AUTHOR'S NOTE: Guess who's writing more Enjonine fluff (with some angst) to cope with the pandemic? Also, why do all modern AU fics turn into a vaguely American setting, when France as a country is so important in Les Mis?
This is based on the 2012 film.
TRIGGER WARNING: Weight issues, weight gain, and malnourishment are discussed in this work. Eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia are not included.
Their first date isn't exactly smooth sailing.
It starts well. Éponine is impressed by Enjolras' cherry-red convertible when he arrives to pick her up. And Gavroche gushes, "It looks like those cars Dad steals radios from!"
"Gav!" Éponine exclaims.
"Well, Gavroche," Enjolras adds, unsure of how to respond, "let's get you to Marius and Cosette's place."
When Marius opens the Pontmercys' door, Cosette is beside him with flour on her hands and on her pink apron. "Sorry for the mess," the blonde says with a smile. "I'm baking macarons."
"Thanks again for watching him," Éponine adds.
"No problem," Marius says. "Have a good date night."
Cosette smiles. "It's about time the two of you got together."
Éponine and Enjolras exchange a glance. "What do you mean?" she inquires, bemused.
"Everyone's been wondering when you'd officially admit your feelings," Marius explains. "It was as plain as day to the rest of us."
"Courfeyrac wanted to lock you two in a closet, but I talked him out of it," Cosette adds.
"So where exactly are we going?" Éponine asks as she and Enjolras drive away from the Pontmercys' apartment.
"I wanted to surprise you," he replies.
She grins. "I'm game."
But her smile fades when he parks outside Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée. He can tell she's not happy even before she asks, "Why are we at the most expensive restaurant in Paris?"
"I wanted to take you somewhere nice," he offers.
"I'm not going to be able to relax here." Closing her eyes, she pinches the bridge of her nose. "I'm breaking into hives just thinking about splitting the check."
"I can cover it."
"You shouldn't have to. Look, I'm not a charity case."
"I never said you were, Éponine."
"You work at Lamarque & Fauchelevent, the top law firm in France," she goes on. "Your family owns a damn château in Provence. I didn't grow up like that."
"I don't look down on you for it-"
"Do you know what I could do with the money for the cost of an appetizer here? A single course at this place is probably more than my rent. I could buy Gav a new winter coat, repair my fridge, or any number of things."
"Then tell me where you want to go tonight," he says, starting the car again. "Where will you be comfortable?"
She sighs. "As cheap as this is going to sound, uh, maybe a food truck?"
He pulls into traffic. "A food truck it is."
They take their orders from the street vendor to a bench on the River Seine. "Thanks for changing locations," she says as they sit to watch the city lights.
"We both should enjoy tonight, not stress about money."
He notices she eats much faster than he does. Her bouillabaisse is gone before he's even halfway done with his duck confit de canard. "I've always been a fast eater," she explains awkwardly. "It's a habit from growing up in my parents' nightmare of a home without-" She looks away.
"Without what?" he questions carefully. This is clearly a sensitive topic for her.
"Without regular meals," she finally admits. "They cared more about getting high and drunk than buying groceries."
"I make sure my brother gets three square meals a day," she adds, "and anything extra he wants. It's high time someone cared about his nutrition. Our parents didn't, so I make a point of it now."
"Again, I'm sorry you went through that, but you should take care of yourself, too. And can I just say, you're an incredible sister to Gavroche."
"Thanks," she says with an unusually shy smile. It's obvious she's not used to receiving compliments. "The city is beautiful, isn't it?"
"It is," he agrees, "but Paris is nothing compared to you."
She brushes her dark hair over her ear. "You don't have to flatter me."
"It's true," he says seriously. He leans forward, but pauses. "Is it alright if I kiss you?"
"Of course you'd ask that," she grins with a good-natured eye roll. "The answer is yes."
Her lips are chapped when his mouth meets hers. Then she breaks the kiss and rests her head on his shoulder, leaning into his side. But when he puts an arm around her waist, worry suddenly rises in him. Éponine is thin. Too thin. But of course weight isn't an appropriate topic for a first date, so he doesn't bring it up.
He has no idea how to broach the subject.
He can command a courtroom with ease, and people call him a silver-tongue. But he doesn't know how to tell his girlfriend that she might be too skinny, yet he doesn't want her to think he's being a superficial jerk.
A few days later Enjolras and Éponine fall into bed in his apartment, and he's focused on his first time with his new girlfriend. His only girlfriend, to be honest, and what a vision she is. She gasps when he cups her breast, and while she might not be all that well-endowed, he doesn't mind. And when he runs a hand up her back, he can feel the clear outline of her spine through her shirt. She kicks off her combat boots and tosses aside her black leather jacket, and he quickly removes his work suit and pulls off his red tie. She swings a leg over him, lightly pushing him to lay flat on his back, and he lets her take control. Leaving her shorts on, she takes off her tank top to reveal her black bra.
He actually gasps aloud, staring at her in horror.
If he had thought she was skinny before, it was nothing compared to now. She's alarmingly thin; not quite skeletal, but nearly there. He can see every one of her ribs, she has almost no curves, and her hip bones jut out against her skin. Enjolras has never been one to focus exclusively on a woman's appearance, but Éponine's weight genuinely concerns him. He always knew she was slender, but to actually see the extent of it shocks him.
"What?" she asks, confused, insulted, and hurt. "Am I that hideous?"
"No, you're not. You're just so thin. I mean, it's shocking. Even unhealthy, if I'm going to be honest-"
She gets off him and starts to dress again. "If my body is that repulsive to you," she snaps, putting on her tank top again, "I'm leaving!"
"No, that's not what I meant!" he says quickly, but she grabs her jacket and boots. "Wait!" he adds, but she's already leaving the bedroom. He pulls on his work slacks laying nearby and, shirtless, runs after her.
He finds her at the front door stepping into her combat boots. "Éponine, please hear me out," he says desperately. "I swear I don't find you repulsive at all."
She crosses her arms over her chest and fixes him with a hard glare. "You have one minute to explain yourself, or we're over."
"What I meant was, I'm worried about you. I promise I don't find you repulsive. Please believe me. You're the most attractive woman I've ever met. I would never, ever reduce you to your appearance. I'm just deeply concerned. Not only as your boyfriend, but as a friend. I never meant to insult you. But you said yourself you didn't always get enough meals growing up. And yes, it shows, but I still find you attractive. I'm just seriously worried."
Her anger softens a bit, but not completely, and he doesn't blame her.
"I made a complete idiot of myself, I'll admit. But can I have another chance to prove I'm still attracted to you?"
He can't breathe when she doesn't answer right away. "Only one chance."
"Noted." He starts by taking her face in his hands and kissing her, hard. He backs her up to the door, picks her up as her legs wrap around his waist, and carries her back to the bedroom.
She doesn't break up with him in the end, which is due to his devoted and lengthy efforts. He showers her every compliment he can think of, but it isn't difficult when Éponine is the subject.
The next day, Enjolras stands unsure in his kitchen.
He has some experience cooking, but he's never made cassoulet before. Hopefully the simple pork, vegetable, and white bean stew won't be too high brow for Éponine, and also won't be too difficult to make. He has purchased a cassole pot specifically for the recipe, and an entire boneless pork shoulder for the task. He obsessively sorts through the beans, selecting only the perfect ones. He then realizes the beans have to soak overnight, along with the ham, sausage, and pork skins.
He resumes the next day. After cooking the ingredients separately, he has to refrigerate the combined ragout overnight.
On the third day, he finally puts it in the oven in the cassole pot. It comes out a tad burnt, but it's done. He takes it straight to his car and decides he's never making the recipe again. That evening, Éponine comes back to her apartment with Gavroche to find Enjolras setting a veritable feast on their table.
"I know you don't like fancy restaurants," Enjolras explains as she stares. "So I decided to make something for an evening in."
"I don't know what to say," she breathes. "You cooked for me?"
He nods. "It's cassoulet stew. It burned just slightly right at the end, but-"
She interrupts him by kissing him. "Thank you," she says quietly.
"Well, if you two are done being lovey dovey, I'm hungry," Gavroche says bluntly, and his sister and her boyfriend laugh.
Enjolras honestly doesn't have a lot of time to cook.
The law firm occupies most of his week, and Maximilien Lamarque keeps the young attorney busy. But Enjolras sets aside every weekend he can spare to prepare meals for his girlfriend. Even before he started cooking for the Thénardier siblings, Gavroche always looked well fed. But Éponine had admitted she focuses on providing enough food for her brother rather than herself.
She is always grateful for what Enjolras makes, and never turns down anything. But he notices rich food doesn't sit well with her. It makes him wonder just exactly how cheap and inadequate her meals were growing up. She clearly wasn't eating duck in her parents' home, so Enjolras avoids it after she falls ill from duck a l'orange.
But after a while, she starts to gain weight. It's not much, but he sees a subtle change as time passes, and she's filling out her clothes more.
Enjolras keeps cooking. He makes boeuf bourguignon one week, and chicken coq au vin the next. Then it's salade niçoise, followed by onion and beef soupe à l'oignon, and then chocolat soufflé.
A few months later, they make out in his car when his hands slip under her shirt. He reaches for her hips, and finds her pelvic bone isn't as defined as before. Her skin even has give when he presses his fingers lightly against her hips.
Finding time to be alone isn't easy while she raises her brother. But on one rare occasion, Éponine spends the night at Enjolras' place.
He shaves the next morning as she gets out of the shower. Her towel falls low at her back, and he realizes her ribcage isn't as pronounced. It's still more noticeable than he'd like, but she's definitely closer to the weight where she should be.
"You're looking fantastic, 'Ponine," he says as he wipes off his shaving cream with a hand towel. "Really."
She smiles and lets her towel slip further to reveal more skin. "Are you just going tell me, or are you going to show me?"
He's bone-tired from work when he returns home one evening. But as he unlocks his door, he notices the scent of chicken cooking. Did I leave something on the stove? he thinks, throwing open his door and preparing to find his kitchen on fire.
Éponine and Gavroche are in his flat. Her brother is setting the table as his older sister takes a dish out of the oven. "Welcome home. I made chicken cordon bleu," she says. "Well, tried to. I'm not much of a cook."
"You did?" Enjolras says as he puts down his briefcase.
She places the chicken on the table. "I've seen how stressed you've become from work. I wanted to return the favor after you've cooked so much for me. I'm never going to be a fancy chef, or even a baker like Cosette. But hopefully this turned out alright."
He hugs her. "Thank you," he says, kissing the top of her dark hair. She's no longer skeletal under his hands, and in a purely caring way, he's glad she's finally at a healthy weight.
A couple of years later, Enjolras makes strawberry crêpes. "Happy anniversary," he says as he goes to the table, pausing to kiss his wife.
"Happy anniversary," Éponine repeats.
"These look great," Gavroche comments.
"But I don't know if it will be enough," Éponine adds with a smile.
Enjolras looks down at the crêpes. "There's enough for three people."
Her dark eyes meet her husband's blue gaze. "Yes, but as I'm eating for two now, we'll need more for a fourth person."
Enjolras drops the plate on the table. Thankfully it doesn't break, but the strawberries nearly roll onto the table. "Wait, are you-"
"I'm pregnant," she says with a watery laugh.
"Congratulations," Gavroche says as Enjolras pulls Éponine to her feet to kiss her. He then picks her up, spinning her. She's never looked better, and is a light but solid weight in his arms instead of just skin and bones.
He loves her either way.