AN: It's been a while since I ventured into the Les Mis universe (life has, generally, prevented me from writing anything for any universe recently) but I went to see the actual show in the West End on Wednesday and I have found myself re-obsessed with it ever since. Hence, I have produced a 'What if Valjean also took Eponine when he saved Cosette?' fic to add to what I'm aware is a vast collection (I'm not even sorry, it's been a while since I read a good one so BAM I gave it my best shot!).
The character descriptions I included here refer to the Young Eponine and Cosette currently in the West End production and are therefore the complete opposite to the movie (just in case that's what anyone was expecting). Enjoy!
Valjean forcefully placed the five hundred francs that sealed his deal with the Thénardiers on the table before taking Cosette by the hand. "Come, Cosette," he murmured after thanking the revolting couple for putting him rather deeply out of pocket.
As he reached the door, he glanced back one final time and he met eyes with a young girl stood in the corner of the room, a stark contrast to the young girl with tangled, dirtied brown locks, tattered clothing and a malnourished complexion clutching his hand. This child can't have been much older than Cosette, but with her tidy blonde hair, expensive clothing and healthy look, you could be forgiven for assuming that she was much older.
As their eyes met, Valjean found that she watched him and Cosette leave with not just curiosity but envy alongside. She then turned to look at the Thénardiers, who he could only assume were her parents, frowning slightly as she saw them trying to multitask keeping up their 'devout Christian' act and celebrating their newly gained funds.
Valjean was unable to ponder this for another second, however, as an impatient Cosette tugged on the sleeve of his coat in an attempt to force him out of the door. He chuckled quietly, patting her hand gently. "Alright, Cosette, we shall go." He assured her. When he turned to glance back at the girl in the corner, however, she was gone.
*. . .*
Valjean bought Cosette the doll she had looked at so longingly on their way back from the forest (he had already spent a fortune on taking her away from a life of slavery; another payment, tiny in comparison to the one he had just made, was unlikely to damage his accounts much further), presenting it to her and revelling in the way her face lit up.
He carried her the rest of the way to his carriage, suddenly aware that the child was walking barefoot in the snow. He swore to himself, as he had to Fantine, that Cosette would never again want for nothing; she would have anything and everything she wanted or needed because, after the amount of suffering she had had to endure, she deserved it.
He lifted her into the carriage, placing her gently onto the seat before moving to climb up himself.
"Monsieur! Monsieur, please, wait! Please, monsieur, don't go!"
Valjean turned around to find the other girl from the Thénardiers' inn running towards him. She skidded to a stop in front of him, her boots offering little grip in the snow.
"What is it, my child?" Valjean asked her, looking slightly concerned.
"Please, monsieur, take me with you," the young girl begged, "Please take me with Cosette!" Valjean frowned.
"What is your name?" he asked her. The girl swallowed, her excitement waning slightly.
"Éponine, monsieur," she said, "Éponine Thénardier."
"Well, Éponine," Valjean crouched slightly so that he could properly look at her, "It wouldn't be good of me to take you from your parents."
"They don't love me, monsieur!" Éponine argued, "I can tell that they don't! I... I'm nothing more than a doll and a tool to them! Something to dress up and to use to steal from people! Please, monsieur, don't make me stay here. I... I fear to think what might happen if you do."
As Valjean studied Éponine, he was somewhat astounded by her intelligence; she could so easily see through her parents' ruses and knew exactly how to manipulate him into wanting to take her away.
He glanced back at Cosette, who looked neither happy about, nor against, the idea of taking Éponine with them.
"Please, monsieur?" Éponine pleaded again. Valjean looked back to her and the look on her face was enough to make his decision for him.
"Very well," he said, becoming aware that Javert couldn't have been much further behind him and that time was of the essence, "Do you have anything you wish to bring with you?"
Éponine grinned, lifting her shawl to show him a bag, "I've got some dresses and shoes," she told him, "Some... some of them are slightly older and smaller. I thought they might fit Cosette." Valjean's face softened further at this and he turned around to see Cosette with a slight look of shock on her face.
"Th- Thank you, Éponine." Cosette said quietly, sounding as surprised as she looked. Éponine smiled slightly.
"I'm sorry, Cosette," she said, "I've been horrid to you. I... I was just trying to make Mama and Papa love me. I thought, if I did what they did then they might... but no. It was wrong of me. I'm sorry."
Valjean looked between the two girls and shook his head slightly, trying to work out how he managed to become a father to an abandoned child and possibly the wisest eight year old to ever have lived in such a short space of time.
"Let's not stand in this cold any longer," he said quietly, taking Éponine's bag from her and placing it next to Cosette on the seat before lifting Éponine into the carriage, "We must leave."
"Are you in trouble, monsieur?" Éponine asked, looking at him with a similar expression of curiosity to the one she'd had in the inn. Valjean smiled reassuringly, hiding his true worry behind it.
"Not in any way that you should worry about, mes petites," he said, climbing into the carriage himself and shutting the door, knocking on the window to alert the driver that they were ready to go.
They rode in virtual silence, Cosette and Éponine sitting across from Valjean, almost the entire seat between them. Éponine kept glancing at the other girl but Cosette refused to look at her, watching the world pass her by from the window. Her heart dropped slightly; she'd hoped that her peace offering would be enough to appease Cosette at least enough for her apology to break through. Alas, the distance between the two simply demonstrated to Éponine that materialistic things did not always have the power to make people happy.
After a while, however, Cosette's eyelids began to droop, the exhaustion of spending the day working in the inn coupled with the excitement of finally escaping catching up with her. Somehow, her head ended up in Éponine's lap and, when Éponine tried to gently push her away, she simply cuddled in closer, Cosette's hand catching one of Éponine's and clutching it tightly, the other arm hugging her new doll.
Éponine looked up at Valjean with wide, surprised eyes. The man simply smiled back at her softly. "Give her time, little one," he said quietly, "Cosette's mother had one of the kindest hearts I have ever known; I do not doubt that her daughter has inherited this quality. She will forgive you." Éponine didn't say anything to that, nodding in acknowledgement instead.
"Thank you for taking me away, monsieur," she said after a minute, "I... I hope I can prove to you one day that it was the right decision." Valjean met her eyes and was astounded by the sincerity he found there. Éponine's maturity, he guessed, would continue to surprise him for the rest of his days.
"I believe you already have," he replied. Éponine smiled brightly at his response before leaning her head on the window, using the curtains as a pillow as she fell asleep, contentedly holding Cosette's hand as the two young girls let their new Papa watch over them.
That was exactly what Valjean did as the carriage took them further away from the village that had acted as a prison to both girls; it had trapped Cosette in a life of slavery and mistreatment, and Éponine in a life where she was doomed to be unloved and used.
In that moment, watching over his daughters, Valjean swore one thing to himself: he would never let either girl find herself in such a position ever again. They would be the most loved, appreciated and well-treated young ladies in all of France and no one, especially not Javert, would stop Jean Valjean from ensuring it.
Chapter 1 complete! I am hoping for this to be multi-chapter (though, as I mentioned, life has a habit of getting in the way!), going right through to the barricades. I haven't decided exactly where this is going yet (i.e. whether it will be canon compliant or whether I'm going to go down the whole AU 'successful revolution' route like I have with previous stories).
Thank you ever so much for reading; throw me a review if you wish to make my day! TTFN :3