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Stitches in Red Thread and in Black

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~the blood of angry men~

It should have been her heart, Éponine thought, as Marius rocked her and promised that she would live forever, but the bullet had gone astray.

It should have been her heart, Éponine knew, when he told her everything she'd ever wanted to hear, but they both knew every word was a lie.

They lied to each other about the pain, but it wasn't heartbreak this time, his or hers. It was her hands that hurt the most, more than the gash across her ribs or the hole in her side.

The rain filled Éponine's sight, and her heart beat on.


~the dark of ages past~

Shots from the barricade. Valjean turned his back on Javert's retreating footsteps. Only three strides out of the alley, but those took too long. The soldiers had pressed forward, heedless of their falling comrades. The boys were overrun.

Valjean had wasted too much time on Javert. He shouted Cosette's lover's name. Shots and the screams of the dying buried his voice. He tried again.

The wounded boy, the one who'd been lying prone when Valjean arrived, lifted his head weakly. Dark eyes met his when Valjean called for Marius. Death all around him, he scooped up the boy and ran.


~a world about to dawn~

"...Marius." Éponine knew that voice, from long ago, and just the day before.

"No." She knew the girl's voice as well; it meant something important to her. "Not him."

She tried to open her eyes, but a warm cloth covered them.

"I'm sorry, Cosette. I thought..."

Éponine licked her lips, regretted it, and whispered, "Cosette?"

The cloth lifted; she blinked against the lamplight.

"Do I know you?"

Her name was infamous as Judas, but an evasion would make of her a sincere Thénardier. She told them true.

"Where is your father, child?"

"My father's a wolf. I'll have none, sir."


~the night that ends at last~

England!

Cosette only just remembered her arrival at the convent, and had lived since in the confine of a few Paris streets, rarely outside and never out of Papa's sight, and yet now here they were, on a ship in sight of a new land filled with strange people, with her heart heavy with grief, Papa having become almost a stranger, and struggling to add this third to her tiny family: the wounded girl who now leaned on Cosette as they made their way on deck, though it was not her who still stood unsteadily even after days at sea.


~I feel my soul on fire~

Cosette was still sitting up as Éponine slipped back into the house. She never asked where Éponine went, commented on her trousers, or implied that she awaited her return, but could always be found in the rocking chair, knitting by lamplight, even after midnight as it was.

It suited Cosette, wraith-like as she was becoming, and Éponine found it suited her as well, to know someone marked her comings and goings. If M. Fauchelevent noticed, he said nothing.

But Cosette's paleness frightened her, and Éponine thought that might be why she didn't disappear back onto the streets where she belonged.


~my world if she's not there~

A peel of laughter sounded through the house. Valjean started. It had been too long since he'd heard that sound. Some days, he thought never to hear it again. He couldn't bear how completely he'd failed her.

Rising, he crept to the garden door.

Late autumnal sun lit Cosette's hair and lent colour to her skin. She sat on the bench, hip to hip with the Thénardier girl. Their heads almost touched as they bent over a book.

Cosette said something in English, then gently corrected Éponine's reply. As she laughed again, golden hair fell forward to mingle with black.


~the colour of desire~

Cosette pulled away sharply, her hand coming up to cover freshly kissed lips. The candlelight made hard work of reading her expression, but her eyes were very wide.

Éponine remained motionless, unsure what to do besides wait and hope. She'd imagined that kiss for so long that when it had been Cosette who leaned in and took it, she hadn't even felt surprised.

Now Cosette could say nothing, so Éponine whispered, "Liked that, did you?"

Her heart pounded for an eternity before Cosette lifted her hand and reached to press her fingertips to Éponine's lips. Éponine kissed them every one.