Author's Note: I will, I will, I will work on my Narnia fic and I am working on my Tintin fic—but this plot bunny will not leave me be until I give it a carrot, so indulge me . . . and my bunny. :) This fic is mostly a mix of book and musical since I started it way back in August, before the movie came out. Aaron Tveit is the model for Enjolras physically. I love Ramin Karimloo's Enjolras (and originally he was the model for this fic), but since this is a mixture of book and musical, Aaron Tveit fits the book's description (plus he's reaaally grown on me). Samantha Barks is Éponine.
Éponine Thénardier gazed down at the Seine swirling black beneath her feet; her thoughts and emotions just as dark and turbulent.
She had lost her last shred of innocence the night before.
She had tried to be good, she really had.
All for Marius.
He was the reason she had been making a concerted effort over the past three months to keep out of her father's schemes. She wanted to be clean for him. She did not know how clean she had to feel before she felt herself worthy of him . . . pure enough to confess those long held affections . . .
Her feelings for Marius Pontmercy were her only joy; they raised her up out of the debris of her tattered life and into the light. That light sustained her in the darkness and the hope of love requited kept her going.
But, staying uninvolved in the Patron-Minette was harder than one would think. Her father was of the league that said, "you don't work, you don't eat." That would seem a sensible—almost noble statement if her father's version of "work" had been honest.
M. Thénardier had many schemes for her and her younger sister, Azelma to enact. Chief of these was delivering letters. Some were cons, Thénardier writing in the voice of different, imaginary people, begging for monetary assistance, or, even darker: letters of blackmail. When this scheme was not enough M. Thénardier concocted a second. Out of the two girls Éponine was the one whose looks had not been completely ruined by poverty. He had her pose as an independent prostitute to lure men into an alley or any place out of sight; then before the men got their money's worth Thénardier would appear and knock them unconcious, then relieve them of their purse.
It was a lucrative scheme. The side of Éponine's character that came from her father told her to be pleased with herself. But, then she would see Marius and guilt would gnaw at the back of mind. Sweet, clean, Marius. But, she knew in order to live she would have to continue the "work" and every night her conscience pricked her heart.
After working the con for two months her father began to get overconfident and sloppy. Once, Thénardier caroused a little too long and showed up late. Fortunately the "customer" also had a little too much to drink and Éponine was able render him insensible by on her own and make her escape. She was beaten by her father that night for failing to snatch the man's purse.
"That was the last thing on my mind, pére," Éponine spat, clutching her swiftly bruising side. Her father was always careful not to beat her face, her one marketable feature.
After that narrow escape she vowed, for her own sake as well as for Marius', to find real work.
No respectable business would take her due to her impoverished appearance and lack of formal education. They would not even hear her out when she tried to convince them of her competence. Not even the local laundress would take her on.
Éponine kept up the job hunt for two weeks before hunger drove her back home and back to working the con.
And then the worst happened.
Thénardier was late again.
The intended victim did not appreciate the sudden resistance. And then he got a good look at her and gripped both her thin wrists in his large hand.
"I know you . . . You're the brat who brought that letter to my firm . . . the one threatening to inform my colleagues about certain bribes . . ."
"Please, Monsieur Bambatois, let me go!"
"I should take you to the police."
Éponine panicked and lunged forward, sinking her teeth into Bambatois' bicep, he yelped but did not let go.
"You little devil! I've changed my mind . . . I'll take what I came for!" He pressed her up against the wall, the brick dug painfully into her bare arms.
It was very quick and very painful.
"A virgin prostitute? Well, well. What a pleasant surprise . . ."
Thénardier arrived in the alley to find Éponine curled up in a ball on the dirty cobblestones.
"'Ponine . . . ?" he whispered, uncertain.
"Where were you?" the girl ground out.
Thénardier had the decency to allow an expression of remorse cross his face, but said nothing. He stared dumbly at his daughter's crumpled form.
"Where were you?"
Éponine's harsh cry snapped him back to reality and what was left of Thénardier's fatherly instincts went back into hiding. The former innkeeper let out a harsh bark of laughter.
"Made an honest woman out of you, did he?" Thénardier laughed again at his own tasteless joke.
Éponine raised her head to glare at the man she had the misfortune to call father. He saw the look in the dim light and jabbed a finger in her direction.
"Hey! You knew the risks. You knew what you were getting into, so don't blame me!" Thénardier turned on his heel and began to walk out of the alley. Before he left he glanced over his shoulder.
"Are you coming?" He asked gruffly. When he received no reply he departed, leaving his broken daughter behind in the alley.
. . . . . .
When Éponine did come home she found a half crust of white bread waiting for her.
White bread . . . how long had it been since she had tasted it?
"Be grateful for that, my pet. Your father took some risk to get it."
Éponine turned to look at her mother, but Madame Thénardier refused to meet her gaze. "That's all the apology you're going to get from him."
Éponine ate her crust slowly.
. . . . . .
The next day Marius ran into Cosette and the last of Éponine's dreams were dashed.
. . . . . .
". . . I've written letter upon letter to the government to lower the cost of living, for the sake of those who could barely fill their aching bellies before the prices soared. Not a one petition has been answered! So then, the time for words is over!"
He was in rare form tonight. Enjolras had been delivering his speech standing on the tables in the backroom of the Café Musain. His heart swelled as his eyes swept over his comrades. Enjolras thanked his barrister father—God rest his soul—for passing the gift of oration onto his son.
The leeches of the ruling class would listen to him—and if not to his voice, to his force of arms.
Enjolras waited for the cheers of approval that usually followed his speeches . . . and instead was met with the buzz of unrelated conversations. He had been so swept up with his visions of the future glory of France that it took him a moment to realize he did not have his friends' undivided attention. They were all huddled around Marius who was regaling them with stories of his newfound ladylove.
Enjolras glanced down at his feet where Grantaire was resting his drunk head.
"Hey," Enjolras nudged Grantaire's head with the toe of his boot, "tell me you were at least listening."
Grantaire lifted his head a little. "Hrrm? Ah . . . of course . . . death to all Orléanists . . ." After that contribution he put his head back on the table.
Enjolras groaned and dabbed the sweat off his forehead with a handkerchief. These interruptions of the lovelorn Pontmercy had been going on for two meetings straight and it was beginning to wear on Enjolras' patience. And he already was short on patience when it came to women and romantic nonsense.
Enjolras grew up the only son of an influential lawyer who had inherited a vast estate after the death of his elder brother. From the time he was seven years old Enjolras' mother had paraded before him an unending line of eligible marriage prospects. One top of that he had three sisters who spent their days giggling over boys and cooing over fashion plates. And his classmates wondered why he avoided women. His time at university was his only escape.
Enjolras let out a long-suffering sigh and hopped off the table. He yanked his coat and Marius' from off the peg, then grabbed Marius by the back of his starched collar and dragged him outside.
"Bonne nuit, mes amis!" Enjolras called out before slamming the door.
. . . . .
"Pontmercy, you are either devoted to the cause one hundred percent or not at all!"
Enjolras was close to yelling in his friend's ear as they walked swiftly along the riverbank, back to their respective apartments.
"I only accepted you into our group on Courfeyrac's recommendation, despite your taxing attachment to Buonaparte. Now you constantly interrupt the work of Les Amis by this new idol of yours. I cannot have butterflies in the group, we need dedication. If you want to stay I need to know our cause has your full concentration—"
"Hey! There's my friend Éponine. Hey, 'Ponine!"
The girl sucked in a breath and stepped back from the Seine. She had been so lost in her morbid thoughts she had not noticed the object of her affections until he was practically standing next to her.
"Monsieur Marius . . . wh-what are you doing here?"
"Are you alright, 'Ponine? Your eyes are red, like you've been crying."
"Crying? Me? No! I just sat too near to the fire at home, you know how it smokes something awful."
Marius wrinkled his nose. Éponine's heart skipped. She loved it when he did that.
"Enjolras and I were just walking back from our meeting at the café. Have you met my friend Grégoire Enjolras?"
Éponine glanced over Marius' shoulder at the taller young man standing behind him. His golden locks picked up slivers of moonlight, creating a faint halo and his gray-blue eyes were focused on the river. He seemed oblivious to their conversation, but his long fingers tapped against the large books in his arms, betraying his impatience.
Éponine had seen Enjolras several times before over the course of her acquaintance with Marius. She had seen the grim young man giving speeches in the back rooms of the Café Musain; pretty words of equality, liberty and such and such. Éponine little heeded such things; she was only there for Marius after all.
"No. But, I'm sure your important friend would not want to meet the likes of me."
The older boy stopped tapping.
"Mademoiselle, you are a citizen of France, no better or worse than anyone else."
Éponine let out a snort of derision and looked up at the young revolutionary. His dark eyes were latched onto hers, as if daring her to disagree with his truth. Éponine stared unabashedly back. There was no challenge in her eyes, but no surrender either.
"Before I go," Marius cut into the match, "I would ask you a favor."
"Anything, Monsieur," Éponine said eagerly, forgetting the apparent contest. She heard a faint sigh of exasperation and impatience from the les amis de l'ABC's leading member.
Marius pulled an envelope out of his waistcoat pocket. "Would you see to it that this reaches Mademoiselle Cosette?"
Éponine gazed down at the innocent looking envelope being held out to her then looked up to see that Enjolras was watching her, obliquely. His gaze seemed to hold a mixture of disinterest and pity, if that were even possible. Finally, he rolled his eyes and looked away.
His pity and flippancy angered Éponine. She drew herself to her full height and snatched the letter from Marius' hands. "I will do my best."
"Good girl! Thank you so much, 'Ponine! I knew I could count on you!"
Éponine blushed under his enthusiastic praise.
Marius began to walk away and Enjolras followed. But, as he passed he murmured to her.