleasure of some sick bastard who had money in his pocket.
The clatter of coins on cobblestone brought her mind about. She roused herself and collected the money, and returned her eyes to the crease of her elbow so as not to see her client walk away. Her ribs cried out in painful protest. The night certainly left its mark on her. This night had been worse than most. Eponine's lip had been split by a backhanded blow, and her jaw throbbed from a hard right hook. A second punch had given her what promised to be a magnificent shiner. The bruises on the gamine's neck would look like fingers in the morning, as they would on her thighs. The bloody rope burns were sure to threaten infection.
It was just a cruel example of what lengths poverty-stricken people would go to. One must eat, of course, or they will die. Sometimes it felt like a decision had to be made between death, and death. Would you throw your morals and dignity away now for enough coin to stay fed, only to die from disease later? Or would you slowly starve without giving yourself the chance at survival?
The pile of skin and bones that was Eponine shuddered violently as she contemplated her decision. She pulled herself into a sitting position, slumped against the wall. Closing her eyes, she tenderly probed her nose. It was broken for sure this time. She gritted her teeth, and with a sickening crunch, set her nose straight again. Tears sprang to her eyes, tears that she refused to let fall. Eponine bit her tongue to stop from screaming as she looked at the coins on the ground.
They weren't worth the pain.
"Never again," Eponine said aloud, her voice hoarse from shouting, choking, and crying. "Tonight was the last." She croaked.
She wiped the blood from her nose with the sleeve of her overlarge coat, and slumped to the ground again. The cool stones against her forehead felt nice, but it would not do for her to just lie in the street. She cast around for her grey, ragged hat. Finding it in the dark, she placed it upon her head and pulled it low on her forehead, low enough to cast her face into shadow. Eponine heaved herself to her feet, leaning against the wall for support. She stumbled to the entrance of the tavern, fell through the door, and flung herself onto the nearest seat at the bar.
The barmaid gave a questioning glance to the bloody and bedraggled gamine, but asked nothing more than, "What'll you 'ave, mademoiselle?"
"I'll take the hardest you've got," Eponine rasped in return, in a scratchy, deep voice that had already been mangled by the drink. A headache was always starting to make itself known behind her eyes. Drinking would only make it worse when the sun came up, but for the moment, it would feel good.
The barmaid placed a small glass of whiskey on the counter in front of the girl, and returned to cleaning glasses.
Eponine took the glass in her hands and studied the yellow-brown liquid. She could smell its fumes, and she recalled it on the breath of the man she had been with minutes before. Repulsed, she considered returning it, but she shook her head and brought the glass to her lips anyways.
The alcohol hadn't touched her mouth when a group of schoolboys burst through the door of the tavern, causing Eponine to jump. She looked up feebly, and quickly hid her face behind her hair when she recognized the men who had just entered. One man in particular made her face flush with shame.
Les Amis de l'ABC had just entered, with Marius Pontmercy in their midst. Eponine could not let him see her like this. She had a good idea of what she looked like, thoroughly covered in a mix of her own blood and the dirt of the city, her hair tangled and greasy, and her teeth grimy with the black bread she had eaten hours ago. Eponine also imagined that her nose was crooked as well. She felt a stab of pain that had nothing to do with her aching ribs when she recalled seeing Cosette, his new obsession, for the first time in years.
Cosette had grown into a woman, with porcelain skin, glassy blue eyes, and blonde hair like corn silk. She wore pretty dresses and pretty shoes, and was certainly never hungry. How times had changed; once Eponine was fed and clean, and Cosette was the dirty, abused one. That was many years ago, when Eponine had possessed a childish beauty and hope for the future. Now life had turned Eponine ugly, and shattered all hope for tomorrow. Eponine envied Cosette for the privileges her life had allowed her, but not as much as she envied her for having Marius's heart. Not wanting Marius to see in in her current state, she simply laid her head in her hands and closed her eyes.
The buzz of les Amis filled the air around her head. She caught snatches of revolutionary plans, tales of conquests, and talks of current classes. Her brain began to throb and she stuck her hand out to search for her glass.
"Are you going to drink that?" A voice beside her asked. Eponine groaned and looked up into the blue eyes of the somewhat sober Grantaire. Her headache intensified at the mere sight of him. The student sat down in the stool next to her and reached for her whiskey.
"Eponine- What the deuce…?" Grantaire did a double take. He barely recognized the gamine who always seemed to be following Marius. He had seen dogs in better condition.
"Shut up, shut up, and give me my whiskey." Eponine mumbled, pulling her glass towards her. Grantaire dexterously reached over and snatched the glass from her hand, and downed it in one gulp.
"You're better off with water," He explained, waving the barmaid over. "A pitcher of water, if you will."
The barmaid placed a pitcher of water and two glasses in front of him. He poured water into both glasses, and looked up at Eponine.
She was watching Marius, as usual, as well as the rest of les Amis. Enjolras and Combeferre were reading, while Prouvaire wrote in a notebook. Feuilly casually said something about Marius's mystery girl. Marius reddened, while Enjolras rolled his eyes and Courfeyrac laughed. One more shot to Eponine's heart.
"What has happened to you? You're lucky that looks aren't everything, because in your case, they aren't anything." Grantaire pushed the glass of water to her, ignoring the murderous look he got in return. He felt a chill nonetheless; her sunken, bruised eyes intensified the already terrible stare.
"Brandy, please," Eponine growled to the barmaid, ignoring the water and Grantaire's disapproving glare.
"Thank you, Grantaire, for your concern," Eponine said sarcastically. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not. You're bleeding." Grantaire conjured a handkerchief from his coat and soaked it in the water. "Come here," He said, reaching for Eponine's face. The whiskey made him brave, and he leant over to try to clean the girl's bleeding face. Eponine's stomach flipped in revulsion at his benevolent advance.
She jerked away as the cold cloth touched her lip. "Don't touch me!" Her insides revolted against Grantaire's proximity and she shuddered. A thousand thoughts and feelings flashed through her mind; a finger crooked at her in the darkness, the hand that was for a moment gentle turning hard and bruising her, a rope tying her wrists together, and her shoulders wrenching as her arms were forced above her head.
"Eponine, come here," Grantaire insisted, trying to clean the blood and dirt from the girl's face. Eponine swatted at him as he leaned towards her with the handkerchief. Grantaire forced the kerchief onto her face, and Eponine boxed his ear. She raised her fist and shook it to prevent him from trying again. Her skin crawled at the man's touch. Even though Grantaire was gentle, the thought of being touched by a man made Eponine want to crawl away and die. She almost lost her small stomach content right there.
Eponine shoved Grantaire away when the barmaid placed the bottle of brandy in front of her. She grabbed it and drank deeply before Grantaire could say a word.
The alcohol burned her throat, but warmed her body and alleviated her headache slightly. She brought the bottle to her lips for another draught, then another.
When that bottle was gone, she waved for another. She didn't even perceive that Grantaire was still next to her, drinking his poison of choice, absinthe.
Slowly the lights began to blur, and the chatter of the students became soft background noise. The room swam about Eponine's eyes, distorting her vision and judgment. At least her head no longer ached. She kissed the bottle once more, drinking to quench a thirst she didn't know she possessed.
Grantaire watched the bedraggled girl through a less heavy haze, and could see that she was in pain. It wasn't his problem. The absinthe confirmed this for him, and turned his thoughts to other things. He looked at his friends, sitting in the corner of the tavern. They were reading, joking, laughing, and drinking, as they always did after a day of classes, speeches, and a gathering at the Café Musain. He could hear them from his bar stool, goading Enjolras to join them in their merrymaking.
"Enjolras, the Republic can wait!" Bahorel exclaimed jokingly.
The Amis suddenly grew quiet as Enjolras looked up, a slight glitter of amusement in his blue eyes.
"But can it?" He said softly. "We drink and we eat tonight, and we say, tomorrow we shall help the lower class. Tomorrow we will work to liberate those who cannot speak for themselves. But today, today is still a day of anguish for them. They don't stop suffering because we promise them tomorrow." The entire tavern was silent, and Enjolras's quiet words drifted through Eponine's and Grantaire's alcohol haze. The two looked up to hear him.
"Today they are in the street, my friends. Right now there are children dying of hunger, women dying of disease, and men dying of hard labor. And for what? Food to keep them alive for one more day?" He let the question hang in the air for a moment, and continued. "It is a vicious circle for the poor. The rich do what they do so that they stay rich and the rest struggle to survive a day. How can we let this happen? How can we allow children waste away in the darkness, untouched by the light of day? How can we let women whore themselves just to buy a scrap of bread?"
Eponine's blood boiled at his mention of prostitutes. Why; she did not know. But she listened all the more intently for it.
Enjolras stood and addressed the Amis.
"Times are changing, my friends. We must be the ones to change them! We must be the ones to bring the light of liberty to the streets. We must speak for the people, and grant them their rights! So, no, the Republic cannot wait for us to finish our ales. Forget tomorrow; we must seize the day!" His short speech ended with cheers from his friends.
"Carpe diem," Someone threw out there.
Enjolras sat back down, and put a pen to a scrap of paper and began writing furiously.
"What are you planning now, Enjolras?" Combeferre asked him.
"I believe that we need to address the "leaders" of our land," Enjolras replied. "The cost of living has increased yet again, and rents have gone up alongside taxes. I see it every day; more and more people are being tossed out of their lodgings for lack of money to pay their landlords. We must petition to have taxes lowered."
Grantaire had been listening in from across the room, and wobbled his way to the corner occupied by the Amis. "And that's going to solve everything? A petition? Words have always been your forte, Enjolras, but words alone won't grant you a Republic."
"And so the faithful wine cask returns," Enjolras muttered, and then cleared his throat. "Tell me what to do so that I may be 'granted a Republic'."
Grantaire laughed. "I," He said, and slumped into a chair at the table, "have no idea. I just know that yours is bad." Enjolras narrowed his eyes at the inebriated man.
Combeferre sensibly changed the subject. "What in God's name is sitting at the bar? I've encountered more attractive corpses on the streets."
"It's that Thenardier- Jondrette- ah, that girl that follows Marius around like a lost little dog." Grantaire said, waving a hand.
"She looks to be in pretty bad shape," Combeferre said, eyebrows furrowing.
"Rough night working the street corners?" Bahorel ventured.
"She's bound to catch her death. They all are," Joly said. He wrung his hands, distressed, as if just speaking of sexually transmitted diseases would give him herpes.
"She looks half dead as it is," Jean Prouvaire said. "And drunker than the standard-issue Grantaire."
"Her nose is broken," Joly said. "She's had some blunt force trauma on her torso, and ligature marks on her wrists. In conclusion, she's in more than pretty bad shape."
"Who?" Marius suddenly joined the conversation, pulling his head from his thoughts.
"Eponine," Grantaire slurred.
"Oh," Marius simply said, and returned to studying a handkerchief. The simultaneous eye rolls of Les Amis were almost audible.
The students were quiet for a moment.
Combeferre was first to speak again. "…Should we speak to her?"
Eponine heard it all, and buried her face in her hands so as not to see the looks on their faces. She did not want their pity. She sipped at her brandy again, enjoying the way it made the room spin.
"Leave her with her drink," Enjolras said evenly. "She does not want our help." Eponine let out a sigh of relief. Tipping the bottle to her lips, she closed her eyes and tried to ignore the men in the corner. But their conversation floated across the room to her anyways.
"I hear her father's a real bastard," Bahorel said quietly. "Hear he's in with that one street gang. What was it they called themselves?"
"Patron-Minette," Courfeyrac supplied.
"Yes, that's it. Those three brutes are of the worst sort. Liars, murderers, thieves and rapists, the lot of them."
"Hear, hear," Joly said. He jerked his head in Eponine's direction. "Think she's something?"
"A street walker, that's all," Prouvaire replied flippantly.
Choruses of 'poor girl' and 'damned shame' went up.
Eponine looked up darkly at them. If they knew her part in her father's business with Patron-Minette, they wouldn't be so sympathetic.
Who were they to speak of her as if they knew her? They didn't know her. They could never know her, and they would never really want to know her. Les Amis were content playing with their guns and propaganda, and talking idly about liberating the oppressed. But when they ended their nights, they had enough money to buy dinner, and not worry about being hungry when the sun came up. They paid their rent on time. The fan maker was the only man who had to work, but it wasn't hard and it paid him well.
They were just a bunch of pretty boys.
"I heard that Thenardier threw his three sons out of his house!" Feuilly said.
Eponine heard enough. She grabbed her bottle of brandy, pulled her hat low over her eyes, and staggered out the tavern door. She felt the eyes of the students burning holes in her back, but she did not look back as she tripped out onto the street.
But the alcohol made the world turn faster than Eponine could comprehend, and suddenly the cobblestone was rushing towards her face. Starbursts exploded in her vision as her face hit the pavement, and fresh blood exploded from her already tender nose.
The scent of blood turned her gut over, and she raised her head feebly to retch. The alcohol burned twice as bad on the way up then it did on the way down. Eponine pushed herself away from the mess so she would not lie in her own bile.
Inside the tavern, nobody had seen her fall. Enjolras had returned to reading, and Courfeyrac, Grantaire, and Bahorel had begun one of their vulgar drinking songs.
Enjolras became tenser and tenser as he scribbled on the paper, the words becoming flames in his heart, fueling a fire he would use to light France ablaze. His incendiary thoughts, empowered by his knowledge, would cause the leaders of the land to burn. The streets of Paris would be alight with the oppressed, singing the song of the revolution! The song of which Enjolras had written the words! It was an amazing thought, one that plagued Enjolras constantly and pressed him to continue with his work.
Combeferre touched Enjolras's shoulder gently. "Why do we do this, Enjolras?" He asked quietly.
"What do you mean?" Enjolras questioned, startled out of his reverie. He set his pen down and looked into the eyes of his good friend.
"This," Combeferre gestured broadly to Les Amis. "The revolution."
"For a republic," Enjolras replied, almost scared by Combeferre's question. "Don't tell me you are losing faith in us now, Combeferre!"
"I have all the faith in the world in you," Combeferre reassured. "But indulge me this."
"We want to have a say in who runs our France," Enjolras said slowly. "We want to be able to speak for ourselves."
"And who will profit from that?" Combeferre pressed, tightening his grip on Enjolras's shoulder.
"My friend, you're beginning to scare me!"
Enjolras paused, as if to gather his thoughts. "We will profit from it," He said. "The poor will profit from it, because they are suffering the most."
"When did they specifically ask for help from us?" Combeferre continued.
"Just because they do not ask for help does not mean they do not need it," Enjolras said, then it dawned on him, and he groaned. "Combeferre, why did you make me say that?"
"I didn't make you say it. You knew it, but I think you needed to hear yourself say it again," Combeferre said, and squeezed the back of Enjolras's neck. "Sometimes you can be so thick."
Combeferre walked off, leaving Enjolras alone with his thoughts. Enjolras knew exactly what his friend was implying, but was hesitant on acting on it.
Maybe a walk in the night would clear his mind.
Worth continuing? Please let me know.