Notes: Elements from the book, film, and musical, but mostly head-canon. THIS SHIP HAS RUINED MY LIFE, YOU GUYS. I was floored by all the positive feedback to "Years Built on Sand." loveholic198 even made a gorgeous photoset for it, which you can view at my Tumblr ( youarethesentinels . tumblr . c * m / post / 41449263403 / years-built-on-sand-by-unicornesque-i-was ). To reviewer Meela who requested if I could do something with the fortune-telling prompt, I do want to, but I'm waiting for inspiration to strike. In the meantime, I hope everyone likes this new story. Comments, suggestions, and constructive criticism are very welcome. Onward!
Day One: Melusine
The books were the first to go when everything went to hell, and trying to keep them earned Éponine the first smack from Thénardier's heavy hand. He'd been sorry, had wept at her feet and apologized, but as the years passed he grew more prone to hitting and less sorry about it.
She had adored those books. She is thinking about them now because, in front of the Corinth wine shop, a rampart rises, casting its long shadow on the cobblestones of the Rue de la Chanvevrie. This, then, is the tower of her childhood fairytales, a crude assemblage of planks and pianos, tables and chairs. It's not as grand as she imagined, but Éponine is no stranger to dreams turned sour.
On the other hand, Enjolras looks like he leapt out from the pages of her storybooks as he carefully props up the flag. She watches from the corner of the alley while he stands on the barricade, tall and lean and defiant, the light of the dying sun sending waves of fire into his blond hair, the red flag billowing in the air like a stream of blood.
There is a prince at the heart of the tower; that is why it must stand.
The National Guard is coming. She hears their boots clanking on the ground with the ears of one adept at listening for footfall. Cosette's letter burning a hole in her pocket, she tears herself away from the safety of the Rue Mondétour.
"There's a boy climbing on the barricade!" Joly cries as the soldiers advance.
The one thing Éponine didn't know- for how could she have?- is that, in the thick of war, young men tend to be startled by sudden movements.
She hears the shot, the shouts. She feels the sting at her side as she scrabbles up the tower. Blackness closes in, but, before it can take her completely, she finds herself staring into eyes as dark blue as winter glass, at haughty features contorted in shock.
Not you, she wants to tell Enjolras as he and Monsieur Marius haul her trembling body over the barricade. I'm not dying for your damn revolution. It suddenly becomes crucial to her that he knows this, but he is soon gone from her blurry eyes, her vision prickling at the edges until the only light comes from the glint of raindrops on the tip of Monsieur Marius' nose.
According to Maman, it had also rained when Éponine was born. She's always been a creature of water, flowing around circumstances not of her own making, sweeping the debris of other people's lives into her embrace, trickling into the spaces between stories. She will leave the world the same way she entered it, in tears.
Éponine presses the damp letter into Monsieur Marius' hands. Sorry, Mademoiselle, I've bled all over your pretty little handwriting. She tells him she loves him. She closes her eyes and lets the darkness fall.
The first time she saw Enjolras, she'd felt such contempt. Women weren't allowed in the back room of the Café Musain, so she'd dressed in boy's clothes and made herself invisible at a table in the corner. It was warm there and at least she could keep Monsieur Marius in her sights.
Her attention, however, was soon caught by the other boy, the pretty one with the big words. He spoke enthusiastically of the elevation of society and the common good, although he was the farthest thing from common, with those sharp aristocratic features and that cultured drawl and the way he was prone to falling back on his Latin. It was amusing, really, how he discoursed on the plight of the working class while gesturing with soft and slender hands that had never so much as lifted a cart.
But Éponine kept coming back, even on the nights Monsieur Marius wasn't there. Enjolras' passion was reminiscent of knights slaying dragons, of maidens searching the ends of the earth for their lost loves. He made for a good story, this bourgeois prince. Her fingers twitched with the ghosts of crinkled pages.
After a while, her disdain was still there, but slightly less palpable; she'd come to view him with something close to amazement- he was serious- and as May faded into June, she watched him and his friends toast loudly to revolution, the shifting fire catching the strange light in their young eyes, and it didn't take her long to realize that the shudder going down her spine was neither contempt nor disbelief, but fear.
Water flows around, and maybe parts of her flow around the bullet as well, because when she opens her eyes she is not dead.
She's been dragged into the wine shop, kept carefully out of the way, lying next to a snoring man who positively reeks of alcohol. Grantaire. She hears voices, but no war. She wonders if it was the descent of silence that woke her up… but, no, she remembers in a haze a vibrant shout of Vive la France followed by a deafening crack. That was what jolted her back into consciousness.
"That's it, then," someone quietly says. "They've executed Jehan."
"You've been repeating that for the past half hour," an irritated voice snaps. "We need to talk about what happens next."
Who's speaking? Éponine tries to move her head but her body doesn't obey. She opens her mouth, to cry out or to clear her throat or to- well, do anything- but no sound emerges from her parched lips. Her eyes swivel wildly and she catches a glimpse of Mabeuf, cold and still beside her. They think she's dead. This is the corpse heap.
And the drunk pile, she adds as Grantaire turns over in his sleep and the smell of liquor washes over her in yet another wave.
"What's Enjolras going to do?"
"He says we can ride it out. We have some supplies… what the people aren't taking with them."
From the hushed conversation of the men she can't see, Éponine begins to piece together what's happened. After the skirmish where Jean Prouvaire had been taken prisoner, the National Guard announced that they would be launching no more offensives. They intend to starve out the rebels. They've established a perimeter around the barricade, and anyone who tries to leave after the allotted grace period will instantly be shot. It's a new tactic, perhaps even a deadlier one.
There are many ways a people can fight, but there are also many ways a people can fall.
"Time's up," announces one voice. "Whoever's still here is here for good. Or if we surrender."
"Until we surrender."
A derisive laugh. "Do you know Enjolras?"
I'm here, Éponine wants to scream. I'm not dead. And then, more cowardly, perhaps, I want to leave.
But she is too weak; she can only stare up at the rafters of the Corinth, her heart a slow and torturous beat, her eyes drifting shut once more.
Like a river held by a dam, Éponine- Thénardier- Jondrette is trapped behind the barricade.
"Full of the profoundest grief, Melusina declared to Raymond that she must now depart from him, and, in obedience to a decree of destiny, fleet about the earth in pain and suffering, as a specter, until the day of doom."
To Be Continued