Eponine is tangled up in a fight when she tries to do the right thing.
Chapter 4: No One Like Him Anywhere
Eponine stood with her back against the cold stone wall, chewing on her lip distractedly as Marius and Cosette made puppy dog eyes at each other for the fourth night in a row. She vaguely heard them giggle about something trivial, and almost rolled her eyes when they repeated for the sixth time how much they adore each other, even though they'd only known each other for a few days. Another overly sweet laugh from Cosette made her actually roll her eyes, and she pushed herself off of the wall and pace back and forth out of the lovebirds' eyesight. Ever since she was confronted a few nights prior by Enjolras, she'd been frustrated. Her thoughts have been many and only growing stronger, and she was curious as to how that was. She usually didn't have to think about anything serious. And even when she tried, her father always did something to squelch her ideas.
"Love makes men weak..." That deep voice echoed in her head, and she bit her lip again, pushing her hand through her hand and holding back a groan of annoyance. The look on his face when she argued with him was one of both shock and awe. As though he was seeing her for the first time. And that in turn sent her mind reeling with thoughts she could never afford to think. She heard Marius call for her, and she snapped herself back into reality before turning around to face her best friend.
"What is it?" she asked him as she plastered a smile on her face. He wrapped her up in a tight hug, and she allowed herself to take in his scent of mixed spices from an earlier dinner before he released her, and she was alone again with herself and her thoughts.
"Thank you, dear 'Ponine. Cosette is my angel. And now I must go. So much to do." With another hug and a huge grin, he left her there, jogging away with a lighter step in his feet. She stared after him a long moment and heard the door to Cosette's home shut, and she knew she was truly alone on the street now. She hung her head, leaning against the wall and blocking out the pain she felt. When did her life become one giant stab in her heart?
"Hussy! Get off our street!" A male voice called out, and she glanced up, startled. Her father and his gang of miscreants came storming down the street. Monsieur Thenardier slowed a bit when he realized that it was his daughter, and his friends snickered a bit. Montparnasse eyed her up and down with predatory eyes, and she glared back at him.
"'Eponine...what are you doing out so late?" her father asked her, taking her by the elbow.
"I needed the fresh air..." she replied, trying to shake loose. "What are you doing here?"
"We can finally rob Valjean while he sleeps. We do not need you. You need to go home. Now," he replied matter-of-factly. Her gaze wavered to the home of Marius' new love, and she knew that neither Marius nor herself would ever forgive her if she did nothing to stop it.
"No," she took her hand and put it on his arm, squeezing it. "The only people who live here are an old man and a little girl. Leave them alone. They've done no wrong to you."
"Eponine...I'm not asking. Go home," her father warned her, pushing her away from him roughly. Without even thinking, she screamed out loud to warn Cosette and her father and backed away, trying to alert the rest of the street. Monsieur Thenardier rounded on her, but she kicked him in the shin. He backhanded her across the face, making her gasp and hold her cheek as everyone began to scatter, hearing the sound of hooves on the street around the corner. Eponine ran for her life, picking up her skirts and gasping for breath, panicking. Her cheek stung from the force of her father's strike, but she was glad that Cosette and her father were safe for now.
"Damn girl, growing a conscience..." A hand reached out from the darkness and grabbed hold of her hair, yanking her fast into the shadows of an alleyway. She started to fight back but was slammed back into the wall behind them. Montparnasse's sneer appeared in front of her, and she glared hatefully at him.
"Get off...let me go, 'Parnasse..." she snapped, her arm shooting out at his face. He deflected her hit with a smirk on his face.
"Was that supposed to hurt, 'Ponine?" he mocked her, laughing dryly as he pressed her back with his own body. "You ruined your father's plans...he's not going to be very happy with you..."
"And you really think I care?" she shot back challengingly. She was awarded with another slap, this time against her mouth. A second later, she tasted blood and realized that he split her lip.
"You will care soon...I was supposed to get a fourth of that money, and now you gave us away." The look he gave her sent a shiver of apprehension down her spine, and she swallowed hard. "And you're going to pay for every penny I lost...I just hope you're worth it."
"Like hell you are," she thrashed about, trying to scream again before his dirty hand covered her mouth. He smirked coldly, his hand roaming up and down her chemise and skirt as she squirmed against him. The scoundrel leaned into her and kissed her square on the lips, even as she pushed at him with all of her might. His lips hovered at her ear as he whispered that she couldn't do anything to stop him, and then he was kissing her neck. She tried not to gag, disgusted at the man who held onto her. Tears stung the backs of her eyes, but she tried to think straight and stay strong.
She got her chance when he took out his small knife and started to fumble with her chemise and slammed her knee into his gut. As he fell to the ground, his hand gripping her top ripped it a bit, the knife catching her exposed arm, and then she was free. She ran into the street once more, the tears falling down her cheeks as she escaped. The injured brunette didn't even know where to go. She just ran. The breath in her chest was painful after a few minutes, and she had to stop, falling hard against a building with a cry of both pain and exhaustion. Her back skidded down the wall as rain began to pour from the sky. She didn't even care about the rain soaking through her skin when she sank into a sitting position, curling into herself as her sobs took over her body.
"Twelve! Yes! Ha!" Enjolras sighed and glanced over as his friend Grantaire shouted in triumph over his win in dice.
"That's because you cheated!" Combeferre smiled, but Grantaire shrugged and folded his arms expectantly. His other friends laughed and threw their money at him playfully as he collected it and then went about drinking more wine. The rebel leader stood away from them but still close enough to hear everything they were saying. He was glad that his friends were having a good time for once in a long time, and he was almost tempted to join in. However, he had a revolution to help lead. He walked over to the map and looked at it once more before looking over at his friends.
He wished he could be that carefree, like he was when he was a child. Those days of summer when he'd chase Eponine around the streets, laughing and speaking nonsense. He grew up since then, though. He saw the horrors of the French government and would defend his city and his people with everything he could. Eponine was right when she told him that love did not make him weak. It made him stronger. He wanted to find her so he could thank her for those words, but he hadn't seen her since that night four days ago. He found it strange that she hadn't shown up, as she is always in or around the Cafe nowadays.
All other thoughts were pushed away when Joly burst into the Cafe, searching for someone with worry etched on his face. When his eyes fell on Enjolras, he purposefully strode towards him, and it caused Enjolras' heart to beat faster. Whatever it was, it couldn't be good. He tightened his jaw and straightened up, putting down his water and meeting his friend halfway.
"Enj, you need to see this," he began somberly, confirming Enjolras' fear that something was wrong. Everyone watched him as he clapped Enjolras on the back and nodded his head in the direction of the door. Enjolras nodded in return, his face grim and preparing for whatever he was about to see and followed him outside. He shielded himself against the downpour of rain that hit him, and Joly led him over to someone curled up against a nearby wall. Whoever it was was shivering uncontrollably and looked as though they had been out in the rain far too long.
"Madameoiselle?" Joly asked softly as he knelt down. "I don't know how long she's been out here, but she needs medical attention." There was no answer, and Enjolras knelt by her side as well, his hand reaching out to move back the hair that was shielding the stranger's face from view. He looked at the bruised face with a sense of dread, his heart tugging painfully. Joly froze beside him, his expression turning to one of recognition and sadness.
"Eponine..." Enjolras whispered in fear, his hand brushing her cheek slightly. She moved weakly, cradling her arm, and he looked down to see blood. He cursed to himself and looked at Joly, who felt concern for his dear friend when he saw how scared he was. He rarely saw Enjolras shaken up by anything. "Joly, help me get her somewhere safe." He nodded when Enjolras spoke up suddenly. Enjolras took off his own coat and draped it around her, and they lifted her up carefully.
"Where can we take her?" Enjolras asked him as they walked as quickly as possibly without hurting her further. She moaned in pain, mumbling incoherently as her head lolled from side to side. He looked down at her with his heart aching. So this is what was happening while she was gone for four days...
"She can stay with me. I can help her. She'll be safe with me, I promise," his friend responded. They arrived at Joly's home a short time later and hurried to the guest bedroom. Laying her on the bed and covering her with a blanket, Enjolras stood there as Joly moved around quickly, gathering up his medical supplies. Enjolras' eyes never left Eponine's shivering form. He pulled up the nearest chair and sat, getting ready for a long and sleepless night by her bedside.
"Enj..." Joly spoke up gently, putting his hand on his leader's shoulder comfortingly. "You don't have to stay. Nothing's going to happen to her."
"I'm not leaving. I need to know who did this to her. When she wakes up, she needs a familiar face so she feels safe," he answered fiercely, his hand moving to touch her beautiful yet broken face, and his fingers lingered there even as Joly sighed and began to work. For the first time in his life, he had never felt so helpless.