Disclaimer: All character and novel rights belong to Victor Hugo, with whom I am not affiliated with in any way (neither am I affiliated to any of the copyrighted brands or musicals I've mentioned in this story). I own nothing except for my own imagination.
She comes home from her late-night shift at the bar one day and notices that the door is suspiciously unlocked. Immediately her left hand slips into the coat pocket where she keeps her pepper spray. She turns the doorknob very, very slowly and lets it swing open while she stands with her back to the wall, shielded from sight as the hallway lights spill into her tiny apartment.
She counts to forty in her head, and then cautiously pokes her head in the doorway and catches a mop of crazily curly black hair disappear behind her couch. Her hand goes limp at her side as she sighs in part relief, part exasperation.
Shutting the door behind her as she walks in, she flicks on the lights and crosses her arms. "I hope you all know I mistook you guys for some kind of home-invasion gang and if Courf's big curly head hadn't been sticking in the air I would I have-"
"SURPRISE!" the distinctive baritone of Bahorel roars, with a tinge of desperation, and suddenly her entire living room - 8 by 10 square feet and all - explodes into confetti, streamers, and shouts of "surprise!".
If this kind of thing didn't happen every week or so she would have jumped.
"Wow, you really got me there," she drawls sarcastically instead.
A whirl of long blonde hair and vanilla perfume hurtles towards her and this time she actually scurries back a few steps to avoid getting hit. "Happy Birthday, Éponine!" Cosette squeals, and thrusts a freshly baked cake in her face, covered in icing and decorated with chocolate and fruit. Candles in the shape of "22" stick out of its centre, surrounded by hearts and flowers (she's not sure if the person responsible for that was Jehan or Cosette - both are equally plausible).
She feels a smile begin to form, because even though part of her is ranting about the cleaning she'll have to do after this, she's touched they remembered and even threw her a party. "Thanks, Cosette," she says with a honest smile, which is hard because she's not normally honest. "I would hug you, but you're holding that cake..."
Cosette virtually tosses it to the side and launches herself into the shorter girl's arms, squeezing ridiculously tight.
"Hey, what about us?" Grantaire whines from under a dusty chair in between sneezes. "We planned this whole thing!"
"Actually, Courf and Enjolras and Cosette planned it. You didn't do anything," Musichetta tells him, in the middle of Joly and Bossuet, both of whom are looking perfectly happy to be pressed tightly to her sides between two bookshelves.
Éponine's eyebrows shoot up. She understands Courf and Cosette's involvement (they plan about 95% of all the parties around here), but Enjolras? He had probably never been to a party - voluntarily, of course. Her eyes scan the room until they land on familiar golden curls, her smile widening as he looks away and rubs at his flushing neck in embarrassment.
"Thank you very much," she says, making sure she sounds as genuine as she feels, and though her words are directed at everyone her eyes are fixed on Enjolras. He head whips up and when their gazes meet he gives her a smile half the size of hers but so dazzling she's almost knocked back by the electric volts running through her nervous system.
She doesn't notice everybody exchange significant looks.
Once Cosette and Jehan (who was responsible for the hearts and flowers) have doled out enormous servings of cake and supplied everybody (but Enjolras) with at least two bottles of alcohol, Courfeyrac grandly announces the commencement of Present Opening Time.
"You didn't have to get me anything," Éponine says automatically, and the entire room groans as a whole.
"It's your birthday!" Feuilly exclaims. "Let us spend money on you just this once."
"And coming from coupon-boy over there, that's a big fucking deal," Grantaire adds, jerking a thumb in the ginger's direction, who treats the cynic with a cheerful middle finger.
Éponine smirks and allows herself to be herded towards the pile of gifts.
"Mine first!" Bahorel shouts immediately.
"Oh, fuck no!" Courfeyrac growls back. "I organised Present Opening Time. She opens mine first."
To spite them, she opens Joly's first. It's 200 Deadly Pathogens and How To Evade Them, listing many ways she could die a painful death and even more methods she could adopt in order to escape said diseases. Feuilly gives her a CD set full of Polish pop and rap songs as well as a painting he'd done for her last month. Bahorel presents her with a gleaming new pocketknife with her name engraved into the olive wood handle. Combeferrre has bought her a box set of all the Harry Potter novels and all of George Orwell's books. Bossuet gifts her with a large quantity of chocolate, ranging in flavour from plain Milk to Tropical Nut to Orange Peel.
Musichetta gives her a recipe book full of baking recipes. Grantaire has bought her some expensive scotch and a mixology book. Courfeyrac gifts her the box set of Game of Thrones seasons 1 and 2. Cosette gives her a bunch of beauty and spa products, from shampoo to bubble bath liquid to nail varnish. Marius has given her a load of gift cards to bookstores and music shops. Jehan brings her a book on the different meanings of flowers, plus an enormous bouquet that he spends about 20 minutes describing in detail.
Enjolras' present is the last she opens. He hasn't been fighting like the others to get her to open it, and now, as she glances at him and sees the glimmer in his eyes, she knows it's because he wanted her to open his last. "What is it?" she wonders aloud, holding up the wrapped box and shaking it gently. "It's pretty heavy."
"Open it and see," he says, that stupid fucking beautiful smile on his face again.
She tears apart the paper and sees a plain white box. Nearly trembling with anticipation - she doesn't know why his present is so important to her, it just is - she lifts the cover, and her jaw drops.
It's the soundtracks to her favourite musicals. She takes them out one by one with reverent care, and notices the things underneath them. As she removes them from the box, her eyes grow rounder and rounder. There's DVDs of RENT, Chicago, Wicked, and a few more she barely catches the covers of she's taking them so fast. There's a Cats sweater and a Billy Elliot T-shirt. Keychains and pins and models of things and her grin is so wide she's surprised her face hasn't been split in half by it.
With anybody else this would probably have been an alright gift, if not a bit extensive with just how much musical-related stuff there was. But with Éponine, who's so obsessed with this stuff she'd sell her soul to get it, it's the best present she could have gotten.
Not jewellry, not clothes, not cash or anything like that, but this.
And Enjolras knew.
She turns to him, a breathless laugh slipping out between her lips. "I fucking love you," she says before she really knows what she's saying.
The room turns silent except for Enjolras, who chuckles and smiles a full smile. "So I take it you like it then?"
"Oh, yes." Éponine tugs him to her and wraps her arms around his torso (adamantly ignoring his truly fantastic chest) and smiles into his shoulder, breathing in his clean scent, catching a whiff of his shaving cream. "I love you," she says again, this time to his shirt, as he brings his own arms around her waist.
"You're very welcome," he murmurs back, and the vibration his voice makes gives her shivers.
Neither of them knew exactly what she said until the morning after when she's thinking back on all this and realises that not only is she in love with fucking Enjolras, she's just said the Three Words to his face - twice - and he didn't even get the message.
She knew the moment she stepped into the flat that everybody was going to get wasted. Well, most of it was probably because this was Courfeyrac's party, and Courfeyrac lives with Bahorel and Grantaire, and whenever the party is held where Grantaire lives there's always an excess amount of alcohol both offered and consumed.
There's the typical loud music (courtesy of Bahorel), the drinking games (Grantaire), and the screaming and shouting and running around like a lunatic (Courfeyrac). Then there's Joly sanitising everything, Bossuet falling over and breaking things, Cosette and Marius making out, Musichetta dancing on a table, Jehan braiding people's hair, Feuilly singing in a mixture of French and Polish, Combeferre trying to placate two wrestling people (she discerns Bahorel and Courfeyrac in the mass of limbs), and Enjolras glaring at people while trying to study amidst the chaos.
Just your average Les Amis d'ABC party.
She wins beer pong by a staggering landslide, sending off Marius and Courfeyrac as a pair of inebriated messes, hardly tipsy herself.
Body shots happen and she steers clear, because however much she loves her boys she does not want to get their hair and body odor anywhere near her drink.
Musichetta invites her to climb up and dance with her, and she does, until her dancing partner decides to do a weird slithering and grinding move that makes her look a little like a salamander having a seizure, to which Éponine says "fuck no" and hops off the table.
In a few hours, everyone is unconscious and well and truly drunk.
Everyone, that is, except Éponine and Enjolras, because she has an exceptionally good alcohol tolerance and because he has an exceptionally bad one.
He's unceremoniously dragged Grantaire off the sofa and dumped him on the floor next to Feuilly, and is now sitting on it reading Voltaire.
Her heart, which she damns every single moment of her life, swells and before she can stop herself she's plopped herself down next to him. She looks up at him and absentmindedly begins to examine every contour of his face: the angle of his strong jaw, the fullness of his girlish mouth, the dark blonde eyelashes, the furrowed eyebrows as he reads, and the brilliant blue of his eyes, made especially obvious by the blue of his shirt.
His head turns towards her and she quickly pretends she hasn't just been memorising what his face looks like for later that night when she'll imagine him naked and pressing against her, breathing hard as he puts his lips right next to her ear as he tells her he-
"I love you," she blurts out, but even though it comes out all garbled and slurred (can't blame her, really, imagining a man like that naked would short-circuit anybody's brain), she knows he heard it just fine.
She wants to kick herself or at least slam her head into a wall. Since her birthday he's gone from being "friend" to "good friend" to "best friend" and you just don't tell your best friend you love him even if you do have the most pathetic crush ever - well maybe except for that year she liked Marius - and risk everything between you because he's the best thing that's ever happened to your miserable, fucked up life and-
"You're drunk," Enjolras sighs, not even looking up from his book, but smiling nevertheless. Normally she'd reflect on how since they'd gotten closer he'd been smiling a lot more around her, but he's mistaken her confession for something else, again.
Deciding that it really was too much of a risk, Éponine plays up her acting skills and lets out a giggle and gives him a sloppy smile. He finally looks at her and grins at the dopey expression on her face, and closes his book. "Okay, you're definitely drunk," he says.
"'Mnot," she protests feebly as she slumps forward, head hanging dangerously close to his lap.
"I'll drive you home," he says, gently lifting her up and putting an arm around her waist to steady her stumbling steps. She may or may not have stumbled a little more than necessary to remain in his arms, but he doesn't seem to notice because he's too focused on moving the both of them to where his car is parked.
When he gives her the softest smile known to man as he buckles her into the car seat, her pulse races and she asks herself whether she really should have backed out of telling him the truth.
They're having sex.
It all happens rather quickly, actually.
She's sensed the sexual tension in the air, knowing they're both attracted to one another (she could drool over his defined abs and pectorals, and she's seen him staring at her legs and breasts), but she never saw this coming. One moment they're sitting next to each other on her couch watching the DVD of RENT he bought her and the next they're having a full-fledged make-out session to "La Vie Boheme".
And then Enjolras hastily pauses the musical at the end of Act 1 and they move to the bedroom and soon they're having mind-blowing sex and it's the best she's felt in, well, in her whole life.
But she makes sure she doesn't say "I love you", and puts "Enjolras" in place of it, which turns out to be quite easy, because cliché or not, whenever she says his name to him it feels like she's saying "I love you" anyway.
When they're done and they've regained their breath, Enjolras breaks the post-coital silence. "Do you want to finish the musical?"
She bursts out laughing and says yes before kissing him full on the mouth - she'll never get tired of that - and pulling on his shirt as she leads them back to the TV.
They form a kind of unspoken agreement: best friends with benefits. When they're with their friends they don't kiss or touch each other more than friends are supposed to, and most of the time they're alone they do Friend Things, such as eating takeout while watching a movie, reading together, grabbing a cup of coffee, etc.
Sometimes, though, while they're reading their separate Lord of the Rings books, she'll set their books very carefully to the side before attacking his neck with her lips and teeth and tongue. Even better, in the middle of laughing over a really bad reality TV show he'll cup her face in his long, elegant hands and kiss her everywhere until she's begging for him to fuck her.
She still never says "I love you".
Until that night in his house, when Combeferre is out with his girlfriend Rose-Or-Whatever-Her-Name-Is and she and Enjolras are sitting on his bed, leaning on each other's backs, books and tea in their hands. Then she spills said tea on his duvet and they look at each other - Éponine guiltily and Enjolras amusedly. They put their respective beverages and books down and look at each other some more, and she's not sure who initiated it, but suddenly they're kissing and pulling desperately at their clothes.
"Enjolras," she gasps as he's propping himself up on his elbows to avoid squashing her as he thrusts repeatedly into her, sending wave after wave of blazing ecstasy through her veins. He drops his head and his mouth is right next to her cheek.
He says her name in a drawn-out groan and it sparks a memory in her. She remembers the fantasy she'd first created a few months ago, in Grantaire's flat, picturing him just like this, except in her fantasy he'd been saying something in her ear-
"I love you, oh God, I love y- fuck, Enjolras!" It tears itself out of her throat as she practically screams it at him. He buries his head in her sweat-covered neck, her nails digging into in his bare back, and her own spine arches into his body as they climax one after the other, riding out the aftershocks. He rolls off her and they lie there for a few moments, regaining the air in their lungs.
"You got any food?"
Enjolras' conversational tone matches hers perfectly. "Yeah, there's some pesto in the fridge."
"Awesome." She heaves herself up and casts his shirt over her head while throwing his underwear in his direction. "Come on," she says with a smirk, seeing him still staring at the place her bare breasts were a second ago, holding a pair of boxers in one hand and very much naked otherwise. "Unless you'd rather go nude?"
"You wish I did," he says, wiggling his eyebrows at her, and Éponine sends another prayer of thanks to the gods for allowing him to relax so much around her when he was usually so stern and closed up.
She slaps his ass as she exits his room and he pinches her ribs in response while heating up the pasta.
They're halfway through the meal when Éponine finally musters up her courage. "So you know what I said earlier, back in your bedroom?"
"You said you loved me," Enjolras says with that fucking soft smile and she looks down, unable to meet his eyes.
"Yeah. Um, about that, well..." she doesn't know how to go about this. This wasn't meant to be so awkward.
"It's alright, I know it was - um, you know, in the heat of the moment. Perfectly understandable. It's completely okay," Enjolras says, his ears turning red because no matter how much they have sex he can never actually talk about it without getting flustered.
"Yeah. Hang on, what?!" Éponine's mouth is hanging open. He still doesn't know. Even after she'd told him three times. For fuck's sake, he's a genius and a graduate of the best University in France and absolutely brilliant and he doesn't know she loves him?
"Wha..? Sorry, did I- what did I do?" Enjolras looks properly confused and frightened, which is unsurprising because she's staring at him in shock and horror.
"Nothing," she says, her moment of bravery having completely abandoned her. "I just didn't expect you to understand, that's all. Don't men normally pull up their pants and run screaming for their lives whenever the L-bomb is dropped?"
"Only men that don't deserve somebody brave enough to not only fall in love but express it to them," he says darkly, clenching his fork very tight.
Éponine gulps and looks away, because it sounds a little too close to her situation.
Marius and Cosette are finally getting married, after months and months of planning where and when and what and who and how and, in everybody else's case, why is this taking so fucking long just get married already.
All the Amis go, of course, as Marius' groomsmen and Courfeyrac as his best man. Éponine is Cosette's maid of honour, and all the other girls (Musichetta, Azelma, Rose-Who-Is-Indeed-Named-Rose, and Gwendoline-Who-Is-Bahorel's-Girlfriend) are her bridesmaids.
Cosette and Jehan, having joined forces to plan the wedding (after the initial three-hour-long argument on who would plan it), decide on a white-and-blue colour scheme. Éponine and the bridesmaids wear dresses of varying shades of blue, while Cosette wears a white bridal dress with light blue accents.
Marius only embarrasses himself once (quite an achievement) and the ceremony goes quite smoothly. When Cosette throws her bouquet (that had been painstakingly arranged by Jehan with the utmost care), it is Azelma that deftly snatches it out of the air. Éponine sees her sister look shyly in Feuilly's direction and narrows her eyes, making a mental note to have a talk with her.
It starts going downhill when the reception starts. There's champagne and little snacks and it's just so cliché it makes Éponine a little queasy. Other people, women especially, are talking to her and much more often than she would like, the subject of her own marriage comes up. Except, of course, she'd then tell them she wasn't getting married anytime soon - in fact, she wasn't even dating anyone. They'd make a noise of pity that made her want to punch them, and then ask if she had her eye on anyone. That'd be when Éponine politely-not-so-politely excuses herself with the coldest tone and most fiery glare she can summon.
And somewhere down the line, after the fourth middle aged woman asks if she knew anyone who was available for them, she stands up very abruptly, because she's realised exactly whose fault this is.
She spots him in the crowd, talking to Combeferre. He's dressed in a suit and tie and it looks sinfully good on him, which makes her all the more angrier. If he hadn't been so thick, then this harassment could have been completely avoided, and this fucking sexual and emotional frustration building in her head would have been nonexistent because then she would have had some kind of closure as to exactly what she and Enjolras were.
"You!" she hisses, coming to a halt in front of him.
"Ponine!" he grins, turning around. His smile drops at the look on her face. "What's happened?" His tone is concerned.
"You," she growls, "are the most stupid, idiotic, asinine, moronic, vapid, oblivious bastard I have ever had the displeasure of knowing!" And, for dramatic effect and also because she is really fucking pissed, she pours her champagne right on top of his perfect golden locks.
The people surrounding them are completely quiet, watching the spectacle unfold as the drenched Enjolras gapes at her, the chief finally shocked into utter silence.
"Exactly!" she throws her arms up, and the glass goes flying, but she's too furious to care. "Do you know what I've been doing for the past eleven fucking months?"
"Uh..." Enjolras stutters. "No, I don't-"
"Of course you don't, because you are so stupid!" Éponine jabs him in the chest with her finger. "I have been trying to tell you the same fucking thing for eleven months and you still haven't fucking picked it up because you either have incredibly bad self-esteem issues (which I know you don't, you arrogant fuckface), or because you're an imbecile!"
"Whatever I did, Ponine, I'm so sorry-"
"You don't even know what you did!" She knows she's shrieking and raving like a madwoman, and everyone's starting to back away, but this is nearly a year of pent-up feelings and she's not going to stop now she's started. "I told you on my birthday, you fucking assfuck, when you gave me that fucking present, that I loved you and you thought I was just being gracious! Since when have I been gracious, dumb-fuck-ass?"
Enjolras looks more shocked than he did before, and now he's not even attempting to say things anymore. She thinks she hears Grantaire laugh somewhere behind her but she ignores it.
"I told you at R's house and you thought I was drunk! Oh my fucking God, really? I do not get drunk!" She really feels like slapping him, but she wants him to hear the rest of her rant first. "And we've been having sex for four and a half fucking months! How much more of a hint do you need? Oh, right, like the one I gave a month ago when Combe-fucking-ferre was out and we fucked like bunnies and I fucking shouted it at you and you thought it was just in the heat of the fucking moment, you massive prick! How fucking stupid are you?"
Then the words that come out next aren't even the ones she had in mind. They're worse, because they're so much more true.
"And okay, I may have been a coward in backing out of the two chances to tell you - because I didn't even realise I loved you that first time I told you until the next day - but here I am, making a mess of Cosette's wedding day, because old ladies keep asking me if I have my eye on someone and if I'm going to get married anytime soon, and I keep saying no even though I've loved you for a year without you knowing even though I keep throwing it in your face and if all that time I was making love to you while you were just fucking me then let me make it very, very clear: I, Éponine, am in love with you, Enjolras, you fucking asshole!"
Time stands still as they stare at each other, Éponine huffing and puffing like she'd just run a marathon and Enjolras with eyes so wide she was a little concerned they would pop out. She's just bared her soul to him, in front of a hundred other people, and holy fuck, if he rejects her again (unintentionally or not) she will-
And then he smiles at her like she's the only person in the world - no, the universe, and her anger melts away in an instant (how he did it, she will never know). He steps toward her, his lips still stretched in a grin, his eyes the bluest she'd ever seen them. He bends his head down towards her, and she feels his lips brushing her ear. The fantasy flashes in her mind again and she has to bite down on her tongue to repress a moan.
"Éponine Thénardier," he whispers, low and husky, and she shudders. "I love you."
He straightens back up and grins down at her and now she's the one that's wide eyed and disbelieving.
She pulls her hand back and finally slaps him.
And then she grasps him by the lapels and kisses him, because there's really no more words to be said between them, not after that.
He doesn't need to tell her that all this time he's loved her as well, even back to before her birthday, because why else would he know exactly what to get her and then spend two entire weeks acquiring the items for the birthday present?
AN: I thought I'd write something Modern Enjonine from Éponine's point of view.
Yes, cliché. Yes, fluffy. Yes, maybe the content doesn't really garner an M-rating for some people. Yes, I wrote this very late at night and it's probably shite but I'm posting it anyway. I have no regrets.
Still, if you have thoughts on it or just want to say something (anything), please leave a review and tell me!