Azelma was coughing when Éponine finally got to the apartment and she quickly rushed to her side, the money she'd 'earned' jingling in her makeshift pocket. There was no one in the apartment and her coughs were the only sound. It hurt Éponine's heart to hear her sister coughing so painfully.
"'Ponine," Azelma gasped as soon as she walked into their room.
She was sitting with her head upright in their bed, her hand holding a handkerchief - which was spotted with blood - to her mouth, her breathing so slow, and she sweatier and paler than she was even the night before. Éponine swallowed but took the hand Azelma was stretching out to her (it was so cold). She squeezed it gently because Azelma looked like a soft breathe of wind would break her in half but the squeeze she received back was strangely strong though there were tears glistening in her eyes. Éponine felt her stomach clench - Azelma never cried: she was so strong.
"I'm scared," the voice was so quiet that Éponine had to lean in and strain her ears to hear it. "It's so dark when I sleep and there's no-one there and ... I don't want to die."
Éponine felt tears close her own throat up and they obscured her vision. She needed to see Azelma now, she had to comfort her, she couldn't not see her at this moment. The tears rolled down her face leaving a trail of cleaner skin and she wiped her eyes to see Azelma was crying as well - the tears pooling in the hollow of her throat.
"Do you think it hurts?" Azelma questioned her and Éponine took a deep breath.
Her fourteen year old little sister was not meant to ask these questions, she should not be dying.
"Dying?" she shook her head. "I'm sure it's just like falling asleep."
Her voice had cracked and she had to look away from Azelma's wide trusting green eyes. She brushed a bit of auburn hair from her little sisters eyes when she managed looked back and gave her a weak smile.
"Just like sleeping?" Azelma questioned her, still looking slightly frightened.
"Quick and easy," Éponine nodded, "but won't be dark and there'll be people there to greet you. It'll be whole new adventure for you - a better one."
A small smile made its way to Azelma's face before she coughed again. Éponine moved forward quickly to pull her up into a sitting position. She sat beside her and allowed Azelma to lean against her. She was cold, Éponine could barely feel her weight, her heart beat was faint and her breathing shallow.
"Do you really think so?" Azelma's eyes were still shut.
"Maybe that won't be too bad then."
Éponine sniffed and her sister's breathing slowed down at bit more though she gasped for air to try make up for the less times she breathed in.
"I'm just sleeping, right, 'Ponine?" Azelma reminded her of what she'd just said in a breathy voice that was almost gone. Forgetting how frail her sister seemed, Éponine wrapped her in a tight hug. "I love you."
With that said, Azelma took her last breath and Éponine held her while she did. She felt her heart stop and gasped for breath herself but all that came out with a horrifying cry. She hugged Azelma tighter as she sobbed, her face buried in Azelma's limp auburn hair.
"I love you too."
She was still hugging her when Gavaroche returned to the apartment and, acting younger than he ever had before (he was eleven at this time), he scrambled under one of Éponine's arms. Éponine had finally stopped crying but Gavaroche had only just started. They sat there for hours after their parents took Azelma away, just hugging. They'd lost a sibling, they were now down to two, and no one can understand that pain unless they've been through it. Part of their trio was missing forever now.
It seemed however that it didn't excuse Éponine from her job. Her father dragged her out the apartment building by her hair, even though she showed him the large haul she had gotten in the day, and pushed her into the street leaving her to fall to the floor.
She didn't work, however - well she did but not straight away and she didn't get money for it however well get to that later - instead she went to the one person who knew the extent of Azelma's illness: Marius.
They weren't planning tonight but it was earlier so it was a lot busier. She fought her way closer to where she could see Marius sitting with Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Enjolras and Joly. He didn't see her coming despite the row the boys nearer the door made. Enjolras caught her eye first because he was facing the way of the door and she watched as his forehead creased in concern making her feel self-conscious because she was sure looked a terrible mess, or at least more than usual. He elbowed Marius gently and jerked his chin toward her.
She bit her lip as Marius' soft blue eyes met her own brown ones and he jolted to his feet, pulling into a tight hug without hesitation. She pressed her forehead against his shoulder trying not to cry - Éponine Thérnardier did not cry in front of people.
"She's dead, she's dead, she's dead," she whispered unable to understand the words she was saying, they couldn't be true, they just didn't seem to register.
Marius tightened his arms around her and said something to the others before pulling her into a quieter area of the café though not realising her from her hug. He pulled her down onto a bench next to him.
"Hey, hey, hey," Marius muttered stroking her hair and she realised she was still mumbling. "Shh, shh, I know, I know. It's alright, it's going to be okay."
She let out a sob, her head still against his shoulder. One of his hands was rubbing her arm, the other resting on her hair while hers were around his middle with her curled into his side. He rocked gently trying to calm as the crying worsened. Marius was the perfect person to be with at that moment because as we've said he was sympathetic and compassionate and besides he knew Éponine best. He knew there was so way Éponine wanted to talk, she wasn't one to drink when she was upset and she definitely wasn't one to eat her sorrows away.
They sat there for hours, the Les Amis giving them space though every now and then one would appear in concern.
Bahorel was first, he was the humours one of the Les Amis, he always had a witty comeback on the end of tongue and a joke to tell. He just emitted a great sense of bliss but he was no use. Éponine wasn't in the mood to laugh and the few he did get out of her were just choked. He left with a squeeze of her hand and a sympathetic smile. Lesgle had come with him and helped try and make Éponine laugh.
Combeferre came next and he's the philosopher of Les Amis de l'ABC but he was no use either though he did get Éponine to give him an honest smile for his efforts even pulling away from Marius long enough to give him a hug. The Les Amis seemed to lose a bit of hope after that and it was a while before the next boy came.
It was Courfeyrac and since Marius had lived with him a few years ago he was close to Éponine as well but he wasn't much use on comforting side so he just placed a drink on the table in front of her and disappeared. Then Feuilly, with his generous heart, accompanied Grantaire, who was drunk as always. Prouvaire (Jehan) came next with a flower, which got a slightly laugh, and a short poem. Joly, their medical guy, kept his distance but sent her smiles across the room.
Éponine couldn't help but notice that only one member, besides Joly, who left her alone was Enjolras. She wasn't completely sure how to feel about that but there was a strong feeling of disappointment, part of her had hoped that he would at least attempt to comfort her.
Perhaps we should look at what was going to Enjolras' mind.
It wasn't that he wasn't worried about her - he could feel it gnawing in his stomach, begging for his attention - he just couldn't bring himself to go over and check on her. It wasn't his place and, to be honest, he would never have done it for any other woman, he was polite and a gentleman but comforting was never his strong suit, just emotions in general weren't, he always seemed to make things worse when he attempted so he learnt just to not try to leave the female alone to wallow in her sadness. He didn't want to feel differently about Éponine than he would about anyone else because he didn't think about her differently. She was just another woman, women didn't exist in his life, they were simply distractions.
"Enj," Combeferre, who has basically his second, called his attention quietly, "just want to ask if you are aware that you're staring at Éponine and Pontmercy?"
"Sorry, I was just … gazing into the unseen distance," Enjolras replied and Combeferre nodded in understanding, a half smile on his face.
Sorry, I'm not very good at writing sad, death things like this.