Notes: The lovely people of Tumblr have made some pretty amazing graphics for this fic. Do check out their blogs at girlbehindthescrawledletters . tumblr . c*m / tagged / unicornesque* (keep the asterisk after my FFN penname) and loveholic198 . tumblr . c*m / post / 43209501878 / at-dusk-through-narrow-streets-by-unicornesque :) In this chapter is a Doctor Who reference, and the end of our story. Thank you so much for reading. It was only seven chapters, but it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life as a writer and I'm glad I got to share it with all of you. Long live this life-ruining fandom, and long live the friendships and the camaraderie formed because of it.
Day Seven: The Black Bull of Norroway
He has no idea what he's doing. The bridge of his nose knocks against her chin when he surges; his teeth dig too harshly into her lips. His hands are clumsy, everywhere, moving with neither rhythm nor finesse, as if they're trying to grab hold of everything they can reach.
But, then again, so are hers.
He backs her up until the backs of her knees hit the bed and they go down in flames, bodies crumpling into the mattress, her skirt riding up, her thighs rising around his hips like white flags of surrender. Through half-closed lids she sees the window over the jut of his shoulder, the lower half of the sky dotted with stars and buildings, and then his mouth is on her collarbone and his hand slips under her chemise and she cries out, arching up into him, and for a while she sees nothing at all.
Éponine has lived through winter nights on the street and days of hunger and jail cells and police raids, and she had thought she knew all there was to know about life, but she hadn't known it could feel like this, that lips could burn and skin could spark, that a boy in her bed could be both prince and dragon, worshipper and god. They shed their clothes like old feathers; they drink each other in like wine. Enjolras is a marble statue in the lamplight, pale and golden all at once, hard chest and strong arms and sharp angles, but his gaze darkens when she rocks against him and suddenly he is anything but made of stone.
Eyes open, eyes open, she tells herself, her fingers threading through his soft hair as he buries his face in her neck, panting roughly into her skin. Take what you can, little beggar, silent shadow. Remember this moment. Remember everything that will be lost once morning comes. You are wretched and wicked, and alive.
But it is too much, this world of fire and star-fall. He pins her hands to the mattress and they move and her body betrays her, her eyes drifting shut once more. Take me there, she begs him with every half-choked gasp, with the last fading dregs of rational thought. Lead me to salvation. Take me there, and let me stay.
Afterwards, they lie on their backs, side by side, and she tells him about her life, the books she lost, the transformation from Thénardier to Jondrette, the first time she stole something, the boy she fell in love with. She talks until her voice is spent, and then it's his turn. She listens intently to his stories of growing up bourgeois, his days at university, his friends' drunken antics. He gives her his Greek myths in exchange for her fairytales; he gives her his regret at not being able to watch Gavroche die, and his promise to do better in the future. He says all of this in a tone hushed with wonder, as if he can't believe it's the last time he'll ever get to say any of it.
"And then there was you," he finishes, frowning. "You have made things… more difficult for me."
She can't help feeling a bit miffed. "Oh, well, sorry for that," she snipes.
"You don't understand. This is the burden." He gestures around at the wood and the walls, at the sky and the street outside the window. "I carry the barricade. I see it even in my dreams. But, because of you, now it is heavier to bear."
When she wakes up, the night has faded into dawn and he is reaching for her again. "More weight," he croaks, and the light is brighter but the shadows are longer and this time they're both crying, this time it's salt and ashes, this time she feels like she's already making love to a ghost.
When she slips out into the Rue de la Chanvevrie, she runs into Monsieur Marius. They look solemnly at each other. Are you ready to die?
"Have you seen Enjolras?" he asks.
She gestures to the closed door of Madame Huchloup's house. "Asleep," she says, without shame or regret. It's too late for any of that now.
Monsieur Marius nods, as if he's been expecting it. "Won't you walk with me?"
You know I would do anything for you, she thinks, her heart clenching. It's not even because she loves him; it's because his was the first kind face she'd seen in years, and after today she's never going to see it again.
They stroll down the street until they reach the barricade, where some of the Amis are cleaning their weapons and sousing out the rampart for weak spots.
"Grantaire's drinking again," a grumpy Combeferre tells Monsieur Marius. "At this rate, he's going to pass out and miss the whole thing."
Monsieur Marius chuckles. "Just like any other day, then. Good for him!"
"His aim's shot to hell anyway," says Bossuet. "He'll be of no use to us."
"With Grantaire's coordination and your luck, Bossuet, he'll end up shooting you," Joly remarks.
The boys snicker, and Éponine looks away, giving them privacy for one of their last moments together. She and Monsieur Marius turn around and begin walking again, all the way up to the other end of the street. It seems a very silly thing to be doing on the last day of their lives, but she savors it, the air in her lungs, the way her muscles can move without urging. How wasteful, the way she'd taken these little things for granted.
He speaks up. "The night Gavroche… that night, I saw you and Enjolras through the window."
"Oh." She blinks. "Did you see me punch him?"
He grins, looking surprised and delighted. "No, but now that you've told me that, I wish I had."
She smirks in response. Thank you for being my friend, she wants to say, but they already have a history of embarrassing confessions from her, and so she remains silent, waiting for him to continue.
"I saw him kneeling on the floor, by your side, waiting for you to fall asleep," he tells her solemnly. "It almost looked like he was praying. And I thought- I remember thinking- maybe in another life."
"In another life I will find you again," she promises fiercely. "You, and him, and Gavroche. I'm good at finding people. I know my way around."
"But do you know how to live, 'Ponine?" he asks her softly. "Because this is not your war. Because there is a loose section of wall in Madame Huchloup's house. Because you can escape, if you choose."
"Monsieur Marius." Her breath catches in her throat. "I can't leave all of you here to die. I would have-"
"You would have died for me," he interrupts, looking vaguely regretful. "But you didn't. The bullet missed. Any closer to your vital organs, and you wouldn't be here now. Inches, my dear girl. Could you really let that go?"
She stops walking and so does he. She turns to face him, angry, almost. "You have no idea," she hisses, "just how much I can let go of."
He opens his mouth to argue, but, just at that moment, they hear someone shouting.
Grantaire's staggered out of the wine shop, holding an empty bottle. "It's gone!" he slurs at the other Amis. "All of it, all the liquor! We have drained the Corinth to its last drop, you magnificent bastards!" His finger swings wildly as he points from one boy to the next. "We have set a new record, you glorious sons of bitches! They will never forget us!"
The other boys boo and pelt him with pebbles.
"That was nearly all you, you nihilist!" Courfeyrac exclaims. "I can't believe you didn't leave the last for us. Wallow alone in your victory, you alcoholic fop!"
Grantaire flings his arms across his face to shield himself from the debris, snorting with inebriated merriment.
"Sleep it off," says Feuilly, pushing him back indoors. "Sleep it off and fight with us, horrible cad that you are!"
"No, don't," says Bossuet hurriedly, clutching his chest as if Grantaire's already accidentally shot him, and they are all laughing in the mid-morning light, only hours to go before the final assault, and their faces are young in the shadow of the barricade, so young.
"This is why you have to leave," Monsieur Marius tells Éponine as they watch the scene unfold from the other end of the street. "Someone has to keep this. Someone has to hold it in their heart. For once in your life, 'Ponine, don't let go."
It's almost three in the afternoon. Some of the rebels are sent to the small rampart blocking the Rue Mondétour, but the rest assemble at the Rue de la Chanvevrie, what few of them are left.
Éponine's expecting a rousing speech, some eloquent and awe-inspiring last words, but, instead, Enjolras glances around and simply asks, "Where is Grantaire?"
"Asleep," Combeferre replies.
Enjolras' dark blue eyes soften, like the thaw of winter ice. He nods and turns to the barricade. Silently, guns in hand, they all count down the minutes.
"Your time is up!" the army officer announces from beyond the rampart. "Who's there?"
Enjolras takes a deep breath. Éponine's a few paces behind him, but she knows that aristocratic face will be white and haggard and tense, and still much too young for this. But everyone grows up, and in the midst of the slow shifting of the years, there are moments when a boy becomes a man.
"French Revolution!" Enjolras calls back, and it begins.
The tower crumbles and the enemy is everywhere and the air is thick with screams and smoke. She aims and fires and ducks, and out of the corner of her eye people fall to the ground like rain, mowed down by bullets. And she'd been prepared to die, but suddenly she's fighting for her life, dodging the shots, swinging at the soldiers that come too close.
I'm still alive, she finds herself thinking as the seconds pass. Why am I still alive?
She knows why. She is Éponine Thénardier, and she will hold back the night and keep the sun from going down, for as long as she can.
Someone grabs her by the waist. She's about to lash out, but a blur of golden hair penetrates the adrenaline rush and her fist falls limply to her side as Enjolras drags her into Madame Huchloup's house.
"Go," he says tersely. He's spattered with blood and bruises and his breathing is uneven. "Go, Éponine. No matter what you say, this is not your grave."
"Then where is it?" she yells over the roar of breaking glass and heavy footsteps and the pounding of her own heart. "Where do you want someone like me to die, bourgeois boy?"
Much to her amazement, he smiles, that strange lopsided smile, as if he's realizing that's somehow become her term of endearment for him, the only one they will ever get to share.
"Not with someone like me," he replies.
And then he's kissing her, hard and fast and savagely, through the blood and the pain, through the water and the fire. His eyelashes brush against her cheek and his hands clasp around her shoulder-blades, drawing her close, holding her like he might never let her go.
One more day, she's praying, her head spinning and her heart shattering as her tongue slides over his teeth with fervor and desperation and all her lost hopes. Just give us one more day.
He breaks the kiss, and the dazed, happy look on his face is too much. This is who we could have been. This is what we could have had.
He presses his lips to her forehead, fierce and tender all at once. "You are my revolution," he murmurs, his breath warm against her skin.
And then he shoves her backwards.
That's when she realizes that, at some point while she'd been walking with Monsieur Marius, Enjolras woke up and pried off all the nails from the loose section of wall, because suddenly she's crashing through wood and dust and splinters, propelled into the alleyway outside the Rue de la Chanvevrie, her elbows scraping the harsh ground.
No, she wants to say, staring at him, about to stand up and rush back to his side and-
"Joly!" someone shouts from the street, in a voice wrecked by sobs. "Joly!"
And Enjolras flinches, and Éponine understands that he's sacrificed watching his friend die so he could save her life.
When does a girl become a woman?
"Give them hell," she whispers.
He nods, shoulders his rifle, and marches out the doorway to rejoin the fight. He doesn't look back. It doesn't matter whether it's a Greek myth or a fairytale. They are all stories in the end, and Orpheus learns from his mistakes.
Éponine runs, through a maze of alleys and corners, under a wide open sky, her feet gliding over the cobblestones. She will live to see France become a republic, although it will be a mess and she will imagine Enjolras sighing in well-bred disgust. Years from now, they will erect a statue in honor of the boys of the barricade, and she will see his likeness raising the flag, and she will shake her head because fire cannot be captured by stone. She will dream of fair and blue-eyed children.
But, for now, she runs, a stitch blossoming at her side, pushing on until her lungs are about to burst. She doesn't hear the gunshots; she hears the Amis laughing and arguing, and Enjolras declaring The cow lives, and the incoherent words he groaned into her ear inside their borrowed house.
When she is an old woman, people will still be talking about the city of schoolboys, the seven-day Republic. The name Enjolras will have become a creed, a promise, a threat to those who would seek to chain their fellow men. The younger ones will ask her if she had been there and if she had known him, and she will nod. Yes, we were there, she will think, and he was young and beautiful and he carried us, he carried me. It was the summer of 1832 and we were there, and not even the world can take that away.
But, for now, she runs, shoving her way through the crowds, her eyes blurry with sweat and tears. She runs because that was the only thing he could give her. She runs because she already knows, deep in her heart, that her last dream will be of the barricade. In that dream he will be there, standing on top of the rampart, smiling his crooked, rueful half-smile, one hand holding the flag while the other one rubs the spot on his jaw where she'd punched him. And she will climb the tower, and, ever the gentleman, he will help her up while she insists she doesn't need his help. In that last dream he will not let go, because he is fire and she is water, and together they will become smoke.
"She sang, 'For seven long years I served for thee,
The glassy hill I climbed for thee,
Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee;
And wilt thou not waken, and turn to me?'
He heard, and turned to her."