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to be loved and to be in love

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I.

Cosette looks like a traditional, real-life Disney Princess: with long blonde hair, the prettiest blue eyes, and the sweetest smile that can light up even the dreariest day. She's incredibly talented as well; her voice is angelic, and she has amazing voice control that can make all the music critics weep. All three of her albums have gone platinum, and she's affectionately nicknamed "The Lark" by the everyone music industry. The entire world is half in love with her.

Éponine, by contrast, isn't a Disney Princess--she'd be a Disney villain, if you'd ask her, but she doesn't quite look like that either. She wears her hair in an undercut on most days, drowns her eyes in black eyeliner, and she's apparently often found partying every night, hooking up with different people. Apparently, because she remembers the last time she hooked up was two months ago. But hey, their music sells, so. They've even won some awards.

The first time they meet is during a charity concert for Christmas.

It's Éponine's first charity concert, the first time The Barricades were invited to perform in the interest of raising money for impoverished children. They're going to play three songs, one together with Cosette, which makes Éponine wonder. Their songs are for the wolves--fast, angry and loud--she doesn't understand why they would be performing with the Lark.

---

The crowd is so loud it's deafening. A sea of people, and they're all screaming, applauding and wolf-whistling, for them, for her, and it's exhilarating. Her heart is pounding in her chest, and she could live in this moment, forever.

Instead she sings the last few bars of her second song into the mic as the audience cheers louder, singing along. There are no fireworks, no special effects. It's a simple show, yet the positive response is overwhelming.

She grins, rubbing at the soulmate tattoo on her right wrist. Behind her, Grantaire, Bahorel and Bossuet play the closing bars of their song, and the audience cheers.

It's a weird habit, she knows, rubbing her soulmate tattoo, but it calms her. She'd learned at eighteen, after all her heartbreak, that the first words her soulmate ever says to her are song lyrics, and it was part of the reason why she became adamant to break into the music industry. She learned to love the song, to play it, sing it; she had made it into one of her own.

She hopes that, wherever her soulmate is, they can see her now. It's silly, she knows, but she can't quash it.

"Alright," she says. "We have one more song for you guys. It's a cover--" the screaming makes her grin, they're famous for their covers after all, "--and I've got a friend who's going to help me sing it. She's a bit shy, so, think you can make her feel welcome?"

She fiddles with her earpiece as the crowd cheers again, hooting and clapping and whistling, until Cosette Fauchelevent walks out onto the stage.

Then the crowd goes wild.

She looks immaculate in her dark skinny jeans and white v-neck, her "Hi" soulmate tattoo peeking out from her collarbone. She smiles daintily at them and waves, and they scream.

Bahorel kicks off the drums and Grantaire follows, launching into the opening bars of one of their most famous covers--the one that makes Éponine rub her tattoo self-consciously.

Still, she sings the first verse, she pours her heart and soul into the lyrics that aren't hers, but at the same time are--the lyrics she likes to claim, the one she swears her heart beats to, on most days.

She cuts off a split second before Cosette enters, and she doesn't know why, she doesn't know what compels her, but she turns to watch Cosette.

Who seems to be singing  to her.

"I'm standing under a white flag, can you see me, oh, can you see me?"

Éponine turns away and enters right after that, trying to ignore the weird feeling unfurling in her gut. Beside her, Cosette harmonizes, and the crowd responds enthusiastically.

They make it through the chorus, and then the second verse, and suddenly Éponine feels like she's floating. It's better than she's ever performed it, better than she's ever heard it. By the bridge, she's thrumming with adrenaline as Cosette carries them seamlessly through, with only Grantaire's guitar backing her vocals, before Bahorel's drums kick in and they're in the last chrous.

Bahorel, Grantaire and Bossuet bring the song to a close and the audience explodes into thunderous noise, drowning the strong thump-thump of her heart. Éponine is breathing heavily, trying to catch her breath, and in her peripheral vision Cosette seems to be doing the same thing, overwhelmed at the incredible response their song had gotten.

Éponine then turns to Cosette, who mirrors her, and she wants to say something, anything, but she's speechless. Instead, they share a glance, and somewhere in that, they're able to communicate, they're able to convey everything they're feeling and what an incredible experience they've shared.

Somewhere, in that shared glance, Éponine finds her words.

"Hi," she says, grinning, like they've shared a secret.

"Hey," Cosette replies, grinning back at her.

---

Cosette, Éponine finds out, doesn't actually act like a traditional Disney Princess, despite looking like one. She's feisty and witty and passionate and insightful, and she and Éponine seem to get along better than expected. They have similar interests, the same fondness for indie bands, and the same annoyance at singers who can't seem to enunciate their lyrics properly. Funnily enough, they also have a lot of mutual friends, and they seem to run in almost the same circles, that it's a wonder they've never met before today.

It's Cosette who gets the idea, while they're hanging around in Éponine's hotel room, after the show.

"Let's write a song," she says excitedly, from where she's lying down on the bed. She grins up at Éponine, who's seated somewhere above her, watching a horrible 80s movie. "Come on, let's do it."

"Now?" Éponine asks, without taking her eyes off the TV. It's really a weird movie, and Éponine doesn't know if it's a horror or a comedy. Maybe it's both. "I don't have a guitar, and it's like two in the morning."

"Not now, of course," Cosette says dismissively, "but one day. Soon. It's going to sound awesome, and it'll be as big as, like, a One Direction song--"

"I can't write with you now," Éponine interrupts. "You said the words 'One Direction'."

"Oh, come on," Cosette rolls her eyes and sits up, so she's directly in between Éponine's and the television. "You can't deny that they're incredibly successful, and they're songs aren't even that bad."

"I have a standard, Cosette."

"They could fall in your standard."

"Jesus, and then you're going to say Taylor Swift is goddess--"

"Taylor Swift is awesome, okay--"

Éponine turns the TV off to bicker about pop music and the standards of success, which then turns into arguments regarding the influence of music on the people until suddenly, it's four am and Grantaire is knocking on her door, telling them to please keep quiet, I'm trying to sleep here, while Cosette programs her number into Éponine's phone.

 

II.

From: Cosette
I'm serious about the song, though.

From: Cosette
We should really write one together.

To: Cosette
but i can't write with a directioner, because, unlike some people, i actually have standards

From: Cosette
You are such a music snob. Their music is actually pretty good.

From: Cosette
(but is it a yes with the song writing?)

To: Cosette
again, standards, cosette, i have them

To: Cosette
(sure, why not?)

---

"Hey, so," Grantaire says, jumping onto Éponine's bed. He has his phone out, scrolling through something. "Two things. One, are we ever going to do an official recording of that cover we did with Cosette during the charity concert? Because lots of people are tweeting about it, and they seem willing to buy it. YouTube isn't enough, apparently. And Bahorel, Bossuet and I are willing to re-cover it."

Éponine shrugs. "I don't know, I'm fine with it, but you'll have to run it through our producers. And you'll have to ask Cosette if she's willing."

"That's why I went to you," Grantaire says. "You guys have been texting back and forth right? Ask her."

And it's true, they have been texting back and forth, sometimes, with ideas for their future song, and other times, just to tell each other how their day has gone. Once or twice, Cosette has texted her with song lyrics, trying to convince her to listen to certain albums or certain songs. Once or twice, Éponine has replied, teasing her about her shit music taste and how she should learn to have better standards.

(But there are some songs Cosette suggests that Éponine doesn't comment on; there are some songs that hit very close to home, and some that she really, truly enjoys, the ones that resonate within her and make her feel....something.)

"I'll text her later," Éponine decides. She knows Cosette is currently on tour, continuing from when she put it on hold to do the charity concert. She probably doesn't have a lot of time to think about stuff like this. "What's the second thing you wanted to ask me?"

"Oh," Grantaire says flippantly, "The public wants to know when you and Cosette are getting married."

"What," Éponine answers, because what.

"I think they're under the impression that you two are soulmates," Grantaire says. "I mean, Cosette was never really very secretive about her tattoo, and your first words to her were 'hi', right, back in that charity concert--"

"But her first words to me were "hey"," Éponine says. She rubs at her tattoo. "I mean, you know what my words are, and they're definitely not "hey".

"But they don't know that, seeing as you're very 'secretive' about your tattoo," Grantaire answers, making air quotes. "So, it makes sense, for them, to assume what your tattoo says. People like to stick their noses into other people's business, you know, and they especially like to assume stuff about people like us. To them, everything we do is for their public consumption, and they feel somehow entitled to our personal lives." He pauses, and scratches the back of his neck, where Éponine knows his own tattoo lies. "So shall I tell them there's no wedding?"

"Tell them it's not happening anytime soon," Éponine says, "and that they really shouldn't get their hopes up."

Grantaire doesn't answer, instead types something on his phone. And then, "don't forget, we've got a radio guesting on January. We should have something prepared by then."

---

Éponine doesn't mean to do it. But she stumbles upon it and the idea takes root in her mind, and she can actually hear it, hear the finished song in her head, so she starts transposing it. She plays with it, until she's pleased with the final result.

---

To: Grantaire, Bahorel, Bossuet
how do you guys feel about doing a tswift song for radio thing

From: Bossuet
YES PLEASE

From: Bahorel
who the fuck r u and wat hav u done w/ ep

From: Grantaire
what

---

The song, hilariously, is a roaring success--they managed to transform Taylor Swift's pop-country song into something darker, something with an edge. It ends up sounding like something The Barricades would have on their album, and Éponine, Grantaire, Bossuet and Bahorel can do nothing but watch as the number of YouTube views go up. Their fans have taken to tweeting them, telling them how much they adore the new cover, and will they please perform it in their upcoming tour.

(They also get asked as to why they covered, of all things, a Taylor Swift song, to which Grantaire replies:"i think someone got inspired by a certain lark.")

From: Cosette
I just watched your newest cover for that radio thing.

From: Cosette
What happened to miss Éponine 'I-have-standards' Thénardier?

To: Cosette
that song was dedicated to you, actually

To: Cosette
cause i knew you were trouble when you walked in

To: Cosette
so shame on me noooow

To: Cosette
blew me to places i never been

From: Cosette
Just go lie on the cold hard ground.

To: Cosette
but seriously if all your music is like this it's atrocious please go listen to some fall out boy or something

 

III. 

They go on a few shows and promote their upcoming tour--it's small, just around North America. It's thirty shows in less than two months, starting in California and making their way until they play their last show in New York. It's not a world tour ("yet", Grantaire says), but the tickets get sold out almost immediately, and the enthusiastic response of their fans show that maybe they could consider one next year.

Then it's all rehearsals and set list discussions and blocking and scheduling, and soon, they're on tour.

They're in San Diego, getting ready for the show, when Bahorel pops up beside her, iPhone in hand and says, "You really should start checking your twitter more often."

"Why," Éponine asks, "You all basically just update me with information anyway."

"But there are things you really should see for yourself," Bahorel answers. "Like this."

He hands her the iPhone and presses play on a video, and suddenly Cosette is on-screen, looking as princess-y as ever despite the low quality video. She has a guitar slung over her shoulder, and she's speaking into the mic.

"So," on-screen Cosette says, smiling mischievously. "A friend of mine recently, secretly dedicated a song to me--" there are cheers, "--and also, she said that my music taste is atrocious." She emphasizes the word, the diction making it clear to the audience that she's quoting someone. There are some more screams, and then she continues. "She also told me to listen to 'some fall out boy or something'--" here she makes air quotes, laughing as she says it, "--and I said why not? So, dearest friend of mine, it's your move."

And then she starts strumming, no, shredding her little acoustic guitar, if that's even possible and she looks completely at ease, completely in control. She begins to sing, her voice rising, and the audience devolves into a sea of screaming as they start to recognize the song.

It's different, it's a different side of her that no one even knew existed, and yet she's rocking it, and everyone is lapping it up. It's amazing. She's amazing.

When she finishes, the audience is deafening, and she smiles and waves, and she looks almost shy, like she didn't mean for that to happen but it did.

The video ends then, and Éponine looks up at Bahorel, who's watching her curiously.

"So," he says, raising an eyebrow. "What are you going to do about it?"

Éponine thinks for a moment, rubbing her right wrist. And then, "will you guys be willing to help me?"

Bahorel grins. "We've already got you covered."

---

To: Cosette
so you've really 'lit up' the competition haven't you

From: Cosette
You've finally seen it!

From: Cosette
And it's a competition now?

To: Cosette
honey, anything can be made a competition if you just try hard enough

---

"So, Seattle!" Éponine says into the microphone, grinning as the audience scream in response. "We've got a cover for you, but to tell you the truth, it's nothing you'll expect."

She looks back at Grantaire, Bahorel and Bossuet, who all give her the thumbs up, before turning around to face the audience.

"Funny story about this," she says, "One of my friends dedicated a song to me after I dedicated a song to her, secretly." She grins. "I know, I know. Surprise, surprise. And now, it's a challenge, because everything's more fun that way, isn't it?" The audience cheer. "So, friend of mine, it's your turn."

Bahorel kicks off the drums, then Grantaire and Bossuet follow, and Éponine takes a deep breath before beginning to sing.

Later, when they get off the stage, there's a text waiting for Éponine.

From: Cosette
Out of morbid curiosity, how long is your list of ex-lovers?

To: Cosette
wouldn't you like to know

To: Cosette
and you cannot have seen it already, we just performed it

From: Cosette
Twitter is very good at this updating thing.

From: Cosette
Which you should know if you bother to check yours more often.

From: Cosette
Apparently keeping the dedicating anonymous is now 'the worst kept secret in the world' and 'who do they even think they're fooling with this'.

From: Cosette
But I'm still looking forward to seeing it, though.

To: Cosette
you should be. the ball's in your court, little lark.

---

A week later, it's Bossuet who shows her the video of Cosette performing a Panic! At the Disco song with nothing but, once again, her acoustic guitar. She even says the word "fuck", her pretty little cherry lips forming a perfect O-shape over the word, and Éponine takes immense pleasure at listening to the audience gasp, then scream in shock. She blushes prettily when she's done, turning back into the innocent little lark she's known to be, and says nothing except "the ball's in your court, dear," the only indication to Éponine that it's a challenge. For her.

Of course, she finds out when she looks at the comments on YouTube, that the people have actually picked up on the dedication, dissected it, and are now eagerly awaiting Éponine's reply.

It's Bossuet's idea to do the Ariana Grande song, which Grantaire and Bahorel immdiately agree to, despite Éponine's vehement protests. They perform it in Alberta, with Éponine taking care to enunciate the words clearly, and later when they finish, Éponine receives a text from Cosette that just says I really don't like Ariana Grande.

hey, Éponine replies, it's pop music, it's your jurisdiction. now it's your turn.

---

Their little game lasts them until the end of their respective tours. Cosette is a genius with a guitar, showcasing her skills with every new song she performs. Her voice, of course, is amazing, but it's Cosette herself that intrigues Éponine. Cosette, who seems to transform from a lark to a raven, from princess to a warrior and back again, all in the span of one song.

Cosette comes to watch The Barricades perform their final show in New York, and Éponine spots her easily in the crowd. She's watching her intently, her eyes seemingly searching for something.

"I'm pretty sure you know what time it is," Éponine says to the mic, after one of their original songs, and she watches as Cosette smirks as the rest of the crowd cheers. "Actually, you know what, my friend is actually here, the one I've been dedicating songs to all this time, so she'll finally get to see the song live." Here she waves at Cosette, or at least Cosette's general direction, who just raises an eyebrow at her. "I've been practicing long and hard for this one, little lark, so I hope you enjoy it."

This time, it's Grantaire who starts off the song, a long, sustained chord, and Éponine sings with only the chord backing her. The audience, once she starts singing, explodes, but she focuses only on Cosette, who's eyes seem to shine. She looks immensely pleased.

Bossuet and Bahorel enter during the chorus, and the crowd sings along, but Éponine looks only to Cosette, has eyes only for her.

Later, when they go backstage after the show, Cosette is there, waiting for her.

"So," Cosette says mischievously, "where are your standards now?"

"It was a competition," Éponine answers, "so of course I had to everything I can to win."

"It was not a competition," Cosette says, rolling her eyes. "But at least I was able to get you to listen to One Direction. Who are honestly not that bad, admit it. You wouldn't have sung that song if you didn't like it."

"Fine," Éponine says. "Maybe their songs aren't all bad."

Cosette looks pleased.

"Hey, by the way, I forgot to ask, will you be willing to do an official recording of that song we did for the charity concert? For our new album?"

"When?" Cosette asks.

"We don't have an official schedule yet, but you know, just asking, in case you'd be willing. If you can't, it's okay, we can find a different song to put on the album."

Cosette squints at her, and says, "I'll be there. Just tell me when."

 

IV. 

Éponine, Grantaire and Bossuet finish writing their songs by mid-April, and they arrange to record their songs by May. Éponine texts Cosette the details, and they arrange a time and date to practice and record.

Cosette shows up to their scheduled date with her dad-manager, Valjean, and one of her producers named Joly.

(Joly turns out to be Bossuet's soulmate; Joly had pushed open the door to the studio and hit Bossuet on the head. Bossuet had said "Ow, hey!" and Joly had said "Oh my God, I'm so sorry, are you okay, should I call an ambulance?"

Bossuet paled at his words and lifted up his shirt, where his words are tattooed on his side, and Joly's eyes widened as he showed off the "Ow, hey!" tattooed on his arm.

"Oh my God," they exclaimed in unison. "I've found one of you!"

"Hey," Cosette had whispered to Éponine. She looks sad, all of a sudden. "Wanna go for a coffee break?")

---

Cosette is silent in the coffee shop. Éponine taps her.

"Hey," she asks. "Are you okay?"

Cosette sighs, before shaking her head. "I'm fine, it's just that--" she breaks off, clenching her fist, before raising it to her right collarbone, where the "Hi" tattoo is stark on her collarbone. She takes a deep breath. "It's nothing."

"Are you sure? You can tell me, you know." Éponine says. "I'm your friend.

"I know," Cosette says, still looking really sad. "It's really nothing. I'm just being dramatic. I'm sorry."

Éponine wants to tell Cosette that she shouldn't feel sorry, that she's here for whatever Cosette needs. She wants to tell Cosette that it's okay to be dramatic, it's okay to be sad, but Éponine has never been any good with words. She's always been more of a physical comforter, better at simply just being a physical presence for the person. But Cosette looks so incredibly sad, so incredibly vulnerable, and Éponine doesn't know what to do.

Before she can say anything, someone taps Cosette on the shoulder.

"Hi, Cosette," the girl squeaks. "I'm a huge, huge fan. Is it okay if I ask for a photo?"

And suddenly, Cosette's vulnerability is gone; replaced by public Cosette, the Cosette everyone is privy to. She smiles at the fan, and the day seems to get brighter.

(Éponine knows it's horrible thought, but she suddenly misses the vulnerable Cosette she just saw. She was hers, in a sense.)

---

They get back to the recording studio after Cosette poses for a few dozen fan photos.

Joly and Bossuet still haven't stopped staring into each other's eyes, and, according to Grantaire, have started telling each other their whole life story. It's nauseating. Éponine kind of wants to throw her shoe at them, but apparently, Bahorel had already done that, to no avail.

But Valjean nods at them, ushers them into the small recording booth, and says, "Whenever you're ready."

 

V.

To: Cosette
are you going to the vmas

From: Cosette
Yes I am! I'm performing. Will you be there?

To: Cosette
i will!

To: Cosette
and we'll be performing too! are you bringing anyone with you?

From: Cosette
Um, I'm seeing if I can get my brother to come as a date.

From: Cosette
God knows he needs to get out more.

To: Cosette
you have a brother?!?!

To: Cosette
does he look anything like you?

From: Cosette
You'll see!

---

"Éponine!" Cosette calls from across the room, pulling a scowling, chiselled, blonde man. Éponine waves at her, and fights through the crowd and the photographers until they meet halfway.

Cosette hugs her once she's an arm's length away, letting go of the blonde man's arm, and Éponine smothers a laugh as she watches the man's expression change from scowling, to terrified.

"I haven't seen you in so long," Cosette says. "How are you?"

"A bit nervous, but other than that I'm good." In reality she's a lot nervous, The Barricades are nominated for three awards tonight, and even though it's just a VMA and not a Grammy, she still wants to win. Also, they're performing tonight, and that always serves to make her nervous."How about you? You're nominated for around five awards, right?"

"Yep," Cosette answers, and shrugs. "I'm good, I'm just nervous about the performance. Oh! This is Enjolras, my brother," she gestures to the blonde man beside her. "Enjolras, this is Éponine."

"Nice to meet you," he says politely, in a deep strong voice. His scowl lightens up a bit, almost like he's smiling. "I really enjoy your music. I'm really looking forward to you guys performing later."

Éponine is extremely flattered. "Thank you, it's nice to meet you too."

He's very attractive, Éponine can see that. He could be a model.

"Please lighten up," Cosette says, elbowing Enjolras. "I know you have a world to save, but please just take a break for one night."

"I know," he says, "I'm trying."

"Thank you," Cosette says, and kisses him on the cheek.

"Jesus," Grantaire says, coming up behind Éponine. "Éponine, where is the bar, I really need a drink."

"Isn't it too early for that?" Enjolras interjects, scowl back in place. He looks imperious, like an angry angel, or a God. But his words are familiar, and Éponine turns to Grantaire, eyes wide.

Grantaire, however doesn't notice. Or doesn't care. "When faces like yours exist, it's never too early to drink."

It's only when Enjolras pales and steps back, as if slapped, his hand coming up to rest on his chest, that Éponine can see Grantaire replay their conversation in his head. And then she can see the exact moment it dawns on Grantaire, the moment his eyes widen and he raises his hand to scratch the back of the neck, before stopping himself halfway, stepping back, and disappearing, probably in search of the bar.

Enjolras doesn't even blink, just lets go of Cosette's arm and chases after him, gracefully ducking and swerving past the people.

"Well," Éponine says, when it's just her and Cosette left.

Cosette shrugs.

---

Enjolras ends up sitting a few rows in front of them, and he appears a few minutes before the show starts. Grantaire shows up on his seat a few seconds after him, looking wide-eyed, traumatized and terrified, and he clings onto Éponine's arm for dear life.

Éponine doesn't mind, keeping her eyes forward, because she knows that it doesn't do well to pry. If Grantaire's ready to talk to her, he will. But he usually needs time to work things through, first, to dissect and break everything down.

---

The crowd screams when they take the stage, and Éponine's heart is thumping, the adrenaline pumping through her veins. Grantaire still looks terrified, but he seems more reassured, and from her place on stage, Éponine can see Enjolras lean forward to watch him, out of interest.

Bahorel starts, playing the drums, and then Bossuet and Grantaire enter. Éponine looks up and prays to anybody listening that Grantaire doesn't mess up, before she sings.

She sings to the crowd, and she sees Cosette, her eyes fixed on something on stage. For some reason, this buoys her forward, upward, and she feels like she's floating. She closes her eyes and feels the music, listens to Grantaire's chords, Bossuet's bass and Bahorel's drums, and it envelopes her, surrounding her until she feels like a different person.

The people seem to be enjoying their performance, waving their hands in the air, clapping and singing along.

And Cosette is still looking straight at the stage. At her, Éponine realizes.

"I didn't know it but," Éponine sings straight at Cosette, her voice rising up over the music, "You were all I needed."

---

Of course, it's nothing when Cosette performs. The crowd waits with bated breath, until she comes out, in a short red dress, her trusty guitar slung over her shoulder. Her backing band is ready, and the drums sound. And then it's just Cosette singing, with only the drums backing her, until the chorus where she starts to play her guitar, and then the other instruments enter, and she sings like an angel, her incredible voice bringing almost everyone to tears. Éponine is so distracted by her voice, that it's only nearer the end that she really, truly, hears the lyrics.

"If I have you, I don't need a soulmate."

---

Éponine goes to Cosette's hotel room after the VMAs, while Grantaire brings Enjolras to his to talk things out.

"It's horrible," Cosette says. She's a bit drunk on scotch, and she looks miserable, despite winning three awards. "They're all pairing off so quickly."

"What's wrong with that?" Éponine asks. "Aren't you happy for Enjolras and Grantaire? Or Joly and Bossuet?"

(Joly and Bossuet, by some stroke of luck, found their other soulmate, the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Musichetta, at the VMAs today. Of course, the already nauseating, in-sync Joly and Bossuet became even more in-sync, and even more nauseating, when Musichetta came into the picture.)

"No, I am," Cosette says, "But they're pairing off so incredibly quickly, and then there's me. I can't seem to find my own happiness."

Éponine frowns. "Does this have something to do with the whole soulmate thing? I remember you were sad when Joly and Bossuet found each other."

"Yes." Cosette says. Then, "No. God, why did I have to be born with a super generic 'Hi' tattoo? I mean, I think a 'Hey' or a 'Hello' would be better, it's less common, but no, I had to get the generic 'Hi'. The boring, generic 'Hi'."

Éponine is silent, watching Cosette, as tears streak down her pretty face. She swipes them away furiously.

"It's frustrating. Did you know, I had this bad habit, before. Every time someone's first words to me were "Hi", I fell a little bit in love with them." She clenches her fist, taking a deep breath. "And I would hope, I would really hope that they would be my soulmate, even though I did the math and knew that the chances of that were incredibly slim. And I was still heartbroken, when they weren't the one for me. But I'd continue to this, every day, every time, and I'd continue to get my heart broken, and I just couldn't figure out how to stop."

The tears are coming now, and Éponine just wants to make them stop.

(She doesn't know how.)

"I stopped, eventually." She says. "I stopped hoping, and I guess I kind of became a cynic about the whole thing. But the thing about hope is that, it comes back when you least expect it, on the days you don't mean to hope."

"So, you're in love again?" For some reason, there's a horrible feeling in her chest. She ignores it. She can't be jealous, Cosette doesn't even belong to her. Cosette has the right to love whoever she wants to, whenever she wants to, however she wants to.

Cosette makes a frustrated noise. "Yes, no, I don't know!" She takes a deep breath, and looks straight at Éponine. "There's this really incredible person, who I really, really like. Might love, even."

There's a silence.

"Well," says Éponine awkwardly. "Whoever that is, I bet they'd be incredibly lucky to have you."

For some reason, Cosette starts laughing.

---

"So," Cosette says to Éponine, a bit later. "I told you something, now it's your turn."

"What do you want me to tell you?" Éponine asks.

"Tell me about your tattoo, for one," Cosette says, and then backtracks. "I mean, if it's okay. I don't want to overstep, or anything."

"No," Éponine says, rubbing at her tattoo self-consciously. "No, it's fine. You're not overstepping. It's, here, have a look at it."

She holds out her right wrist, where her tattoo is. Cosette squints at it, then frowns.

"It's faded. I can't read it. Why is that?"

"Funny story," Éponine says, shrugging nonchalantly (even though remembering makes her heart hurt). "When I was around seventeen, I fell in love." She takes a deep breath. "He was nice to me, and he was charming and incredibly smart, and to me, he was perfect, even if he really wasn't." She rubs at her tattoo again, self-consciously, as the tears prickle her eyes. "Um. Well, long story short, our words didn't match, and I was madly in love with him, so I read a lot. Of weird stuff. Um, namely, I read and tried everything to get rid of my words, I guess. I didn't want my soulmate, because I was in love with him. But of course, he wasn't really in love with me, he was just being nice--" she stops, and wipes at her tears. "--and of course I was madly in love with him, it was very tragic. But in the end, I can't blame him, he was just being nice and I was just being stupid, stupid old me."

"Éponine," Cosette says her name like an order. "It's not your fault. We can't choose who we fall in love with."

"I know," Éponine says, "but I was still stupid and young and naive. And then when I heard my words on the radio at eighteen, it was like a sign for me, a way for me to start anew, and I guess, I don't know, I hoped that maybe if Marius couldn't love me, my soulmate would find me and they could. They could love me. Despite all this.

Cosette stands up and throws herself at Éponine, hugging her tightly. "I love you," she says fiercely. "You're not broken. Maybe you're a bit worn down, sure, but you are not broken." She says this so strongly, that Éponine closes her eyes, and lets the tears streaming from her face. "I don't care if you have all this baggage. I love you. I care about you. I'll look after you, I will."

"I love you too, little lark," Éponine whispers into Cosette's hair. "Thank you."

They stay like this for a while, with Cosette hugging Éponine, as Éponine traces her faded tattoo and whispers the words she committed into memory the day she got her tattoo.

I'm standing under a white flag, can you see me, oh, can you see me?

 

VI.

To: Cosette
you're going to the american music awards, aren't you

To: Cosette
jesus, little lark, you're not even american

To: Cosette
you're french.

To: Cosette
you're planning to go for world domination, aren't you

To: Cosette
good job tho, i'll be cheering from my apartment.

---

Éponine, of course, watches Cosette's performance at the AMAs on YouTube. Ever since the incident after the VMAs, she and Cosette have gotten closer, have taken to texting each other more, or meeting each other more often to chat. It feels nice, having someone who understands, someone who's as unattached as you. Grantaire used to be her single-for-life buddy, but ever since Enjolras, Grantaire didn't have enough time for her.

Cosette performs amazingly at the AMAs (as if she could perform anything less than that), and Éponine clicks on other videos of her performances. She smiles through the video of Cosette shredding her acoustic guitar at her tour, and she doesn't know how, but she ends up at the video of their performance at the charity concert, almost a year ago.

It's a low-quality video, filled with hands and pixels and heads. Éponine suffers through listening to herself sing the first verse, but perks up when Cosette starts singing.

And then, she stops.

Rewinds.

It's pixelated, but she can still see it, the way Cosette's head turns to face her as she sings her first the line, the line that is tattooed onto Éponine's skin. She clicks on different videos of the same song, and they all show the same thing: Cosette, turning to her, to sing to her, the line that is tattooed on her skin. Her heart is running quickly as she watches it again, and again, and again, and she's struck by a vivid memory, of turning to watch Cosette sing, while Cosette sings to her.

Cosette singing to her, the first time they met, the words that are tattooed onto her skin.

The implication of this leaves her breathless.

---

"Hey," Cosette says, over the phone. "I'll be playing a small show tonight, nothing fancy. I'd love for you to be there."

"Sure, why not," Éponine says, and she's sure Cosette can hear her heart pounding, but Cosette simply says, "Cool, I'll see you," and hangs up.

---

"So," Cosette says, from the stage. Éponine can see her clearly, from where she's standing on the ground, and the way Cosette smiles at her in between songs makes her legs feel like jello, and maybe it was a bad idea to come.

(But the way Cosette sings, like she's pouring everything she's got and more into her songs, is something Éponine refuses to abandon.)

"So, I've got a friend in the audience tonight," Cosette says, smiling down at her again. "You might know her, we used to dedicate songs to each other in our tour a while back." Cosette waits as the crowd finishes cheering, before continuing to speak. "Well, for old time's sake, I'm going to dedicate this song to her. I hope you don't criticize my music taste, now. I worked hard on this."

She adjusts the microphone for a bit, takes a deep breath, and plays.

As always, it takes a while for Éponine to stop focusing on Cosette's voice and instead focus on the lyrics, but the instant she hears it, she draws a sharp breath in. Cosette, of course, sings like she's pouring everything she's got into her songs, but there's something different about this, something tentative, something unsure. Cosette's eyes are fixed on Éponine, and she's looking at Éponine so earnestly, that it makes Éponine's heart beat faster and her palms start to sweat.

"Oh, be my baby."

Éponine is terrified.

"I'll look after you."

Éponine is in love.

So she runs.

She doesn't go far though, pushing through the crowd and running toward the side of the stage. The bouncer, upon seeing her, lets her in, and she navigates the maze of wires, guitars and equipment until she reaches wings of the stage.

Then she strides out just as Cosette is finishing her song, her heart beating wildly. Cosette's audience cheer when they see her, which makes Cosette turn around, her blue eyes widening in shock.

Éponine wants to say something. But she can't. So she looks at Cosette, and blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.

"Hi."

Cosette looks at her, really looks at her, and she's searching for something, Éponine doesn't know what. But still, Cosette must find it, because her face breaks into a small smile, and she says, "Hey."

Éponine closes the distance between them and kisses her.

---

"I've found you," Cosette whispers, later, when they're tangled up in bed together. She says it with so much awe and reverence. "I've finally found you."

"I love you," Éponine says, because she can't say it enough, won't be able to say it enough. It's still new to her, this feeling taking root in her heart and blooming, and it's ecstasy, and it's terrifying.

(She knows, immediately, that this is different from the way she loved Marius; Marius was all scraps and pieces, her heart wrapped in a barbed wire fence. Marius was so incredibly painful that she couldn't breathe, couldn't even think. But Cosette is a blooming flower, a gentle delicate thing; she could love and breathe, at the same time. She's free.)

Cosette kisses her then, like a prayer, like an ode, and touches her in a way Éponine cannot describe.

(Next year, they finally write their song. It's about love, they'll say, the way you feel when you truly, healthily, love someone, the way you just fit, despite not realizing it.

But that's next year. They've still got forever until then.)