Author's note: written for a friend of mine and also for fun. Modern college AU. There may be more in this 'verse later depending on if I get anything written up or not.
Disclaimer: Les Miserables belongs to the Estate of Victor Hugo.
"Oh lovely snowball, packed with care,
smack a head that's unaware!
Then with freezing ice to spare,
melt and soak through underwear!
Fly straight and true, hit hard and square!
This, oh snowball, is my prayer."
~Calvin and Hobbes
It's been snowing for the past 48 hours. Eponine keeps peering out her bedroom window, hoping that the sun has finally decided to come out, but no such luck. The sky is as grey-white as ever, snowflakes falling steadily to paint the ground white. Occasionally the wind picks up and the snowflakes dance through the air instead of just falling straight down, but watching snow fall got old a long time ago and Eponine doesn't stay to watch the unique joys of the natural world unfold. She doesn't have anywhere to be until Monday and she fully intends to not set foot outside the apartment until it's stopped snowing and someone else has shoveled the sidewalks.
Her girlfriend has other plans.
"C'mon Ep!" Cosette begs, blue eyes wide and earnest. "It might be the last snowfall of the year!"
"Good," Eponine says, arms crossed stubbornly over her chest. She will not give in to that look, she chants silently. She will not give in and take part in whatever Cosette is planning this time. Giving in to Cosette's plans never ends well for anyone, not even Cosette.
"Bahorel and Jehan already promised to meet us at the park," Cosette insists. "And Courfeyrac said he could get Enjolras away from his desk for a couple hours. You have to come!"
Eponine grimaces. "Being near Bahorel and snowballs doesn't sound like my idea of a good time," she says firmly.
"Marius is coming," Cosette tries. When Eponine starts to ask why exactly Cosette thinks that this will serve as an incentive rather than a reason to stay as far away as possible Cosette adds, "Bajorel and Jehan promised that he could be on their team instead of ours."
Eponine's objections die in her throat as she pictures herself lobbing a snowball directly into Marius Pontmercy's tanned face. She starts to smile and turns too late to hide it.
"I knew you'd say yes!" Cosette squeals, flinging her arms around Eponine in a delighted hug. An armful of enthusiastic Cosette crushes the last bit of willpower Eponine possesses.
"Wear a coat this time," she instructs, untangling herself from Cosette. "And put on a sweater."
Cosette rolls her eyes but obediently heads down the stairs towards her bedroom. Eponine watches long enough to make sure that she doesn't get distracted halfway there then ducks back into her own room and grabs her winter coat. It's not the warmest coat in the world, but Eponine's not the one who gets sick every three weeks and she's adjusted to cold in a way the California-raised Cosette may never be. (Cosette gets her revenge in the summer, when they go back to her dad's place and Eponine spends the two weeks huddled under an umbrella coated in suntan lotion while Cosette and Gav frolic merrily in the waves.)
Ten minutes later Cosette is practically dragging Eponine out of the apartment and through calf-deep snowdrifts. It's not as cold as Eponine feared and the falling snow doesn't obscure her vision much. Her breath forms white puffs as it leaves her mouth. Feeling almost rebelliously childlike, Eponine exhales slowly in order to create a veritable cloud. Cosette laughs, her own breath clearly visible in the air.
"See?" she asks, cheeks already rosy from the chill. "Aren't you glad you didn't stay cooped up all day?"
Eponine wants to say no but she can't bring herself to ruin Cosette's good mood and, anyway, she doesn't really mind now that she's out here. So she shrugs instead. "Ask me again when I'm soaking wet and half covered in snowballs," she says. Cosette laughs and pulls her across the empty street.
The boys are indeed waiting in the park. Jehan and Bahorel are already building their base and stockpiling snowballs, while Enjolras watches them warily from a safe distance. Marius and Courfeyrac, laughing about something or other, are the first to notice Eponine and Cosette.
"You got her out!" Courfeyrac exclaims, striding through the snow towards them. "Hey, Marius, you owe me dinner."
"You were betting on us?" Eponine asks, raising an eyebrow.
"Nope. We were betting on you," Courfeyrac corrects her. "Marius over there thought Cosette wouldn't be able to convince you."
Cosette puts on an expression of mock distress. "Are you saying you don't think I can talk my own girlfriend into spending time with me?" Her lips tremble with suppressed laughter. Marius appears to realize the trap laid for him and wisely says nothing.
"You guys going to talk forever?" Bahorel hollers from his position behind the snow barricade. "I thought we were here to fight!" Next to him Jehan shifts on his feet, snowball already in hand. Eponine narrows her eyes as Courfeyrac sends Marius trotting across the soon to be battlefield to join his team.
"We were just saying hello!" Cosette calls, looking affronted. "You know, because we're friends and that's what friends do?"
"Screw that," Bahorel says. "Let's go!"
Eponine ducks instinctively just as a snowball whistles past her to land a little ways away. Courfeyrac's instincts aren't as well honed as hers and he gets a snowball to the shoulder while the one aimed at Cosette flies wide. Eponine darts behind the nearest tree, dragging Cosette with her. That it happens to be sheltering Enjolras is none of her concern, not even as he makes an indignant noise in their direction.
"How's your aim?" Eponine asks as a snowball thuds into the tree.
"Good," Cosette says. "How do you get these to work?" When Eponine looks over she sees that Cosette has an enormous pile of snow in her hands and is trying ineffectually to fashion it into a functional projectile. She reaches over and steals about half the snow, shaping it efficiently with the ease of long practice.
"Less snow," she says, and shifts just far enough to lob her snowball towards the enemy fort. It crashes against the wall and she grimaces. "Dammit."
"What's our strategy?" Courfeyrac asks, joining them behind the tree. The trunk isn't big enough to shelter all three of them, so they huddle in awkward single file.
Eponine glances towards their opponents then hurriedly pulls her head back as three snowballs simultaneously are launched towards her. "Bahorel's the powerhouse," she says. "But Jehan's faster."
"And Marius?" Cosette asks.
"Is a target," Eponine says instantly. She drops a snowball into Cosette's hand. "Have at it."
Cosette does have good aim. The snowball flies true and she scores their team's first hit as it glances off Bahorel's left arm. He yells something incoherent and returns fire. One of the snowballs veers off course and smacks Enjolras' thigh, making him yelp in surprise. Courfeyrac risks attack to dart out and drag his indignant friend behind the increasingly crowded tree.
"I wasn't going to be part of this," Enjolras says irritably. "I have things to do! I can't afford to…"
"Whatever," Courfeyrac interrupts, shoving a snowball at Enjolras. "The system can be dismantled tomorrow and you're not going to lose the fight because you took an afternoon off."
Enjolras looks at the snowball in his hand as though he's not sure what it is.
"You throw it," Cosette prompts, and helpfully demonstrates with one of her own. It disintegrates halfway to the snow fort, not having been packed tightly enough. Eponine hands Cosette a new one before she can start to pout too much and this one just barely misses Jehan.
"Why did I let you talk me into this?" Enjolras asks, though even he knows it's rhetorical.
"Because 'Ferre and R are busy," Courfeyrac says brightly. "And because you were mixing up your Supreme Court cases and needed a break. Besides, I know for a fact that you make better snowballs than she does and we need all the help we can get." He jerks his head towards Cosette, who scowls.
Enjolras sighs. "Fine. But let it be known that I objected."
"It'll be recorded for posterity," Courfeyrac promises.
"Can we please focus?" Eponine demands. "Enjolras, if you could make snowballs for Cos it would be helpful."
She doesn't look around to see if Enjolras followed her orders or not, but the next snowball to leave Cosette's mitten-clad hand doesn't fall into bits. She returns to the battle in earnest.
The other team seemed to have reached a similar sort of agreement wherein Marius stayed mostly crouched down out of sight and Bahorel and Jehan took care of the offense. As Eponine had predicted Bahorel relies on strength and stamina – he doesn't bother ducking out of the way of snowballs aimed at him, just returns fire with twice the strength – while Jehan darts nimbly to and fro. He throws a wicked curveball and his snowballs smash into the tree trunk and the ground with surprising force. He's laughing, and had they been close enough to hear Eponine's fairly certain he they'd be able to hear him reciting something appropriate to the occasion.
A snowball whistles just past her and she ducks hurriedly back behind the tree, scooping up a handful of snow and squishing it down. They're rapidly depleting the supplies behind the tree; soon they will have to venture out into the open to get fresh snow. She waits for a pause in Bahorel's fire and sends her snowball flying toward him. It misses Bahorel by a hair but smacks straight into the back of Marius' head, which is even better. Eponine resists the urge to crow with victory.
"We're running out of ammo," Cosette says worriedly.
"I know," Eponine answers, biting her lip in concentration. "Courf, you serve as a distraction while the rest of us run for the next tree."
"Why me?" Courfeyrac demands.
"Because Enjolras won't do it and Cosette's my girlfriend," Eponine answers immediately.
"Isn't that nepotism?" Courfeyrac wants to know.
"The things I do for a Cause," Courfeyrac says, trying to sound long suffering and not quite making it. "Remember me well when I am slain." With that he steps out from the cover of the tree trunk and strides towards the snow fort. A barrage of snowballs comes flying towards him and he drops to the ground. Eponine takes advantage of the momentary distraction of their enemies to grab Cosette and haul her towards the nearest tree. Enjolras trails after them, bright red jacket making an unmissable target amid the grey and white landscape. He too is assailed by projectiles. Cosette and Eponine manage to make it to the tree almost unscathed, though Eponine's back stings from where a snowball landed and Cosette's got snow on her sleeve. They're both breathing hard.
"Come out and fight us in the open!" Bahorel calls. "None of this hiding and running!"
"We all have our strategies," Eponine yells back. "Not all of us like making targets of ourselves." To punctuate our words Cosette throws a snowball that hits him smack in the chest.
"Just a flesh wound," Bahorel exclaims, returning fire.
"I got you in the heart!" Cosette counters, throwing snowballs as quickly as Eponine can hand them to her. "You're down and out."
"Then I'm a ghost, returned to exact vengeance," Bahorel proclaims. "C'mon Jehan, charge!" He scrambles over the top of the embankment and runs full tilt towards the tree. A snowball hits him from behind – Courfeyrac has recovered enough to start attacking again. Enjolras is still down for the count somewhere, probably beating a tactical retreat. Eponine doesn't have time to think about him, not when Jehan is almost to the tree, still untouched by snow. She packs a snowball and aims, barely brushing his dangling scarf as he darts out of the way.
"Macavity's not there!" he says, landing a neat hit on Eponine's left shoulder. It stings and then settles into a dull throb and her eyes narrow.
"I should never have introduced you to my sister," she says. Her next snowball actually manages to hit him, though not with nearly the strength of his.
"Ah, but our acquaintance has been fruitful for us both," he says, twisting to land a hit on Enjolras's exposed upper back. "I never knew there were such gaps in my knowledge."
Eponine rolls her eyes but Bahorel chooses that moment to launch an attack on Cosette and Eponine cuts the exchange short to go save her girlfriend from the oncoming force of nature in a garish jacket. She dives into the fray, scooping up a handful of snow and shaping it as quickly as she can. Cosette is holding out admirably well, ducking behind the tree and making snowballs that actually stay together when thrown, but it's never a fair fight against Bahorel until it's at least two against one if not three. Eponine sends her snowball towards his back and ducks to make another as he turns. Jehan is nowhere to be seen while Marius is still holding the snow fort, looking increasingly bewildered. Eponine pauses to hurl one of her snowballs in his direction, landing an extremely satisfying hit right in the back of his head, then launches the rest of her tiny stockpile towards Bahorel. A little ways away she hears the sounds of Courfeyrac and Jehan exchanging fire.
Eponine makes it to where Cosette is standing and the two of them do their best to never let a moment pass when Bahorel is not being pelted with snowballs. He gives as good as he gets; Eponine's hair is soaked and freezing water runs down her face and arms. She pauses to brush her hair away from her face and gets nailed with a snowball right in the chest. She staggers back, gasping for air, and growls. That snowball hadn't come from Bahorel. When she looks around she sees Marius standing a little ways away, looking unbearably smug.
"Oh, it's on," she mutters, and grabs a handful of snow. She strides purposefully towards him, shaping the snow as she goes. His eyes go comically wide and he scrambles back just as she hurls her snowball at him. It smacks wetly against his abdomen and he trips, falling backwards into the snow.
She hears a sound behind her but before she can turn around someone's grabbed her jacket and deftly dumped an entire armful of snow down her back. She yells at the sudden pain and cold and whirls, only to find Jehan bounding away, feet barely seeming to sink into the snow at all. She shivers as the water streams down her back and bends to grab her own cargo of snow to enact her revenge. She takes advantage of the opportunity to kick snow onto the still prone Marius then starts after Jehan as quickly as she can. It's not very; unlike him she is not gifted with the ability to imitate an elf maiden and she can only trudge slowly through the drifts. His laugher floats back towards her even as a little ways away Cosette pleads for mercy.
"Truce!" Cosette calls, laughing through her words. "We concede defeat! Augh, Ep, help!"
Eponine turns just in time to see Bahorel dump his own cargo of snow over Cosette's head.
"Do you yield?" he asks sternly, standing over her.
"I yield!" Cosette promises, brushing dripping hair out of her face.
Bahorel breaks into a grin and reaches down to help her up. Cautiously Cosette lets him and soon finds herself being brushed off rather vigorously. She lets him do it, also grinning.
"Are we beaten?" Courfeyrac appears a little ways away, hauling Enjolras after him. The latter looks wet and bedraggled but somehow not as miserable as Eponine would have guessed. He does, however, look extremely relieved when Bahorel nods.
"Ah well," Courfeyrac says, shrugging philosophically. "It was a good fight."
Eponine lets her armful of snow slide back to the ground as she goes to join her teammates, accepting defeat in her turn. It rankles slightly to lose to anyone, but she does have the satisfaction of seeing Marius look slightly dazed as he struggles to his feet. A symbolic victory, if not an official one.
"'Ferre said he'd meet us at iHop for lunch," Courfeyrac announces as he performs for Marius the same service Bahorel has just finished for Cosette. "Shall we head over?"
"I don't know about you, but we need to change," Eponine says firmly. She's starting to shiver now that she's stopped moving and Cosette's lips are white with cold. "Give us forty five minutes or so and we're there."
Courfeyrac looks around at the others. "Sound good?" When they all nod he grins. "Excellent. Then we shall reconvene within the hour! Until then, my friends." He pulls Marius and Enjolras away, draping an arm over each of their shoulders. Eponine looks over at Cosette.
Cosette grins and grabs her hand. "Let's go. See you boys in a bit!" She and Eponine start back towards their apartment, both grinning despite the cold and their soaked everything. "See?" Cosette says as they go. "I told you it would be fun!"
"So you did," Eponine agrees.
"Which means you shouldn't doubt me next time I say we should do something."
"Let's not go that far," Eponine says, still grinning. "But I might be more convincible in the future."
Cosette pauses in her step and turns to plant a kiss on Eponine's lips. "You're the best," she says when she pulls away. Then she's headed towards the apartment again, pulling Eponine after her. "Come on! We don't want to be late! They have chocolate chip pancakes at iHop, remember?" Eponine trails after her, letting herself be dragged along by Cosette and her dauntless enthusiasm for everything including and especially pancakes. There are, Eponine decides as they wait for the light to turn, worse ways to end a fight than with reconciliatory pancakes.