Author's Note: So this idea came to me when I got thinking about what would've happened if Éponine had gotten to deliver Marius' letter directly to Cosette instead of to Valjean. It kind of ended up expanding so that it's Éponine's perspective on everything that happens between when she first sees Cosette and her death at the barricade. There's a lot of overlap with the musical, so be warned. This chapter doesn't contain a ton of new material, mostly just insight into how she feels. Probably a two-shot. Please read and review!
Also I obviously own none of Les Mis or any of the lyrics.
Éponine sat in shock. She hadn't thought about Cosette in years. She wouldn't have recognized her, not ten years later and looking so clean and healthy. She was pretty. Éponine didn't know if Cosette had been pretty as a child. She hadn't ever noticed.
But Marius had noticed. She'd seen him look at Cosette the way he'd never looked at her. The way she wished he'd look at her. Why? Was Cosette really so remarkable? Or was it her appearance? Éponine had worn pretty clothes once. And she's barely glanced twice at little Cosette, grimy and covered in rags. Was she herself so invisible now?
Marius came around the corner, interrupting her thoughts. Éponine jumped up and ran to him.
"Good god, oh what a rumpus!"
Marius clearly wasn't listening. "That girl, who can she be?"
Éponine didn't want to hear any more about it. She continued as if she hadn't heard. "That cop, he'd like to jump us, but he ain't smart, not he."
Her friend wasn't distracted. "Éponine, who was that girl?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Some bourgeois, two-a-penny thing."
"Éponine, find her for me?"
No, she wouldn't. He could forget Cosette, she wouldn't find her for him. She stalled, saying the first thing that came to mind. "What'll you give me?"
She regretted the words the second she said them. She sounded like a beggar.
Éponine shook her head. "Got you all excited now, but God knows what you see in her. Ain't you all delighted now-"
She stopped. He was holding out a coin. Did he really think she was just another urchin he could bribe? But then, she had asked. Her pride stinging, she brushed him off. "No, I don't want your money, sir."
Marius stepped closer, taking her hands gently. "Éponine, do this for me. Discover where she lives. But careful as you go, don't let her father know. 'Ponine, I'm lost until she's found."
Éponine smiled sadly. At the end of the day, she'd do anything for him. And he was asking because he knew she could do it. Only Gavroche knew the city better. She tried to tease him again, but it was hard to force any merriment into her voice.
"You see, I told you so," she said. "There's lots of things I know."
With a grin, Marius rushed off down the street. Éponine just stared after him.
"'Ponine, she knows her way around."
Shaking her head sadly, she ran off down the street. Cosette and her father had looked well-dressed enough to live in any of the big houses past the church. She'd start on the Rue Plumet, the grandest of all the streets. She liked it there, anyway. The begging was good, if nobody chased her off. And it was nice to imagine that one day one of the beautiful houses might belong to her and Marius.
Éponine walked up the street, peering through gates. She didn't know how she'd tell if Cosette was inside one of the houses, or if she lived there and wasn't home. Her best hope was to find her in a garden.
She was nearing the end of the street and starting to wonder where to look next when her heart stopped. There she was, sitting alone on a stone bench just beyond one of the iron gates. Éponine ducked quickly out of sight. No excuses now. She'd have to bring Marius here. Her heart sinking, she started back toward the ABC Cafe, knowing she'd find him there.
Éponine's head was still spinning as she walked. Cosette. Hard to believe that little waif of a thing had grown into such a person. They hadn't known each other well as children. Éponine had never really harbored any ill-feeling toward the girl her parents had turned into a slave. She hadn't really thought about her much. All she knew was that her parents liked to abuse Cosette, and as long as she went along with it, she didn't get the same. She hadn't even resented Cosette when that man had taken her away. Envied her, oh yes. Éponine's life had worsened significantly when Cosette left. Deprived of their former victim, the Thénardiers had turned to her instead. Éponine was glad Cosette had found this new life after all she'd been through. Éponine certainly hadn't survived the same treatment nearly so well.
Sure enough, Marius sat at a table in the ABC Cafe with his friends. They were all talking excitedly, but he stared off into space. Éponine touched his shoulder, and he started.
"Éponine!" he exclaimed. "Éponine, Lamarque is dead. It's going to happen. The revolution. We're actually going to do it."
His friend nodded. "I knew it would happen eventually. Marius… Marius, I found C- I found her." He didn't need to know she knew Cosette's name. This would be hard enough as it was.
Marius jumped up. "What would I do without you? Take me to her, 'Ponine?"
Éponine just nodded and started for the door.
They found Cosette just where Éponine had left her. The way Marius looked at her… Éponine didn't want to think about it.
He stared through the gate at her, grinning. "In my life she has burst like the music of angels, the light of the sun. And my life seems to stop as if something is over and something has scarcely begun."
Éponine started to slip away, but Marius turned to her. "Éponine, you're the friend who has brought me here. Thanks to you I am one with the gods and heaven is near." He turned back to look at his beloved. "And I soar through a world that is new that is free!"
Éponine just stared at him. He was perfect. No one had ever been so good to her. If only he'd ask her, she'd be his in a moment. But he would never ask. He had touched her life and her soul, and he would never know.
Marius jolted her out of her thoughts as he touched her shoulder, asking her to wait, and climbed over the gate into the courtyard. Éponine nodded sadly. Of course she would wait. She always did.
Tears began to roll down her face as Marius and Cosette spoke, professing their love for one another. She shook her head, scolding herself. It was foolish, really, to feel like she was losing him. He had never been hers to begin with. And now he never would be. Hadn't she known that all along?
Éponine heard voices behind her and whirled around. Her father's gang was headed up the street. She strained her ears to hear as they got closer.
"I smell profit here," her father was saying. "Ten years ago he came and paid for Cosette. I let her go for a song, it's time we settled the debt."
Éponine's head spun as the gang started bickering. They were going in there. Marius and Cosette wouldn't know until it was too late. She knew her father wouldn't hesitate to hurt them. And Marius would be found out. It had been so important to him to keep the meeting secret.
Suddenly, Brujon grabbed her, dragging her from the shadows. "What have we here?"
Thénardier looked at her disdainfully. "Who is this hussy?"
"It's your brat Éponine, don't you know your own kid?" Babet scoffed. "Why's she hanging about you?"
"Éponine, get on home," her father ordered. "You're not needed in this, we're enough here without you."
She'd never run with his filthy gang again. "I know this house, I tell you. There's nothing here for you, just the old man and the girl. They live ordinary lives."
She flinched as her father started toward her. "Don't interfere! You've got some gall. Take care, young miss, you've got a lot to say." Éponine didn't miss the threat in his voice.
"She's going soft!" Brujon exclaimed.
"Happens to all," Claquesous agreed.
Montparnasse leered at her. "Go home, 'Ponine, go home, you're in the way."
She had to do something. "I'm gonna scream, I'm gonna warn them here!"
Thénardier shoved her away. "One little scream and you'll regret it for a year."
Éponine gulped. If there was one thing she knew about her father, it was that he didn't make idle threats. She took a deep breath and let out a piercing shriek.
"Make for the sewers!" Thénardier shouted. "Get underground! Leave her to me, don't wait around." He rounded on his daughter. "You wait my girl, you'll rue this night. I'll make you scream, you'll scream all right!"
With that, he disappeared into the shadows just as Marius and Cosette reached the gate.
"It was your cry, sent them away," he exclaimed. "Once more, 'Ponine, saving the day. Dearest Cosette, my friend 'Ponine brought me to you, showed me the way."
Cosette and Éponine locked eyes. Éponine could tell right away that the other girl recognized her. What must she think, her childhood tormenter covered in rags and taking care of her lover?
Marius whirled at a sound behind him and began climbing over the gate. "Someone is near, let's not be seen. Somebody's here!"
Éponine tore herself away from Cosette and followed Marius to a hiding place in the trees. Cosette's father rushed into the courtyard and Éponine tugged at Marius' arm.
"Let us go, let's not be seen."
He shook her off. "I'll stay, I must say farewell. Thank you for your help, 'Ponine."
She sighed. "You're secret's safe, I'll never tell." As quietly as she could, she slipped out into the street and hurried away.
Éponine wandered for a long time, feeling lost. The sky had begun to lighten. She couldn't go home, that much was certain. Her father would still be seething, and she didn't particularly feel like adding physical bruises to her heartache. Not that she expected to escape punishment entirely; if her father had held a grudge against Cosette's father for ten years, he was hardly likely to forget how she'd thwarted his revenge in a matter of days. But she could wait until his temper subsided so maybe he wouldn't hit quite so hard.
She walked for a long time. It was only when she arrived that she realized she'd been heading for the ABC Cafe. To her surprise, she found a Enjolras and Grantaire—who looked sober for once—sitting at one of the tables. So this was it. It was finally going to happen.