A/N: Hello, readers! This is my first writing foray into this ship/fandom, so I beg your patience with me throughout this process. My French is extremely rusty, as is my French history. This story follows the movie/show version of Les Misérables and not Victor Hugo's novel. Therefore, literary references will be scarce, and some established elements/relationships will be changed altogether. I think it's worth noting, too, that my Enjolras and Éponine are based off of Aaron Tveit's and Samantha Barks's stellar performances from the film, as are any other familiar characters you'll encounter. This story is an experiment, but one I sincerely hope that readers of this fandom will enjoy.
To my familiar (SSHG!) readers, I'm working on new material, I promise. Please see my Profile. ;) And feel free to follow along, if you'd like.
Reviews are welcomed and appreciated! Without your thoughts, it isn't worth sharing.
Disclaimer: Les Misérables is copyrighted to and belongs to Victor Hugo. I'm just playing in his sandbox and receive no financial gain from this. Rats.
The artwork accompanying this story comes courtesy of shriveledwankclaw. Many thanks for the beautiful banner!
Beyond the Barricade
"One more day all on my own..."
A shadow of a figure, dressed in a tattered skirt and fleece with a shall wrapped around her tiny frame, walked the slow progression down a narrow Parisian alleyway, one that reeked of piss poured haphazardly from the apartments above, without care or thought to whom they unwantingly hit on the way down. Dirt and grime covered her bare feet as she made her way through the dark, against deserted cobblestone, pervading the evening breeze that whispered to her to turn around and return from whence she came.
But there was nowhere to return to. No home awaited her, no family to look after and shelter her from the monsters parading the streets in search of victims to pleasure, piss on, or beat up. No, there was nothing that awaited Éponine either here or there. She was a lonely daughter lost long ago to the cold and cruelties of the world in which she was born, to the dank and dreary streets of Paris.
Her parents hadn't given a damn for years, so why she would return to them now was beyond rationale. They hadn't looked for her in weeks; they probably never had. Their only continued need from her was to scrape for money. She had been a commodity to them, nothing more, and if she ever returned with coinage to her credit, she was beaten by her father and verbally assaulted by her mother for her efforts.
No... I can't go back there...
Her younger brother, Gavroche, was dead, and, having been her last link to her old life, she would readily abandon the rest of it. She would sever ties with her remaining family indefinitely. After all, what had they ever done for her except bestow never-ending suffering?
Her sister, Azelma, had chosen to stay, and now Éponine would go. That determination had set her on the path she now found herself, walking the streets aimlessly without a home or a friend, without help or aid, without comfort or care.
Now where to?
In her heart, however, the dark-haired, young woman had already sought the answer before leaving the convent that had restored her to health. She had crawled her way to the steps of the church, unawares of where she was at the time, before closing her eyes and praying that God would take her; take her away to him—the man she had fallen so desperately and deeply in love with who never returned any of her affections. He thought her a tease, a child, a nobody...
And yet, at the time, she thought him dead. She would gladly go with him. There was no use in continuing to wander all the ugliness of the world without him, as he had been the only tangible thing worth hanging on to.
But he lived. He's alive...
Yes, she knew where she wanted to go, but could she bring her prideful self to do it?
Éponine was a master of the streets. She knew Paris like the back of her hand. Her instinct for survival had never failed her—perhaps the only decent awareness her parents had ever instilled in her.
But how could she go to him like this? She was filthy and unfit for his society; she always had been. Yet, the strapping young man had tolerated her presence well enough. He never led her to believe that she was somehow less than he was. After all, he had been a part of the revolution rippling through France, though it had recently gone stagnant, drenched with the blood of his comrades. He had been amongst those who preached equality and democratic freedom to all, including her own.
Éponine had been so besotted by Marius Pontmercy's enthusiasm and good nature that she had been happy to overlook his attention for what it was: charity. Nothing more, her sharp mind would often remind her, and yet, her heart carried on loving him, even as he grew to love another, whilst she stood aside watching in the shadows, lost and overrun with despair.
The barricade to which he and his brothers organized and fought their revolution had been smothered to ruin two months ago, killing everyone in its wake. Éponine was supposed to be amongst the dead that night, reduced to nothing but a rotting corpse, but she had survived. She had found a way to carry on; her instincts hadn't failed her.
Go to him, she told herself as a gentle rain began to fall. He was always good to you... Perhaps he can help you now.
Times were desperate, and even as resourceful as Éponine was, she knew she couldn't go on wandering the streets forever. Besides, wouldn't he be delighted to see her alive and unharmed? They had never finished that heartfelt conversation the night she lay dying in his arms. She had temporarily lost consciousness, and the next thing she knew, the barricade was being overrun, and she had had to crawl her way to safety using what little strength she still had.
Yes, she considered, letting the rain pour down her face and soak the few items of clothing on her back. What did she have to lose?
We must finish that conversation. He must know everything. Perhaps... Perhaps it is not too late.
Marius Pontmercy, a strapping twenty-something lad with dark brown eyes and hair, sat quietly at a serving table in his grandfather's home, staring mindlessly out the window upon the quaint garden that overran the back yard. Anemones and tulips added a host of vibrant colors to the arrangement Monsieur Gillenormand had planted ages ago. Marius had maintained a fond attachment to his grandfather's stately home, and being in the man's good graces again was a welcoming change to the strained relationship they had shared in the not-too-distant past.
Most importantly, however, was the reality that the love of his life—his wife, Cosette—was with him, and her steady, sweet presence was enough to warm any man, including the reserved, easily agitated Monsieur Gillenormand. It amused Marius to see how quickly his grandfather had taken to the pretty youth, and she to him.
There was no mistaking that Cosette calmed Marius in a manner he had never felt since his own mother was alive. Before the ravishing beauty entered the Luxembourg Gardens and stole his heart, Marius had been a charged, reckless young man, ready to lay down his life for the cause he believed in: the French Revolution.
Ah, yes, those passionate sentiments still ran deep within his blood, but he now had her in his life, and having a woman, as was so often told to Marius, could very well change a man, sometimes for the better but too often for the worst.
There was nothing to regret or that one could find ill in his charming, good wife, however.
"What Enjolras must think of me," he smiled to himself, tearing his eyes away from the garden to find the very silhouette of his Cosette looming in the hallway off of the open door. She was dressed in her Sunday's best—a periwinkle gown dawned with navy ribbons and a matching, oversized bonnet.
"You are off, I take it?" he asked, beckoning her to him with a soft gaze that brought out her naturally radiant smile.
"I'm afraid your grandfather is rather insistent," she replied through suppressed giggles.
"It would be untoward if he weren't, my love."
Cosette crossed the room and allowed Marius to seize one of her lace-gloved hands in his. His smile soon faded, however, and he regarded his lady love seriously.
"How is he this morning?"
Cosette gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Still sick with fever, but the fever is down from yesterday."
"That's good news," Marius uttered through a slow breath.
"I know, love. We may need to call on the doctor by nightfall if it worsens, though."
"You think it will?"
"It isn't the first time," Marius finished for her and peered down at his half empty glass of wine. He felt the weightlessness of Cosette's arm wrap itself around his shoulder.
"I know, Marius, but he will get well. Don't lose faith."
Marius's jaw tightened. Thinking positively in the weeks that followed the ambush of the barricade had weakened his resolve, along with his spirits. He had never felt more grateful for Cosette, and their subsequent marriage only solidified his ability to move forward. 'Onward and upward,' as they say.
It wasn't the same for all, however.
"You're staying, I trust?" came his grandfather's hard-biting voice, which interrupted Marius's contemplations about the past. He nodded solemnly to the elderly gentleman with the grey beard and stone-colored eyes that softened when their eyes met. His grandfather nodded back in understanding. "He was sleeping last I checked. That fever should be well looked after."
"I'll stay with him a while," Marius assured them both; it had become rather customary that his wife and grandfather attended Sunday service together, whilst he stayed behind to attend to their guest.
In fact, between the three of them, they had all spent a great deal of time looking after the young man staying in their home, ever since Marius insisted on bringing him to his grandfather's to recoup. His Cosette certainly had no objection, seeing as how highly Marius regarded his good friend, and his grandfather, having just received his grandson back into his clutches, too agreed with surprising ease. It helped that the man had been by the house on several occasions in years' past. To the reserved Monsieur Gillenormand, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Enjolras seemed to be a standup gentleman, even if his ideals were far too radical for his personal tastes.
"Perhaps if that fever comes down, I can bring him out to the garden," Marius suggested, giving them each a thoughtful look over.
"Absolutely not, Marius!" his grandfather all but snarled at him and stomped his cane on the ground. "Outside air would surely be the death of him!"
"Sir, it isn't the dead of winter. I think the fresh, summer air would do Enjolras some good—"
"God Almighty," the old man insisted, sounding a bit breathless. He turned to Cosette for support, as though finding Marius's suggestion the most damnable idea he had ever heard of. "Madame, I sincerely hope you don't attest to such nonsense! The man has been gravely ill for nearly ten weeks! He must stay in bed and recoup."
Marius smiled, entertained by how his grandfather had taken to his dear friend in recent weeks, and gazed up lovingly at his wife. A few blonde curls tumbled down the back of her neck, but the gentle smile she wore was what made his breath stall. Every time. She peered down at him, a mutual understanding in her eyes.
"With all due respect, dearest, I think Enjolras should spend his time in bed until his body rids itself of that fever. Maybe then you can entertain the idea of a garden stroll."
Marius smirked and simply kissed his wife's hand. "As you say, my dear."
"Well, then, now that that's settled, we had best be off, my child. We're already running late!"
Monsieur Gillenormand beckoned Cosette out of the room with a wave of his hand. Cosette quietly strolled on ahead of him but turned back to offer her husband a farewell smile before they both disappeared. The sound of a trotting carriage outside the house soon informed the young Marius that he was entirely alone, save for the servants, and he sighed with some relief at the returning quietude. He remained seated a few minutes longer to finish his wine and gather his thoughts before making his way down an extensive hallway and up a spiraling staircase, passing by Molly, the family maid who had been with him since infancy, as well as Tom, a second attendant who had been with Monsieur Gillenormand for at least a decade.
Marius felt an odd bit of wistfulness as he passed them by, each of whom offered him a friendly greeting. Hadn't it been their class—"the Miserables"—both he and Enjolras had recently fought so hard to elevate? Their efforts had done little good except get a dozen of their friends killed, filling and ranking the Parisian streets with their blood, along with Enjolras's and Marius's broken promises that spoke of a much better future.
Marius was determined, however, to not wallow in his own despair, and just as Cosette had saved him from a sure life of suffering and regret, so would he do so for his best friend, no matter how long it took. It was a fleeting thought he often had before entering the guest quarters that had become Enjolras's room.
Truth be told, Marius's worry hadn't waned since his friend's arrival shortly after the barricade was overrun. If anything, his anxiety had heightened, and with good reason. The man had sustained two bullet wounds to the chest, although, in the hands of doctors, he had narrowly escaped death within an inch of his life. The physical price he had sustained, however, was some days unbearable for Marius to witness, but he couldn't give in to doubt and the possibility of losing his friend. He refused to lose one more brother to the barricade.
The bloody barricade...
It seemed like only yesterday they had lost them all—their friends, their brothers in arms—to the unjust French rule. He and Enjolras had been the only two to survive the onslaught, and, while Marius had gone on to recover from his battle wounds rather quickly, his friend was looking far worse for the ware, and making very little progress towards a healthy recovery.
The fact that Enjolras had survived the bullets that ripped through his flesh was miraculous, a remarkable feat his grandfather was especially hung up on, seeing as even Marius still knew not how he had managed it, nor how he had escaped. Marius was immensely grateful to his grandfather, who made it his business to hire men to look for Enjolras in the aftermath, seeing as Marius was in hospital and incapacitated. He simply needed to know for sure who was alive or dead, and to any who had survived, the door would be open to them as long as his grandfather would allow it.
The hired inquirers discovered Enjolras two days later and Monsieur Gillenormand opened his home to the revolutionist without question, allowing for his safety and welfare to be overseen to in his own home, and all at Marius's request. Inspectors were undoubtedly looking for his good friend, Marius was certain, and this home—this refuge—provided what Enjolras needed, even if the man had begged the inquirers not to bring him at all.
To this day, Marius still hadn't a clue how Enjolras survived or how he slipped out of the clutches of Inspector Javert, but he was grateful that his best friend survived, and fought still. Marius would do whatever he could to help for as long as it took, and, with Cosette at his side, the possibility had never felt more tangible. He could only pray he wasn't disillusioning himself.
Marius paused outside Enjolras's door, which was ajar, before he slowly poked his head inside. Natural light poured into a rather plain-looking room from a window opposite the four-poster bed that his friend occupied. A small bookshelf, a decent-sized writing desk, and a sofa chair made up the remaining furniture.
The room itself was eerily quiet for the moment, save for the strained, noisy breathing coming from Enjolras's bed. Marius spotted his ill friend and froze. It was a sight he had seen countless times over, and yet, his eyes could never grow accustomed to seeing the once strong leader of their revolution reduced to bed-ridden weakness.
No, not like this...
The many blankets covering Enjolras's lean frame had been pushed or kicked down around his waist. He was a remarkably good-looking fellow with short, blonde, curly hair, handsomely sharp features, and piercing blue eyes. The cotton shirt he currently wore was soaked with perspiration as he thrashed his head about in sleep, moaning every so often for relief. It was uncharacteristic of the man to grouse so, like a beaten dog scrounging for some sort of relief.
The normally envious-looking, thick curls were stuck to his forehead, as his entire body was covered in sweat, and his eyes were squeezed shut, as though he were experiencing true physical pain from his fever. Just beneath the man's v-neck shirt was the visible glimpse of one of the two gunshot wounds he had sustained during the attack on the barricade, and catching it always made Marius wince, for he had battle scars of his own. It was an unspoken reminder of what Enjolras and he had endured that summer's eve at the beginning of June.
Marius swallowed his reservations and crossed to Enjolras's bedside. He reached out to feel his friend's forehead and was startled by how warm and worked up he was.
"Enjolras, wake up," he commanded, though softly.
When it didn't work, Marius grabbed his friend by the shoulder and gently pried him awake by shaking him. Even with a burning fever, he suspected what the nightmares Enjolras was reliving in his mind were. The two of them didn't speak of that fateful day often, but there was an unspoken dialogue between the two men that they, alone, understood. Their sleepless nights were uniformly plagued by the horrors of the overrun barricade, the faces of those they had lost inescapable and unforgettable.
"Enjolras, please, wake up. Wake up."
Enjolras's head jerked forward and he awoke with a start, his blue eyes opening to that of the concerned friend looking down upon him. "Marius?" he rasped, his chest heaving.
"It's all right, Enjolras. You were dreaming." Marius reached down and felt the man's forehead a second time as Enjolras's red-rimmed eyes closed. "And you have a fever again."
"What else is new?" he mumbled, breathlessly trying to steady his pounding heartbeat, which felt as though it were being crushed by some ghastly weight pressing on his chest.
His shivering body was soon recovered by a handful of blankets. Enjolras slowly reopened his eyes, his weary self soaking in the familiar surroundings of what had quickly become his room—a place he had yet to leave, much to his dissatisfaction. Not that he was in any condition to do so.
"What days is it?" he asked once his breathing leveled out.
He heard the soft rippling and cascading of water droplets near his bed and soon something warm and wet was being pressed to his forehead. He sighed in contentment and sunk his head into his pillows, re-shutting his eyes.
"Sunday," Marius answered quietly.
He continued to dab Enjolras's brow with the washcloth and water bowl that Cosette had set aside; it was a gesture he repeated so often these days that he hardly thought twice about it. He knew deep down that if their roles were reversed, Enjolras would look after him—and all of their fallen friends—in a heartbeat.
"Not at service this morning?" Enjolras returned in more of a statement than a question.
Marius smirked. "No, not today."
Enjolras's dignified mouth twisted itself into a wry smile, though his eyes remained shut. "I fear I may become the cause of your eternal damnation."
"Highly unlikely, my friend."
"Or your grandfather's, perhaps."
"Now that is far more likely."
The two men chuckled unanimously, though Marius's sober regard soon returned. After allowing silence to fill the void between them for some time, he withdrew the damp cloth and took a seat next to the bed, watching his friend rest, or so he assumed until Enjolras spoke again.
"Is there a breeze?" he whispered, his face turned away towards the window.
"I can open the window further for you."
With barely a sound, Marius stood up, walked to the window, and the shudders creaked as he drew them completely open. It was an overcast day, however, with no real sunlight peeking through the clouds. Marius regarded the rather noiseless Parisian streets below. It was an upscale part of town on the North end of the Seine, less crowded and much more reticent than the streets he and Enjolras so often frequented as university students.
When Marius turned around, he was surprised to find Enjolras still awake, his heavy eyelids half way opened and his peaceful face staring out the window just past Marius's shoulder; but he didn't seem to be seeing anything. There was a faraway look in his eyes, which were once bright and charismatic but were now cold and dark.
"Enjolras?" Marius startled and went to the bed, taking a seat at his side, but the handsome Parisian continued gazing absently out the window, his chest rising and falling in a steady rhythm.
"Do you suppose it will rain today?"
Enjolras's voice sounded tired and drained and Marius couldn't help but turn away, wanting to keep his face as apathetic as possible. He was unaware that Enjolras had slowly drawn his eyes away from the window to look at him. They stared at Marius in a thoughtful silence.
"I suppose it may," Marius whispered.
When he returned his attention to his friend, Enjolras's eyes were beginning to close once more. "You don't have to stay, Marius," Enjolras insisted. "You have a new bride to see to."
"She's with my grandfather now. It's fine."
"Enjolras, I brought you here, and we're going to look after you."
"You needn't have bothered."
"Don't say that," Marius eyebrows knitted together. "You're my friend; you're like a brother to me, and you've become as close to us all now as to be like family."
Enjolras's eyelids drooped and his face rolled sideways, stilling against the pillows that cradled his head. "I'm grateful to you and your family, Marius," he murmured in a more sluggish tone, "but you've done more than enough for me..."
"And what would you suggest?" Marius tried to smile, but his voice was pained. "That I should have left you in the care of that good for nothing wench? What on earth could she have done?"
"She had me looked after just fine..."
Enjolras sniggered roughly, but then his small smile disappeared. His body shifted to try and get more comfortable, but he gave up quickly, keeping his eyes closed against the pains that seemed to rattle him from limb to limb.
Marius reached out and touched his shoulder, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "Rest, Enjolras." After Enjolras settled down, Marius looked him over carefully. "Do you need the doctor?"
He knew what the stubborn gent's reply would be. He never wanted a doctor, even when he direly needed one. Enjolras rolled his head back and forth, his body still trembling with fever.
"If your fever doesn't break today, I'll have to call for one."
"That won't be necessary," Enjolras stated, though on the verge of sleep.
Marius shook his head; he wanted nothing more than to remain positive, but it was proving a half hearted effort.
"Ne fais pas le con!" **
Enjolras's mouth barely broke a smile, as he was far too deep in a near doze to respond back properly. His "Enfoiré!" *** retort was only a whisper but still got Marius chuckling to himself. When his soft laughter subsided, he pulled the covers up more securely around Enjolras's shoulders and stood back, eying his friend attentively as he slept.
This time, there were no nightmares, but Marius wasn't fooled; it was only a matter of time before that fateful day—the death and destruction of everything they had fought for—would resurface.
The nightmares always come back...
"His fever's breaking," Cosette announced to the two men of the house shortly following dinner.
Dressed in less formal attire, Cosette had her hair tied back, though a few loose curls tumbled out of her bun, framing her heart-shaped face rather perfectly. Marius quickly withdrew from the parlor that he and his grandfather had retired to for the evening and followed close at his wife's heel up the stairs and down the hall to Enjolras's room, where the servant, Molly, was currently standing by.
"He's sweatin' it out, sir," she announced when Marius approached the bed, his face marked with concern; she quickly moved away to make room. "I heard him sayin' somethin' or other about a Gavroche an' a Grantaire or some other? I couldn't make out a word of it, sir."
"Thank you, Molly."
Cosette took a seat on the opposite side of the bed and silently took the washcloth from the elderly maid's hand. "Molly, can you bring us some more hot water, and a few fresh towels, please?"
Once they were alone, Marius turned from an incoherent, slumbering Enjolras to Cosette, who looked the epitome of calmness in a storm as she reached out and gently dabbed at the man's face. He flinched and tried to inch away from her touch, though unaware of doing so.
"Should we call on the doctor?" Marius asked, worried.
"I think he may make it through all right with this one, love. It's not as bad as before."
"It's breaking then?"
"Yes." She turned to her frowning husband and offered him a tender, reassuring smile that calmed his breathing. "He'll be all right, Marius. He's a fighter. I don't think this is going to keep him down for long. Remember your own fever? It was much like this."
Marius desperately wanted to believe that that were true, but any small steps towards recovery had been plagued by a grave series of setbacks. This latest episode, he feared, would be no different. Marius tried to simper persuadably for his wife and then took Enjolras by the shoulder to keep him from thrashing about.
"It'll be all right, my friend," he tried to speak to an unconscious Enjolras, who was twisting and turning against his bed sheets. "Hang on. The worst is over."
"Please, Monsieur!" Éponine begged; she was more than prepared to grovel at the servant's feet if it would get her access to the man she so desperately longed to see. "Monsieur Pontmercy knows who I am! I beg of you—"
"You are not fit to be seen!"
The servant named Tom stuck up his nose at the unsightly girl's haggard appearance, at her dirty clothes, mud-covered feet and grimy-looking hair that was half pulled back. She clearly was the most subordinate of society, the lowest of the low. How his employer's grandson could possibly have associated with such a person—such filth!—was beyond the servant's measure of thinking as he stood at attention, scrutinizing the dark-haired woman through beady eyes.
Éponine wrapped her arms tightly around herself. She had never felt so utterly exposed to the cream of society as she did now. If this was the normal conduct of those who had bettered themselves, yet still served only a level or two higher than her, then she desired no part of it. There was only one individual she would make an exception for in a heartbeat, though.
"I... I don't wish to come in. I - I just want to see him."
"No. Get off Monsieur Gillenormand's property. Make yourself scarce. Now!"
Éponine started for the door, but it was abruptly slammed in her face. Tears prickled her eyes, but she wouldn't cry. No, she was a fighter, a survivor of the streets. And this time, she would get what she damned well wanted. She had nothing left to lose.
Éponine stumbled backward in search of an open window. Her immediate instinct was to climb and enter the house unannounced if she had to, but she quickly stomped such a crazy idea out of her mind. What would Marius possibly think of her then?
You're supposed to be dead, Éponine!
This particular summer's night was comfortable enough to let in the gentle breeze coming from the South, where the barricade once stood—where all those young, courageous freedom fighters had fallen—so Éponine sought her advantage, and, in a rare moment, found herself in better luck. Her heart catapulted into her throat at the discovery of a half opened window two stories above. The flickering of faint lighting within told her the room was currently occupied.
Making sure no one was maundering about the streets, Éponine cupped her hands together and called up to whoever's bedroom it was, inwardly praying it was the right one. "Monsieur Marius! Monsieur! Marius!" Oh, please, dear God... "Marius! MARIUS!"
She heard some muffled talking, either between two gentlemen or a gentleman and a woman, before a familiar face—that face—made its appearance at the window, peering down at her through squinted eyes that she recognized instantly. The smile that lit up her grime-ridden face spread wide from ear to ear.
He isn't dead! The rumors were true! Marius Pontmercy had survived the barricade ambush. Thank God!
"Marius!" she breathed, so excited she thought her chest might burst with happiness.
It took him a moment to recognize that sham of a person, but when the recollection registered, his brown eyes brightened as well, in shock. "Ép... Éponine? God Almighty, is it really you?"
"Yes, Monsieur! Yes, yes! It's me!"
"How did you..." Words escaped him and flew away on the night air. He quickly turned away from her to speak excitedly to whoever else was inside, and it was then that Éponine's fears were realized. Her elated smile faltered.
It's probably Cosette... Unless... No, that would be too good to be true.
Marius instructed her to stay where she was. "I'll be down in a moment!"
A few minutes later and Marius was out in front of the house, standing before her with such a grin as not to be believed to the besotted girl who had fallen in love with him so long ago. He scooped her up in a hug, ignoring the fact that she was soiling his shirt, and then reared back in alarm at how light she weighed in his arms.
"Éponine! I can't believe— How did you... It's so good to see you!"
"It's good to see you too, Monsieur!"
"I thought... But you were..." He raked his fingers through his brown, wavy locks, staring at her in disbelief. "But I watched you..."
Éponine smiled shyly. "I suppose things aren't always what they seem."
"I... I passed out, Monsieur, and when I awoke, the barricade was being overrun. I was in so much pain that I don't remember much of the details, but I remember someone dragging me out of the café and ordering that I get somewhere safe, so I... I crawled on my hands and knees through the rubble. I don't know for how long, and eventually I lost consciousness." She paused to draw breath. "When I awoke, I was being cared for in a convent. Oh, Marius, they were so kind to me. A doctor came a number of times. He was very nice, too."
Marius shook his head in awe. "Well, I'm so relieved you're all right!"
Although her heart was swelling, Éponine was surprised at Marius's lack of fortitude. Surely, it had to have been he who told her to get to safety, but when he offered nothing, she was half tempted to ask. His next words, however, stopped her short.
"I... I thought I'd lost you forever. You were so very kind to me, and what you did...that night..."
Éponine unconsciously brought a hand over her stomach and smiled warmly at him. "Think nothing of it, Monsieur."
I'd do it again for you...
"How can I not?" he all but cried out, bringing her into another firm hug. "You saved my life, Éponine! I... I don't know how to repay you."
"There's no debt to be paid."
"Oh, there is! There is!"
Marius moved back from their warm embrace, and it took every ounce of will for Éponine not to crumble and whimper at being in his arms again. But any opportunity to speak more frankly about the intimate exchange they had shared that night at the barricade was lost when the front door opened and the fair silhouette of a young woman came into view.
Éponine's face closed up and she stepped back from Marius, feeling the final blow. She hadn't considered that the two might already be married. There would be no other reason for the pretty thing to be at his grandfather's home at such a late hour.
"My love," Marius called to Cosette, and Éponine felt her throat constrict at the public declaration; it had wounded her enough to hear in the past. "Look! Éponine's alive! Here I'd thought... Well, it's another miracle, isn't it?"
To Éponine's wonder, Cosette stepped forward onto the pavement and approached her with a smile that was entirely genuine. As a girl of the streets, Éponine could decipher the meanings of a face when she saw it, and there was nothing disingenuous in Cosette's demeanor for her to rightfully despise or hate. It made the weighing sorrow in her heart even greater.
"Éponine, it's so good to see you again!"
"M - Madame," she stumbled, bowing her head so as not to look upon the far more superior lady in her midst.
"Oh, do call me Cosette, Éponine. We knew each other as children. No need for such formalities now." Her fetching blue eyes scanned Éponine's homely state with a quiet gasp. "But look at you... You must be in desperate need of some food. Come!"
When Marius's love tentatively reached out to take Éponine's wiry arm, the girl drew back, skittish and inwardly affronted. She was nobody's charity case, and that certainly wasn't why she had come here. Her withdrawal was met with a frown by both parties.
"Éponine, please," Marius insisted in a gentle fashion that instantly pulled her close, "you must be wanting food and some proper rest. Come! You are more than welcomed here."
"Yes, indeed," Cosette too urged, much to Éponine's dismay. "After what you did for Marius..." Her eyes gazed up lovingly at her husband, her entire face echoing of appreciation. "Well, we're both indebted to you, Éponine."
"I... I told Monsieur Marius that there's nothing to be repaid."
"You may not think so, Éponine, but saving my life is something that deserves our gratitude." Marius carefully took her by the arm. "Please stay a while."
Éponine squirmed uncomfortably. "But your grandfather—"
"He will make an exception, I can assure you. I told him all about your sacrifice. I'm sure he'll want to pay you his thanks in person."
So, he's spoken of me to others, Éponine reflected to herself, unable to prevent the glow that lit up her face.
"If you'll please excuse me," Cosette nodded to her, her grateful smile still intact, "I have to return upstairs. Forgive me, Éponine, but please do come in, have some food and rest, and we'll talk tomorrow!"
Cosette gave another curt bow before scurrying back inside, leaving Marius's lovesick eyes to trail after her pretty form and long, tumbling blonde curls. Éponine surveyed her own worn, grimy attire and couldn't prevent her scowl of shame.
"Monsieur Marius, I - I'm really not fit to...to enter your home..."
"Nonsense, Éponine!" In one fell swoop, his arm was wrapped around her shoulder, and Éponine felt her breath steal away. "After all that you've done for me, you're more than welcomed. Come."
Éponine felt her weightless legs being pushed towards her unrequited love's home, and a wave of excitement mixed with dread overwhelmed her to the point that she couldn't speak, only comply quietly, as Marius led her inside. "You'll have to excuse my wife," he whispered close to her ear, "she's overseeing the care of another dear friend of mine who's residing with us. Perhaps you'll get to meet him again tomorrow, if he's feeling better."
'Again'? Who could that be?
It was the last fleeting thought Éponine had before she found herself inside Marius's grandfather's luxurious home, and the door to the cruel outside world—the dank and dirty streets of Paris that had never done her short life any favors—was shut, its harsh remains unknowingly closed to her forever.
French 101 (aka I-Hope-I-Got-This-Right!):
* Translation: "Bullshit!"
** Translation: "Don't be an ass!"
*** Translation: "Dickhead!"
A/N #2: This will be an E/É fic, I promise, but we can't expect her to be over Marius so quickly. There will be a lot more explanation in chapters to come about their survivals. The dynamics of the characters may feel slightly different in this fic, too. I got the sense in the film version that Marius and Enjolras were a lot closer to one another, very much like brothers, so I'm going with that because I think it's rather comforting.
I welcome your thoughts! Thank you!