Sunrise Beyond A Barricade


Éponine woke early the next morning, annoyed with herself that she had fallen asleep in Enjolras' study, especially considering how little she wore. She looked over at him, still asleep in the chair and realised he must have woken. How else would she have acquired a blanket? She picked the book up from the floor and placed it on his desk before hurrying upstairs to dress.

What now? She did wonder. Éponine had nowhere to go and she didn't want to appear as though she was desperate. She could pay Enjolras board, but she had no money. She couldn't go back to Thenardier and she didn't feel safe wandering the streets. She could offer to cook and clean for him in return for board and food...although there was something about that offer that made her feel cheap, like she was trying to take advantage perhaps. Although his dressings would need changing until his wounds closed, and as demonstrated the previous night, Enjolras was in no position to do that himself...especially if he would not go to the hospital. Perhaps she could offer to stay and tend to this for him until he was better. It might buy her a few days at least. For now she decided to venture down to the kitchen and see what she could find in his larder. Not much; it would appear although Éponine did manage to pull enough together for a vegetable broth. She took a bowl into the study for him. He was awake and eyeing her with what could only be described as bewilderment.

"Good morning Monsieur. I hope you don't mind but I made you something to eat. You must be hungry." She set the bowl down beside him and he took it.

"Thank you." They both ate in comfortable silence, Enjolras occasionally glancing at her from over his bowl. Once they had both finished Éponine cleared the bowls away to the kitchen. She returned to the study and sat down opposite him.

"How is your chest today?" She asked him brightly.

"Sore." He answered simply but not forgetting his manners. "But better thank you." Getting up during the night had only made his injury worse.

"I'm glad Monsieur. I hope you don't find me inappropriate but you will need some help changing the bandage. I could stay...just until you do not need me dress the wound I mean."

"You do not have better things to be doing with your time?"

"Not particularly." She shrugged.

"It is important that you understand that I am now a criminal. The revolution was an act of treason against the crown...and I was rather vocal about my opinions around Paris. My face is known to the authorities and by now they should have collected the bodies of the dead. When they realise that mine is not among them..."

"They cannot arrest you? After so many deaths it seems unimportant who started it."

"They will do more than arrest me Mademoiselle. I will stand trial, and be executed. Hung probably. If you are found with me..."

She changed the subject briskly. "If we are going to spend more time together, then call me Éponine. Nobody has called me mademoiselle before in my life."

"Alright...Éponine." He smiled at her. The girl's bruises had come up during the night from where Montparnasse beat her. There were marks around her neck where she had almost been throttled and her jaw was blue. Those were only the marks that he could see and was certain there would be more. "Are you in pain? They look sore."

"I've sure I've survived worse." Éponine had no idea how unusual this was for Enjolras to be showing genuine concern for a creature of the fairer sex, especially when it did nothing to further his political gain.

"Was my bed not comfortable enough for you last night?" He wore a cheeky grin.

"Oh was lovely Monsieur. I just couldn't sleep."

"When did you learn to read, I take it you did not attend school?"

"My old man. Just the basics of course. I had to learn how to read street signs so that I knew which houses we were hitting that night." She flushed. Éponine hardly wanted to admit to this man that she was a common thief, or used to be. "But then I taught much as I could...which wasn't much at all."

"You're very well spoken." It was an observation more than anything.

"That's from too much time hanging around Bourgeois boys like Marius." 'Ponine tried to bite her tongue but the words had already left her mouth. "...Not that I was meaning anything bad by that..."

He did not flinch. "You did not offend me. Perhaps I could teach you to read properly, if you were interested."

"I would love that..." She blurted out. "...I mean only if I'm not putting you out or anything."

Enjolras raised an eyebrow. "It will help pass the time...I will be restrained to this chair for a few more days at least."

"Is it the stitches?"

Enjolras nodded. His back was also in a lot pain, from where the barricade had crushed him. Walking unaided was agony. He should not have carried Éponine when he could barely carry himself. Always the gentleman; Enjolras would never admit that to her. "If it is not too much trouble might you help me up the stairs? I need to go wash and dress. There is still blood in my hair."

Éponine busied herself as Enjolras tried to clean himself up. It took him longer than normal due to his injuries but he firmly refused any help. She stripped Grantaire's bed and washed the sheets. This way Enjolras could have his bed back. She cleaned the kitchen and put the study back in order. By this stage she figured that Enjolras should have finished by now and went back upstairs to check on him. She knocked on the bedroom door.

"Is everything alright Monsieur?"

"Everything is fine." He called back. Everything was not fine. Enjolras was stuck trying to pull his shirt over one arm, the one just above his stitches.

Éponine was not silly and burst through the door and could see his predicament. "Let me help." She had batted away his other arm that was held out in protest and immediately set about delicately maneuvering his shirt.

Enjolras voice was irritated. "You're not shy are you?" It was a rhetorical question.

Éponine ignored him and placed one hand on his bare chest and the other was busy trying to slide the sleeve down his arm. Once successful she removed her hand from his chest and used it to fasten his buttons. "There." She smiled.

"I'm an invalid. I cannot even dress myself." He was increasingly frustrated.

"You will heal."Éponine insisted. "Come downstairs and rest."

That afternoon Éponine impressed Enjolras by reading aloud to him from one of his books. She had a higher understanding than he expected. He reminded himself to be less judgemental.

After dinner she proceeded to change his bandages.

"Can I ask you something?" She mused as she washed the area around his stitches.

"Permission has never stopped you before." He smiled.

"What do you suppose happened to Monsieur Marius?"

"I think you already know what happened to him Éponine." He tried to spare her feelings by dancing around the subject.

A look of deep concentration furrowed across her brow. "But I couldn't find his body." She lowered her sponge and began to wrap the bandage.

"Did you check all of the bodies?" Gentleness was not going to work here. His tone was stern.

"No, but..."

"Everybody on the Cafe Musain side of the barricade was killed. Everybody." Enjolras repeated.

"You were not Monsieur." She was determined, he had to give her that.

"I was foolish. A cannon blast trapped me under a section of the furniture. I could have wriggled free if I had really wanted to...but I did not. Instead I let all of my friends die."

"Enjolras..." It was the first time she had addressed him as such and he broke his brooding to look at her face.

"I didn't even see them take their last breaths. The soldiers advanced running anyone they could find through with their guns. I closed my eyes and feigned death. But I heard them all, crying, gasping, choking. I heard the gunshots and prayed I would not be next. I heard them all desperately trying to run...there was nowhere for them to go. I should have kept fighting...but I was afraid..."

"...Of death?"

"Of failure." He answered. "I failed anyway. My little revolution accomplished nothing. Only death. Before the soldiers advanced I told all of the boys to leave."

"They died fighting for something they believed in. You cannot shoulder the blame for that."

"I am the one who held all of the rallies, the meetings. I am the one who made them believe..."

"...In a better future." She was trying so hard to comfort him. Grief would be the end of him, not his wounds. "You are alive, you can still fight for that." Éponine fastened the bandage.

"Perhaps..." Enjolras went quiet, deep into thought.

She helped him upstairs and into bed. After wishing him good night 'Ponine walked across the hall and fell into her newly made bed. As soon as she was alone she began to cry. Enjolras was right, deep down she didn't really think Marius could be alive. Montparnasse still haunted her during the night. Éponine tossed and turned violently until she woke up screaming. Her screams woke Enjolras. He felt like he should check on her but with his injuries he was confined to his bed. When he asked her about it the next day she denied knowing what he was referring to.

He grew stronger each day and could soon walk with the help of a cane, although lifting his arm was still impossible. Éponine still had to help him dress. The second time he awoke to her screams he couldn't reach his cane but he wouldn't let that stop him. Enjolras forced himself up from his bed and tried to stumble across the hall. He made it to the door frame before falling and the pain that shot through his whole body was so crippling that even Éponine's anguished cries couldn't make him crawl to her door. He lay there gasping, trying to catch his breath for what seemed an eternity. Eventually he managed to crawl back to the foot of his bed and he used his arms to lift himself back up. He wouldn't leave his bed for the next two days. Time was passed by writing letters to the state. He sealed them in envelopes but was undecided if he would send them. Éponine would read to him at night.

Enjolras' mood was far better improved when he found himself able to walk again after his bedrest; although it was still very slowly and he still relied on his cane if he was to be on his feet for long.

The third night she screamed he went to her. He found her sitting upright and shaking, tears streaming down her cheeks. Enjolras stood there for a moment observing her, carefully considering how to proceed. Without a word he sat down on the edge of her bed, took her into his arms, and pulled her into his shoulder. With his good arm he rubbed her back. This gesture was not intended to be intimate, only comforting. Éponine wrapped her arms around his neck and cried into his shoulder until there were no tears left. When she pulled away he studied her tear-streaked face.

"Tomorrow I will accompany you to the police station. You can put all of this behind you." His voice was gentle.

"Thank you..." She whispered.
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