Trouble Breathing.

Montparnasse drifted into consciousness. He was never able to sleep soundly during the night; he had been out of the habit for so long now. His eyes found the window and he noticed a tepid light that only thieves and owls can discern in the hours before dawn. He stretched and got up to dress himself. He hoped he might get back to his den before daylight could lay him bare. His movements, though subtle, were enough to wake his sometimes-lover.

Eponine opened her bleary eyes and rolled over to face the window where Montparnasse stood.

"What are you doing?" she croaked.

"Dressing. Isn't that much clear?" he replied shortly.

"Yes, but why now?" Eponine said, with as much exasperation as she dared express toward a man like him.

"My darling, don't you know? The daylight burns me! Why, the sunrise is enough to kill me!" he said with flourish.

Eponine sat up in what passed for bed and felt about the floor for her discarded skirt. "Maybe you're a vampire," she said dryly.

"Maybe you are. You're the one who's dead inside," he deadpanned.

Eponine cringed inwardly. Montparnasse did not endorse her newfound resistance. For weeks she had been trying to avoid him and when she could not do so, she did not bother feigning interest. The less she responded the rougher he was with her, until she would cry out in pain. She did not know if he was entirely aware of how much it hurt- pleasure and pain can look so similar when compromised as such. It did not matter- 'Parnasse was as content to deal out one as the other when it came to her.

"If I am, perhaps the outside ought to go ahead and catch up."

"Well tonight is a wonderful night to die," he said casually as he buttoned his shirt.

"Oh yeah? How can you tell?" She slithered into the tattered skirt.

He gazed out the window for a moment. "Because, look at all those stars...Look how goddamn ugly the stars are."

Eponine said nothing, but wrapped her torso in a rag that served as her blouse.

"My dear, you'll always be in pain. It's your lot in life. Things never work out right. You always find the wrong way. People like you let life rot them from the inside out. You look at the night sky and see only darkness, you look up on a clear day and the sun burns your eyes." He glanced at her to gauge her reaction. She sat up, with her arms wrapped around her legs, eyes cast down.

He continued.

"The way I see it there are only a few options. You can go on the way you are and I can't say I recommend that. What good is a life if you don't bother living it, after all? And heaven knows you don't bother living your life. All tragedy and anger and misery for you, darling. Which brings me to the next option: You can kill yourself. Take a knife to your veins or hang from the rafters or some such thing. At least it'd end your damned complaining. And of course you can start drowning your sorrows...hell at least that way you can enjoy a drink if nothing else... and I'll tell you something, my dear: Between a rope and a bottle the decision's a tough one, but I'd choose the bottle every time."

"Are you quite through?" she asked wearily.

"Yes, I am."

"And are those the only options?"

"For you, they are. If you were a sensible girl I'd say you have the option of getting on with life and working with what you've got- that is a heap of street credibility, a good portion of common sense, and a man who likes you as much as any man could like a girl like you- who might even look after you, so long as you didn't interfere with his work or his other pleasures and were willing to take care of his needs without putting up a fuss and making him work for it..."

Emotion had begun to creep into his voice as he trailed off. He gazed at her for half a second and recovered. "But you're not a sensible girl so you might as well kill yourself."

He pulled on his hat and strolled out of the room without so much as a backward glance. Eponine watched him go and sat still, contemplating. After a moment she stood and walked to the window. She looked up and saw only darkness.