Enjolras typed out the conclusion of his essay, which was due tomorrow. He wasn't really happy with it, so he gave it one final read over, before he got up to make coffee.
"Okay, lets go over this one more time." Eponine just got a sound of annoyance from her little brother. "Gav, I'm being serious here."
"Yeah, yeah." The little boy rolled his eyes, but dutifully went through the plan of the day one more time. "'Zelma will come home from school in about half an hour. We will do our homework together. We are not to leave the apartment, except if absolutely necessary. You will be back in a couple of hours."
Eponine gave him a sharp nod, looking for any indication that her brother was planing his own evening a bit differently. He looked mostly bored, but that could just be a facade. In the end, all she could really do was hope for the best. "Good. If you guys behave, we'll have ice cream and movies tomorrow. If not I will personally make Grantaire coach you for your school's spelling bee all day. Do we understand each other?"
Gavroche made a satisfyingly disgusted noise at that and Eponine grinned. "See you tomorrow, kid."
And she grabbed her bag and left the apartment, not without one final glance back to her little shit of a brother. He was 12 now and while that was definitely an age where it was okay to leave someone on their own for a bit, this was Gavroche and Gavroche was not your average 12 year old. She just hoped the apartment would still be there when she got back.
The ride with the subway didn't take long and soon she was standing in front of Marius and Courfeyrac's apartment building. Eponine had never been one to hesitate. It had taken her less than a minute to decide to leave town with Grantaire when his parents had thrown him out, completely overthrowing her life. So even when faced with a potentially awkward conversation, she pushed the button with no delay and if her hands were shaking a little bit it was only for her to know. She shook herself slightly, reminding herself that she was prepared for this. She was ready. What she wasn't prepared for was being greeted with Cosette opening the door.
"Oh," Cosette said.
"Oh," Eponine repeated.
"So… can I offer you anything? Tea? Coffee? Water?" Cosette asked once they had let Eponine inside, perfect hostess save for how highly uncomfortable she looked. Almost as uncomfortable as Marius, though Marius at least looked happy to see her, which was something. They were standing around aimlessly in Marius' and Courfeyrac's living room.
Eponine shook her head. "No, it's fine. I just gotta talk to Marius real quick," she said. "Or both of you, I guess."
She took a deep breath, reminding herself that she could do this. She may not be the queen of good life decisions, but she wasn't a pubescent teenager anymore either. She was in control of her own drama, that really had gone on for too long now. "I was in love with you," she said, voice not wavering one bit. "Or maybe rather the idea of you, and I still am a little bit. And to be honest when you told me to just be friends I was hurt. I want to get over this, so I told you to say away from me for the time being. But you're right and I do wanna be your friend, so I'm withdrawing the wish for space."
Marius smiled so wide, the freckles on his cheeks formed tiny islands. It was adorable, and Eponine noticed with a certain smugness that this display did almost nothing to her. She turned to Cosette, who considering the circumstances looked rather unfazed by it all, and Eponine decided that it was time to start making some more amends here as well.
"And Cosette, you should know that I- I really regret everything you went through." She swallowed hard, around the lump in her throat. "I couldn't say it when we met again through Grantaire, but I can now: I am so, so sorry, for how I and my family treated you. You can do with that whatever you want, I don't expect that we now magically become friends, I just wanted you to know."
Cosette's face was unreadable, when she nodded. Eponine waited a few beats if one of them would want to add anything, then she gave them a sharp nod herself and turned to the door.
She stopped in the frame and turned towards them one last time. "Actually, in a way I'm glad it's you, Cosette," she said, a smile on her lips. It was a sad smile but not less genuine. "Marius deserves someone nice and you deserve someone as sweet as him. You guys really are perfect for each other, even 'Aire said so and I mean he's my best friend, he should be on my side in this." She felt herself blinking away the tears that were despite everything prickling in the corners of her eyes.
"So yeah," she said, trying for a laugh. "I'm gonna go now. You two have a nice evening."
And she was out of the door.
Outside all Eponine did for a moment was breathing in and out and getting out her cigarettes. She focused just on her breath and the movements of her hands, while she smoked and soon the stinging in her eyes stopped. A part of her wanted to call Montparnasse and get her to make out with her until she forgot this awkward visit ever happened, but another part of her knew that that wouldn't be a good idea. She wouldn't be calling for 'Parnasse, but for Marius and that had been the whole point, to not do things because of her fading but still present crush on the guy.
Still, all in all this had gone well, she decided. Or it could have gone worse, at least.
"Hey, there.", a familiar voice called. "You look like you need more hugs."
Courfeyrac stood a couple steps away opening his arms already, a wide simile on his face. She couldn't help but laugh. "You'll smell like smoke."
He shook his head. "Just come here, you."
Courfeyrac gave really good hugs, so she let him hold her for a second, careful not to burn his jacket.
"What are you doing here?" he asked after letting go again.
"I just talked to Marius," she answered, her tone making it clear that she didn't want to share any further information about it.
"I see," Courfeyrac nodded. "Okay, wait here. I'm gonna quickly pop in up there, leave my books and then I'll take you with me."
She raised an eyebrow at him, a move Grantaire had informed her she was very good at. "Where are we going?"
Courfeyrac just grinned. "Jehan's."
Enjolras got more and more unhappy with his essay's conclusion. Even though Combeferre said it was fine, he still worried. He read it again. And again. And again.
When Gavroche heard the keys turning in the door he was currently using Grantaire's laptop to update his blog, where he documented the very important events of his life.
"I'm home," Azelma called.
"Hey 'Zelma.", he greeted from the couch without looking up.
With a long groan his sister fell into the cousins next to him. "No 'Ponine?", she asked after a few seconds.
"Nah, she went out."
That made him lo ok up. Azelma looked at him with a wide grin, bouncing a bit up and down. "What do you have in mind?" he asked.
Her grin widened and Gavroche was positive that there were sparkles in her eyes. "I think 'Ponine is seeing someone."
"So?!" She threw her hands in the air, an overdramatic gesture she had picked up from Grantaire. "What if they become part of our family? What if they are bad for her? As siblings it's our duty to protect her and our family?"
Gavroche made sure to give her an unimpressed look at that. "You just wanna meddle with her stuff."
Azelma shrugged. "And you don't?"
Gavroche closed the laptop. "Good point."
They smiled at each other for a few seconds before Gavroche frowned. "Wait. How are we gonna do this? Where would we even start?"
"I might have taken the number out of Ponine's cellphone. They're name is Parnasse or something."
Gavroche grinned. "Not bad." He had taught his sister well. Then he remembered something. "Wait, I think I know that name."
"It does kinda sound familiar," Azelma agreed. "In any way I thought about calling them over and getting to know them a bit."
Gavroche answered her mischievous grin with one of his own. "Why not?"
Objectively there were a lot of reasons why not and many other siblings might not have turned to such drastic measures but the Thenardier children were just anyone. Their lives had been nothing but drastic until Eponine had taken them with her and neither of them were ready to let go of their old habits quite yet.
They put the phone on speaker, Azelma giggling a little bit in anticipation, until a smooth voice answered the call. "Hello?"
Gavroche cleared his throat, going for his most official voice in his repertoire. "In behalf of the combined household of the Then- R -dier family you're being formally requested to undergo a thorough background check. Please report to the following address.”
There was a low chuckle on the other side of the line. “And you must be Gavroche.”
Enjolras had broken down the sentence in each word and listed alternatives. For each word he had ranked them from best to least usable. The sentence stayed the same. He was going to tear his hair out.
Jehan's apartment was tiny and completely overflown with books, loose pages and plants. Eponine gratefully took the tea they offered, giving them a small smile in return. They lead her and Courfeyrac into what appeared to be the living room, the walls almost not visible behind the various bookshelves and the floor one giant nest of blankets and pillows, save for one small coffee table, with a very old looking TV, an ashtray and something that appeared to be the skull of a cat on top. Grantaire would love it here if only for the aesthetic. Courfeyrac mainly kept the conversation going, chatting away lightly, Jehan laughing at the right moments. Eponine felt herself relaxing just listening to the two jumping from topic to topic.
When Jehan started to build a blunt, they studied her expression, so Eponine gave them a small reassuring smile. She and Grantaire had smoked pot a lot during high school, before everything happened, and it was almost cute how carful they were treating her, always ready to stop before they could make her uncomfortable. Eponine usually didn't like being treated with kid gloves but here in Jehan's overflowing apartment everything felt a little bit saver than she was used to. A quick look at her cellphone told her that Grantaire would be home in an hour, so she send him a quick text to make dinner and look after the two terrors tonight.
“I don't know, Courf, there is something about Furbies that just fascinates me deeply,” Jehan said above Courfeyrac, their fingers combing through his hair.
“You're probably the scariest human being I ever met,” Courfeyrac said gravely, as Jehan was taking another drag from the blunt. Jehan just laughed. They had a low quiet laugh, barely a chuckle, that still went through their entire body.
They handed the blunt over to Eponine, who was sitting next to them her back against the wall and her legs crossed.
“How does Bahorel even manage?” Courfeyrac continued.
Jehan laughed again. “It's a mystery.”
Enjolras had now read the last sentence of his essay about twenty or thirty times out loud in variating tones and voices. All the words had lost their meaning.
When Grantaire got home he was expecting maybe a sugar rushed Gavroche and an Azelma watching adult content murder series or something, you know, the usual. He was definitely not expecting Montparnasse sending him a sharp grin when he entered the living room. Gavroche lifted his gaze from their game of poker giving Grantaire an absent wave before returning his focus to the game and Azelma didn't even look up.
“I see your ten and raise you,” Gavroche placed a blue and a green chip in the admittedly impressive pool on the table. “another fifty.”
“Anyone want to explain this?” Grantaire asked, getting no reaction whatsoever. “Anyone?”
Montparnasse raised as well. “This I gotta see,” she said, a sharp smile on her face.
Gavroche grinned back. “Full house,” he said, revealing two queens and three fives.
Montparnasse shook her head, the smile slipping from her face. Instead she raised her eyebrows in silent approval. “Not bad, kid.”
Grantaire watched Gavroche take in his winnings, feeling the beginnings of a headache forming behind his eyes. “Montparnasse,” he said through closed teeth. “What are you doing here?”
“That's not a very polite way to talk to our guest,” Azelma chirped in, immediately shrinking in her seat, when Grantaire fixed his glare on her. At least he could still intimidate her, he thought as Gavroche began dealing the next round. Grantaire was ending this right now.
“Gav, pack up your cards there will be no further taking of money from-” The criminal, the art thief, Eponine's lover? “… our guest,” he settled on.
Montparnasse smiled sweetly. “Thank you, Grantaire.”
“I'm way too tired for this,” Grantaire mumbled, pinching the bridge of his nose.
He watched as Gavroche cashed in his winnings until he finally put the cards and chips away. Grantaire then walked out of the living room into the kitchen, dragging Montparnasse with him.
“What are you doing here?” he repeated once he had closed the door behind them, probably a futile effort to keep Gavroche and Azelma from listening in but he had to at least try.
“The kids called me,” Montparnasse said with a shrug. “I think Azelma got the number out of 'Ponine's phone or something.”
“Yes, but why?”
Another shrug, this time accompanied by a grin. “That's anyones guess.”
“And somehow you ended up loosing at Poker to a ten year old?”
“Basically.” She seemed unbothered by it, though Grantaire was pretty sure that Montpanrasse wouldn't have lost on purpose. There was no special treatment for anyone with her, that was one of the things both Grantaire and Eponine liked about her.
“He's a smart kid. He could go go far.”
Grantaire froze for a second. “Montparnasse,” he said slowly, brows drawn together, making sure he had her undivided attention. “You know that Eponine moved here because she wanted to get these two away from their parents and the world they live in, so you better watch it with crap like that.” He spoke low so it could definitely not be heard through the door, fixing the woman in front of him with his glare.
She lifted her hands in an universal sign of surrender. “I didn't meant to cause offense.”
They looked at each other for another few seconds, before Grantaire spoke again, his voice just above a whisper. “If you hurt her I will break all your bones, you know.”
Montparnasse let out a startled laugh and shook her head. “No need for that, she will have done that herself.”
Grantaire nodded. “True.”
So now that that was out of the way he might as well start to prepare dinner, Grantaire thought.
“If you want to stay for dinner, you can,” he told Montparnasse, who actually looked a bit startled by the offer.
“I think I'll take you up on that,” she said smiling her usual cunning smile. “You two have raised some nice kids, 'Aire.”
Grantaire didn't really feel like pointing out that he was hardly a good influence on the two himself, that he barely did anything, that really it was all Eponine, so he just nodded. “Thanks.”
Enjolras read the still unchanged conclusion for what felt like the billionth time. And why should anyone change it?, he thought drinking his forth cup of coffee. This was the best thing anyone had ever written.
Courfeyrac had insisted on walking Eponine to the bus station, taking the long way round through a park, since they had the time. Eponine had a feeling not just to admire the scenery.
“When did you know?” Courfeyrac asked after almost a minute of comfortable silence. His voice was low and for the first time he sounded unsure.
“That I was ace?”
Eponine shrugged. “I guess in a way I always knew. Growing up I was never big on the whole dating thing for … personal reasons,” she settled on. “'Aire and I talked about it once, having sex that is. He wanted to try it out, was actually kinda excited about it, and that's when I realized that I didn't. I never wanted to try sex. I still don't. I found the term for it a while later, but yeah.” She turned her head to face Courfeyrac, so she could be sure that she wasn't overstepping any lines. “What about you?”
Courfeyrac was quiet for a while. “I... I love dating,” he started, his voice still low. “The falling in love, the courting, I really like all of that. I always assumed that having a crush was the same as sexual attraction but I never- there were a few situations where sex would have been the next logical step but I couldn't follow through, if you will. And for a long time I just thought I wasn't ready or that I didn't feel... strongly enough.” His movements had gone halting and he was blinking a bit too much. “I mean, I knew what asexuality was - even back then - but I never- I never thought that I would be ace,” Courfeyrac finished voice barely above a whisper. “I just never made the connection. But when Marius told me about you and he mentioned how you two talked about you being ace. And then it just kinda clicked. I only ever told Marius, because he was there. And he told you before he knew that it was a secret so you two are actually-” Courfeyrac swallowed hard. “You two are the only ones who know.”
Eponine grabbed his elbow giving it a firm squeeze.
“I really hate this,” Courfeyrac breathed.
There was no need for words after that.
She was greeted at home with a nice smelling dish of pasta, two excited children, a tired Grantaire and apparently Montparnasse because why the hell not?! “You two can not be left on your own, can you?”
“Not if you hide your secret lover from us, no,” Azelma said as if it was obvious.
And maybe it should have been, Eponine thought. Maybe thats how her sibling showed that they cared. She hid her smile behind a large helping of pasta.
Montparnasse insisted on being walked down to the bus station which was ridiculous for a lot of reasons. Eponine went with her anyway.
“So I just had dinner with your family,” Montparnasse said and Eponine was going to punch her in the face if Montparnasse was going to make her have another meaningful conversation today.
“I noticed,” she deadpanned. “I was there.”
Montparnasse laughed lightly, then she turned her head to face Eponine, her eyes comically wide and a mocking grin tucking at the corners of her mouth. “What are we, Eponine?” she teased and it was Eponine's turn to let out a light laugh.
“I'm not having this conversation with you,” Eponine told her.
“Fair enough,” Montparnasse said. “I really liked it, though,” she added after a few beats, her voice more serious yet still conversational. “I really like this.”
Eponine was about to point out that this still very much qualified as having that conversation when Montparnasse leaned in and quickly sealed her lips with a short kiss. “That's my bus,” she said, stepping away, her eyes still on Eponine. “I'll see you around, 'Ponine!”
And she turned, with her long legs reaching the bus in time easily and getting inside. Eponine watched her find a seat as the bus left the stop, a small smile on her lips.
“I think I really like this too,” she told the cold air around her.
Combeferre found Enjolras the next morning on the couch, curled around his laptop, still reciting the conclusion even in his sleep.
Gavroche groaned loudly. "Oh god, do I have to?"
For the lack of an actual buzzer Grantaire just made the sound with his mouth. "Treacherous," he repeated.
"Can you use it in a sentence?"
"I can, but should I?"
"The two treacherous children got just what they deserved."
"Hilarious. Okay, T - R - E - A - C - H - R-"
Grantaire made the buzzer sound again.
"How would you know, you don't even have a reference sheet or something?"
Grantaire just smirked. "Eidetic memory."
"Is that your explanation or the next word?"
"I hate you."