Title: One Inch
Disclaimer: Les Misérables and all its associated characters do not belong to me. Also, I do not have a medical background, so please suspend disbelief with me (you will see what I mean).
Summary: One inch was all it took for Éponine's life to be spared and it altered the fates of four people. Éponine/Enjolras.
Author's Notes: This fic is the definition of AU, since I'm curious to explore how (or whose) lives would have been altered had Éponine survived.
One inch was all it took for her life to be spared. The soldier pulled the trigger and had the bullet hit her one inch to the side, it would have pierced her lungs and there would have been nothing that anyone could have done to stop her from painfully bleeding out with every breath she took.
As such, she twisted the mouth of the rifle to such an angle that the bullet hit her square in the chest, but managed to miss every vital organ and exited out the back.
It was a one in a million shot that, unbeknownst to those affected, had dramatically altered the fates of four people.
Still, Éponine fell and started bleeding profusely after she was shot. She had done it for Marius to save his life. Her mind was filled with his name as (she thought) she lay there dying. It took a while for Marius to notice her state, but when he did, he rushed to her side. She gave him Cosette's letter, feeling happy that he was finally holding her, happy to have the opportunity to prove her love by dying for him. It was a sacrifice that she was content to make.
She didn't feel any pain. Instead, she thought she felt the air beginning to mist, like the sky was crying for her, and spoke of how the rain will make the flowers grow. She finally told Marius how she felt about him and she thought she saw real anguish in his eyes. Maybe he did after all love her too on some level. She made him promise to kiss her after she'd gone. She would have still felt it, she said.
Then everything went black. Éponine thought she'd finally be at rest.
No such luck.
Though Éponine's eyes had closed and her body had gone still, her heart was still beating. Marius did not realize this of course, as he clutched her close to him, not knowing whether it was his tears or the rain that had made her skin and hair feel so wet against his cheek.
He did not see Enjolras nod to Combeferre to take Éponine's body off Marius' arms. He only felt the slight weight easing off his lap and looked to see his blood-stained fingers still clutching tightly at Cosette's letter. He felt Enjolras' steady hand on his shoulder.
Suddenly... "She is still breathing!"
Everyone were startled to hear Combeferre's shout. He was placing his face near Éponine's nose and mouth.
"Yes, she is alive! She is breathing!"
Enjolras was the quickest to rise and beckoned Joly, the other medical student among them, to follow Combeferre into the cafe to try and save Marius' poor friend.
"There is hope yet, Marius," he said to his crying friend. "What is her name?"
Marius rose slowly and looked dazed, "Éponine. Her name is Éponine."
"Come. Let us try and save Éponine."
Enjolras and Marius entered the cafe to see Combeferre bending over Éponine, examining her wound, while Joly had one of her wrists in his hand, presumably checking her pulse. Her other hand was held by Gavroche, who was steadily crying.
"She is my sister."
Marius went to stand next to the little gamin, putting his arm around the boy's shoulders.
"How is she?" Enjolras asked Joly and Combeferre in a low voice.
"She is very lucky. The bullet has gone through and does not seem to have perforated any major organs," replied Combeferre. "However, I will need to stop this bleeding if she were to survive."
"Her pulse is very faint. She will not last long if we do not close up the bullet wound," said Joly.
"Can you do so with what we have here?" Enjolras asked, looking around the cafe for what they might use for gauze and bandages.
Jean Prouvaire produced some table rags that he'd found behind the bar. Combeferre took them from him and pressed them against Éponine's wound, "We can use these to staunch the wound for the moment, but these are not sterile. She will get an infection if we use these as bandages."
"I have a small amount of chlorine and hypochlorite in my satchel, but no bandages. Courfeyrac, would you mind?" Joly pointed to his bag, which the other man fetched for him.
"If we survive this, I will never jest again about your hypochondriac tendencies, mon ami," said Courfeyrac.
While the two medical students went to work, Enjolras considered the next course of action. They had to move Éponine out of the barricade so she could receive proper medical treatment. There was no other option.
Seemingly to have read his mind, Joly looked at him and said, "I have plenty of gauze, bandages, and other medical equipment in my apartment, Enjolras. It is not far from here. Combeferre and I can take her through the side street. Musichetta will be nearby. We can leave the mademoiselle with her once we have got her stabilized and we will return with more supplies… Just in case." He added the last bit rather quietly.
"Please, monsieur, please save my sister," said Gavroche, his eyes pleading with Enjolras.
In fact, every pair of eyes were looking at him, waiting for his command. It amazed him that his friends would still ask his permission to save a girl's life. It really brought home the terrifying fact that all of their lives were very much in his hands. Did they really think of him that cold, that he was such a heartless statue that he would deprive a young boy an opportunity for his sister's life to be saved? Even if it meant that he would be down two men in the pending fight for their lives.
No, Enjolras was not heartless. Besides, he had a feeling that they would need those provisions. It perhaps spoke to their (or his?) youthful confidence (delusion? arrogance?) that they had not even thought to stock medical kits in the Café Musain. Even if not for Éponine, he needed to ensure that Combeferre and Joly had ready access to medical supplies. Just in case…
"Of course. Go. Do not come back until she is out of danger," he said to Combeferre and Joly, both of whom swiftly moved to prepare Éponine for transport.
"Thank you, Enjolras," said Marius, speaking for the first time since they brought Éponine inside the cafe.
He turned to look at his friend and Gavroche, "You should go with her."
"No, we need all the men we can have," replied Marius resolutely, placing one hand on Enjolras' shoulder.
"Yes, I want to stay and fight, Monsieur," said the gamin. "I can't help Messieurs Combeferre and Joly fix my sister, but I can help you fight here. I will see her after we have won."
Seeing the determination in the boy's face, Enjolras could only nod in agreement.
Together the group walked Combeferre and Joly to the back of the building that opened up to the side street. Combeferre had Éponine in his arms, while Joly pressed the rags against her chest and held up a light.
"We will be back as soon as we can. A few hours at the latest," said Combeferre.
For once, the members of Les Amis de l'ABC were all quiet as they watched the two medical students walked away in the dark with the wounded gamine, not knowing, though perhaps suspecting, that it would be the last time that some of them would ever see Combeferre and Joly again in this world.
Author's Notes: Confession, I have neither read the brick nor seen the musical, so my first (and only) exposure to Les Mis was the movie. As such, my impression of the characters comes mostly from the film, but also from a bit of research, other fics, and discussions. So let me know if anyone's wildly out of character. Also, while I have already partially written the next part, I need assistance with the timeline. So would anyone who's seen the musical and/or read the book be able to help me? Where did Jean Valjean take Marius to recuperate? Where did Marius wake up before he went back to Café Musain? And later, when Marius was talking to JV and JV told Marius that he was leaving and to pass a message on to Cosette, where were they? How come Cosette was not there? How come Cosette did not realize that her father had gone, when he left in the middle of the day? I might try and wiki this as well.