TW: rape, abuse, and social asphyxiation

A/N: Coded messages here are created by yours truly. If you're interested to know how to read it, message me.

Chapter 2: April 9, 1832


Enjolras finished writing this short cipher on nine pieces of scratch paper, and he then put his quill down as he folded the letters before securely inserting it in the thick middle portion of a book offered to him by Victor, the elder keeper of the current lodgings that his mother provided for him. Having done that, he stood up from his desk, and opened his window to whistle the chorus of la marseillaise. Aurelien paused to wait for a reply, and it was a few seconds later when he heard the anthem repeated by a certain urchin's chirpier voice.

The light-haired student thus closed his window, and prepared to get bread from his trunk for his upcoming visitor, whose steps are heard by the stairs momentarily after. While preparing the tokens, a slight creak on the floor made Enjolras turn to the newcomer. He raised a brow when the gamin appeared to hesitate approaching him until he sighed and beckoned the boy to come closer.

"Is there a matter, Gavroche?" Enjolras inquired, handing the gamin the bread and book.

"Nothing, Chief," he replied, shrugging. "You usually send for Courfeyrac to call on me or Navet."

To this, Enjolras merely said, "He's occupied with another matter." He eyed Gavroche and then the package before continuing, "You know what to do. Eat well."

Gavroche nodded his gratitude and bit on the bread before turning to point to the wall, which was covered by an elaborate hand-drawn map of Paris, of the leader's room. "You did that, Chief?"

The fair-haired student shook his head. "Capital R." Seeing the surprised look of the gamin, he maintained a straight face and calmly explained, "Prouvaire was able to solicit it from the cask head."

Sensing the Chief's wariness, the urchin nodded, and left quietly, whistling the anthem once more.

It is impossible to save everyone, Enjolras thought as he lowered his lids momentarily. He stood straight once more, and rolling his sleeves, he eyed the map once more, dipped his quill in ink lightly, and went to mark certain streets and quays around Paris.

He will have to bring this later to the meeting, and obtain the suggestions of their coterie. Enjolras trusted that Courfeyrac and Feuilly would have some interesting news to share.

A contingency plan for the rest should also be ascertained, he further pondered, as scenarios filled his mind, and he attempted to cross each and every one, in accordance with the stratagems he has read from a certain scholar from the far East.

This prompted him to mark out a hole in the map, and he gritted his teeth as he assessed his earlier plan and discovered certain patterns that would serve as consequential losses to their group and other factions.

Perhaps, he should also ask Gavroche and their friends to verify shortcuts around the city.

And beneath, just to be sure, the Chief thought as his lips formed a hollow curve.

The sound of Thenardier's hand slapping his eldest daughter's face was heard throughout the Gorbeau Tenement, and it was followed by slurs and insults uttered in rapid argot. Amidst all this abuse, however, no sob came out from Eponine, who fell to the ground, even if her mother was shouting at her husband, "Stop it, you cinglé, or would you rather rid the Patron Minette of a useful bitch to look for uniforms?"

Thenardier glared at his wife, and attempted to hit her, as well, before being kneed in the groin. More expletives came out of him before he bellowed, "Montparnasse! Get yer ass here. You know what to do. Give me some louis d'ors after you finish with Azelma and then this hussy!"

Limping, he still found some strength to kick his daughter's side, who was just getting up to rest her back on the wall of the tenement. Eponine fell again, and eyed her mother, whose green eyes darkened in anger at the situation.

The Thenardiess spat at the feet of her husband, who was attempting to near her, and exclaimed, "Don't tempt me, connard. I's not afraid to use what I know to hurt ye."

His cheeks paled, and he gritted his teeth before turning to Eponine. "This is yer fault, dearie. Ye better stay'ere and guard this place. Claquesous is missing, and we'll be goin' around to search for that giant."

Eponine looked down, and nodded as she crossed her arms in front of her. She remained in this position until she heard her parents leave, and heard footsteps enter the room again. The gamine didn't need to check who the newcomers were as one was sobbing, and the other was whistling a ribald song.

Montparnasse dropped a knee in front of her, and put a hand to her chin to beckon her to glance at him.

"Your turn, 'Ponine," he said, his breath smelling strongly of beer. "I know you like it rough unlike 'Zelma here."

The gamine shrugged in response, and was pulled up by the young mercenary to her feet. He held her wrist tightly, and she gave her sister a concerned look.

Azelma, wiping her cheeks, shook her head, and the elder sister watched as certain strands of raven hair fell to the floor. It appeared that she made a visit to the docks earlier, then. Eponine closed her eyes, and let herself be led to a darker hallway by her old friend.

Against the wall and against his body, she acted accordingly, knowing that if she did so, it would be finished quick. A moan there, a touch of lips there, and a hand down there. She let him be harsh with her, and yet nothing about this crushed her.

Moments later, when it has ended, and Montparnasse took his leave, Eponine sat on the stairs, thinking about what destroyed her: realising that Marius was there just in his room slumbering next to them.

All that noise, and nothing woke him, and he did nothing.

Nothing still, and so even at this, Eponine shed no tear at all.

"Thank you, Navet," the Enjolras matriarch said before giving some louis d'ors and grinning at the young brown-haired urchin who delivered her package.

Elisabeth then closed the door of her home, and went to their library. She lighted a lamp on a desk, and sat down. The matriarch then opened the package, and laid the book down. Afterwhich, she took a small pen knife to nudge the middle part of the book to reveal a small parchment, which she procured, and then opened to read:

- ?SEN1H8AS1Z! -

Mentally decoding the cipher, the mother found her lips curling fondly at this message, which briefly told her that Aurelien was all right and busy with his friends. She then hurriedly wrote her response on the back of the paper, and returned it to where she first procured it from. Fixing the package once more, she opened the cabinet of her desk, and put the thing there for her to retrieve it come morrow morning.

The first thing she'll do as well later is to talk to Olivier once more of this situation, and if it is still not favourable, Elisabeth will find a way to meet with her old friend to monitor the events for her.

Hopefully, it will not be as dire as before, Elisabeth pondered, resting her chin upon her hands before closing her eyes, and taking a deep breath. But then again, when has it not turned to be so here in Paris?

She really wished her husband would be more forthcoming and agreeable, but then again Elisabeth cannot blame him when it nearly cost him his life before.

This is just the beginning, however, and she will not be surprised if the people have not yet realised that they are slowly being asphyxiated by everyone around them - lovers, families, swells, among others.

"Anything is plausible."


Cinglé - crazy or insane