Notes: 45 follows after 2 chapters! You guys make me blush. Thank you all! I highly encourage you to leave feedback because I don't always know what I'm talking about and I need help tweaking characterization and what direction the story will take. I've loved the musical since forever, but the fandom itself is relatively new to me and so far it has been the absolute best. This chapter is the longest one so far, and it was also the most fun to write, and it includes a shout-out to the movie that I'm pretty sure Tumblr people will get. Corrections, suggestions, and constructive criticism are very welcome.
Day Three: Den Lille Havfrue
She wakes up to the afternoon sun pouring its slatted light into her heavy eyes. She rises to her feet, a bit unsteadily, and makes her way out of the Corinth.
The Rue de la Chanvevrie seems brighter than it has ever been. The rebels are milling about, some puffing at tobacco, some playing cards, some chatting desultorily among themselves. A few are stationed at the barricade, look-outs looking bored out of their minds. Éponine peers through a gap between a bed frame and a sewing machine and sees the sentries' expressions mirrored by the soldiers posted at the other end of the street. The frenetic adrenaline of revolution has worn off, replaced by humdrum and monotony.
Her fingers trace along the surface of an overturned cart. There's a certain wrongness to the wooden grains, a sharpness. She feels disoriented, like she's woken up after a hundred years to find Paris reborn but still the same. Once you've accepted the fact that you're going to die, it's frustrating not to. It becomes a chore to have to go back out into the world and do the whole living thing again.
Long, smooth fingers curl under her elbow. Monsieur Marius is smiling broadly, handsome and happy in the mellow gold of the aging day.
The blood rushes to her cheeks as the memory of her pathetic, whimpered confession comes crashing back in full force. She'd felt so brave saying those things, like some tragic, noble heroine with a bullet in her body and a heart filled with love. But now she is still alive and undeniably still a street urchin, all shabby clothes and tangled hair and gaps in her teeth, and there's a trace of pity in his eyes that he can't quite mask. She must look so small to him. She feels so small, absolutely foolish and defeated and mortified.
"Where's Gavroche?" she asks. "Was he able to get out?"
"Gavroche stayed," he informs her. "But he's off on reconnaissance now. He volunteered to sneak out and scrounge for information and supplies." Sensing her worry, he quickly adds, "He is small and fast and smart, 'Ponine. He will be all right."
"When he comes back," she says, finding her voice, when, not if, not her brother, her little puppy, "I shall give him a thrashing he'll never forget."
Monsieur Marius chuckles, and then he turns somber, his grip falling from her elbow as a part of her wails at this loss of contact. "I have sent him my reply to Cosette's letter. I wanted to thank you for bringing it to me. For risking your life. I am forever in your debt. I don't know how I can ever repay you."
You could love me, she thinks wistfully. But she doesn't say anything; instead, she manages a small smile before excusing herself to explore the rest of the barricaded street.
In the end, we all turn into sea foam.
There's a cow.
Éponine stares blankly at the brown-and-white creature standing on the cobblestones with an air of undisturbed contentment, quietly oblivious to the arguments blossoming around it.
"We should slaughter the beast now," insists Bahorel. "The meat will sustain us for a fortnight."
"Meat spoils easily," Courfeyrac reminds him. "I move that we leave it for last, until the rest of the food runs out."
"Its shit will stink up the place," says Bossuet. "And what are we going to feed it?"
"Cows are hardy creatures," Feuilly remarks. "It can survive on water alone for a while."
"But if we wait too long, it's going to be skin and bones and no use to us," protests Bahorel.
Courfeyrac raises an eyebrow at him. "I am sorry, were you expecting finest steak this revolution? We have nowhere to store the meat, and that's that."
"I don't think any of us know how to butcher a cow, anyway," Combeferre adds. "Although perhaps the workers might."
"Here comes Enjolras," says Feuilly. "Let's ask him."
The blond boy strolls into their midst and the other Amis immediately begin to pelt him with their grievances. He listens silently, an implacable frown marring his marble-carved features, and Éponine ducks her head, not quite able to look at him yet. His eyes had been the first thing she saw when she woke up last night, those eyes like winter glass, clouded and smoky with a weariness that was softer than his usual anger and not enough to dampen it.
You should have let me die, she'd told him, and something in those eyes had flinched before he looked away.
His friends' voices increase in volume, earning curious glances from the rest of the street. Enjolras raises a commanding hand, shutting everyone up.
"Whose cow is this?" he asks.
Bossuet shrugs. "No one knows. It was left behind during the evacuation. I suppose the owners couldn't exactly bring it over the barricade."
"I see," Enjolras sighs, long-suffering and disdainful as he sinks deep into thought.
Courfeyrac latches onto this newest point. "This beast is someone's livelihood. We shouldn't kill it until the necessity arises."
Enjolras nods. "The cow lives," he declares.
Éponine reaches out to stroke the animal's soft flank. "May I name it?" she asks.
He stares at her. A muscle twitches along his jaw. "If you must."
The boys walk away, already discussing the next order of business, leaving her alone with the cow. It moves into her touch, peacefully chewing its cud, tugging at her heartstrings with its gentle, stupid gaze. Trapped like she was, caught up in circumstances beyond control.
"Aurore," Éponine decides.
Later that night, she's back in the Corinth, busying herself by sweeping the dirt from the floors. If she's stuck here, she might as well make herself useful, but Joly had refused to assign her more strenuous tasks because she was still recuperating from her injuries.
She would know that voice anywhere. She's heard it often enough, in the back room of the Musain, in the open space of public squares. What she's unfamiliar with is its grave, quiet tone.
"The National Guard has called for another grace period," Enjolras announces from the doorway of the wine shop. "More citizens are leaving. You may join them, if you wish."
It sounds like an order. He looks tired and disappointed and too young for this.
"I'm staying," she says.
He exhales impatiently. "You have been Marius' shadow far too long. Go home. You have been given another chance. Your fight is done."
She kind of wants to smack him with her broom. "I'm not leaving without my brother. Gavroche," she clarifies at his puzzled scowl.
What she doesn't say is: I have no home to go back to. I cannot leave all of you here to face your fate, not after you bandaged my wounds and gave me shelter. This is how it was always meant to go.
"Very well," he says at last. "There will likely be another evacuation tomorrow. When Gavroche returns, the two of you should leave."
When, not if. She's grateful for that, and so, when he turns back to the night-strewn street, she murmurs, "I'm sorry, Monsieur Enjolras. I know this isn't how you thought your revolution would be."
He pauses, his lean frame tense, his elegant hands balled into fists. "What did you name the cow?" he asks, to her surprise.
She tells him.
"Aurore," he repeats meditatively. "A fanciful moniker, ill-suited to such an earthy beast of burden."
"It's from a story," she replies, raising her chin in defiance.
"Indeed." There it is again, that strange, enigmatic half-smile flitting across his lips. "So be it, Mademoiselle. I shall let you have your Dawn."
She watches him climb the barricade, keeping below the soldiers' line of fire, but high enough to tower over his paltry forces.
"Listen!" he declares, the word ringing out into the air. Conversations are cut short; heads swivel in his direction. "The National Guard desires to lower our morale. They think our cause some passing fancy, a tome to be dropped when it drags on. They believe ennui and hunger will quench the flame of our souls. Friends and comrades, I put to you this inquiry: is that the case?"
"No!"comes the resounding cheer. The street rings with cries of Vive la France!
Monsieur Marius is standing beside her, roaring along with the rest of them. She glances at his face and sees resignation rather than belief. By now, Cosette will have already left Paris. Éponine had once tried to console herself with the notion that the other girl was nothing more than a schoolboy's infatuation, but it is now painfully clear that Monsieur Marius loves her enough to die in the absence of her, as Éponine had been willing to die for his presence.
Not for me, she thinks. Never for me.
"We will beat them at their own game!" Enjolras shouts, and her gaze flickers to him once more. "They will get bored long before we do!"
The crowd laughs and hoots. He has always been very good at bringing out the fire in people's eyes. He stands with a foot propped up on a table, one elbow resting on his bent knee, the other hand raising a fist to the sky. His disheveled hair blazes in the glow of the torches; his red jacket contrasts starkly against wood and night.
"We shall hold fast for as long as there is breath. We shall endure for as long as there is hope," he promises in a voice fairer than gold and brighter than glory. "Hope is the last good thing, my friends. Hope emerged after the dread creatures of Pandora's Box, and she will not desert us!"
The rebels cheer again. Beyond the rampart, Éponine catches the silhouette of the troops shifting uncomfortably.
"I stand before you now at this barricade as Orpheus stood at the gates of the underworld," Enjolras continues. "I will sing my song to Hades- nay, I will scream it in his face! I will make the Furies weep. And I will not rest until I drag my Eurydice back into the light!"
"Damn," Éponine sighs to Monsieur Marius, her voice barely audible in the midst of the impassioned cries of the spectators, "there goes my weekend."
He grins at her with the fondness of friendship, and, stoically, she breathes away the ache.
"She lifted her glorified eyes towards the sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On the ship, there was life and noise. She saw the prince and his beautiful bride searching for her; sorrowfully, they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed the forehead of the bride, and fanned the prince, and then mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud that floated through the aether."
To Be Continued