WOW you're all so great. Anyway, as per usual, check this out on AO3 so you can see the list of really AMAZING stuff that people have made for this series. c: thanks for being spectacular!

Thursdays are quickly becoming Eponine's favorite day of the week.

She starts the morning out with Cosette, grabbing breakfast in the dining hall together and listening fondly as Cosette starts in on a rant about the presentation of female characters in television (her favorite topic, right now, is Daenerys Targaryen in the books versus the show). She goes to classes, grabs lunch with Enjolras—because he is her best friend and has been practically his entire life, they end up sharing their plates and interrupting one another and everyone mistakes them for a couple. She goes to her one afternoon class, gets some homework done in the library, goes to the AI meeting, and then she and Combeferre have dinner together. No matter how many times they insist that they're going to go back to their own place after dinner it never happens and she almost always ends up in his apartment, her limbs tangled around his, his lips trailing almost reverently along her throat. She sleeps well when they share a bed. She's not sure why.

Tonight is no different, though, except that tonight, while they're still chest to heaving chest, his forehead tucked in the curve of her neck and his hands clenching his sheets so tightly she worries that he'll tear them, and one hand in his hair, the other wrapped around his arm, he says something entirely different.

Something that sounds a lot like I love you.

Eponine freezes underneath him and shakes her head. "You can't say that," she says, and her voice is higher than normal, tight, strained, afraid.

With all the patience and care she normally adores, Combeferre presses a kiss to the corner of her jaw before propping himself up on his elbows. "Are you alright?"

"You can't say that," she repeats, and he nods. He looks hurt, but he, thankfully, doesn't make it about him.

"Are you alright?" he asks again, and she sits up; he sits as well, giving her whatever space he can without actually getting out of his bed (which, Eponine supposes, is reasonable, because it is his bed).

She gets dressed in silence, keeping her eyes averted while he disposes of the condom and pulls his boxers and jeans on. She'd leave without another word, except that he reaches out, gentle as ever, to hook his fingers around hers.

"Please tell me what's wrong," he requests softly, and Eponine just shakes her head again.

People only love me when they're trying to fix me and just because I'm fucked up doesn't mean I want fixing.

You don't have to go through the motions with me and you should know that by now.

By far the most terrifying prospect is that he means it, unselfishly, with no desire to cure anything about her.

"What did you say?"

He doesn't pretend he doesn't know what she's talking about; instead, he runs a hand through his hair and shrugs. "I love you."

And this, this is too much, so she kisses him as hard as she can before shaking her head and saying. "You can't say that to me," before walking out of his apartment.

Because he is Combeferre and he is good in a way she sometimes can't understand, he doesn't follow, but he does watch her walk to her car from his bedroom window.

Eponine: Combeferre just told me he loves me.

Enjolras: I'll have R go over yours and stay with Cosette tonight. See you in ten?

Eponine: I'll get the tequila.

There are some things about Enjolras that make him the ideal best friend. That Eponine can simply climb into bed next to him, thrust a bottle of tequila into his hands, and sniffle without him becoming too alarmed is one of them.

Grantaire is gone, marathoning season three of Supernatural with Cosette, apparently, and so Enjolras just folds his arms around her and strokes her hair back without preamble. They lay in silence, the tequila waiting on his bedside table, and after about ten minutes Eponine lets out a long, shuddering sigh.

"Am I being ridiculous?" she asks, and Enjolras shakes his head.

"This is a Big Deal," he says, and she can hear the unnecessary capitalization in his voice. It makes her giggle a little bit, and he tightens his arms around her, smiling into her hair. It's just like high school and middle school and elementary school and everything in between. No matter what relationships they get into with who, they'll always have each other to come whining to, and that's what really counts. "Do you want to talk about it?"

They untangle their arms from around each other and sit up, Enjolras opening the tequila and holding it out for her first.

"The way I see it, there are three options," Eponine says before taking a drink; she winces, because she really hates tequila, but this is their Thing, so she doesn't question it. "Option one: he's trying to 'love' me into being less weird and fucked up."

Enjolras takes the tequila and frowns. "Which isn't the case, because he's Combeferre and I don't think it would actually occur to him to lie about that."

"Right. Option two: he's saying it because he thinks he should."

"Which also isn't the case, because he's Combeferre."

"Option three is that he means it."

Enjolras shoots her a sympathetic look and if they were bothering to drink out of glasses like mature adults he would tap his against hers; instead, he takes a drink himself before handing her the bottle again.

"You're royally fucked," he says after a moment, and it's not funny, not even a little bit, except now they're giggling and they can't quite stop.

For his part, Combeferre doesn't call (though he does send her a quick text the next morning wishing her a good day), and Eponine's almost terrified, because they have a date planned for that night and if she cancels, he'll know it was because he said that, and she's fairly certain she's already fucked something up.

It's not that she doesn't want him to love her. It's not that at all. Honestly, she smiles every time she thinks of it, even if she does wince a couple seconds later.

It's that she feels like a fraud.

Eponine's parents are criminals, which honestly didn't bother her too much as she was growing up (maybe because she'd had Enjolras, maybe because she'd practically lived with him, maybe because she was too concerned with making sure Gavroche and Azelma were okay to bother with whether or not she was). She's spent a good portion of her life toeing the law—part of why she wants to go into social work is because, in her experience, social workers are fucking useless and she wants kids like her to at least have a shot.

The thing is, though, that she's done plenty of fucked-up shit for anyone, but especially for someone Combeferre seems to think he's in love with. She's stolen (on occasion, she still does steal, almost without realizing what she's doing until Enjolras curls his fingers around her wrist lightly). She's good at breaking and entering, and she's beaten the hell out of people before without a second's thought, so really, she's not that much of a Good Person.

And she's okay with that. People do what they have to do in order to survive and she's no exception; she has no apology to offer to anyone who wants to see her changed somehow because she doesn't fit into their narrow view of right versus wrong. Things aren't black and white.

Part of why she liked Marius (likes Marius?) is that Marius gets it. They met during their senior year of high school and he's seen her at her worst, seen her when even she wouldn't want to see herself, without Enjolras there to help her find that balance that's always so difficult to strike. He understands, to some extent, only being valued by parents as a thing to further what they want—Grantaire gets it, too, and she and Grantaire will forever understand each other on a fundamental level the others will never get for having to parent their siblings because their parents couldn't bother.

Eponine doesn't understand the idea of receiving love from someone she doesn't have to take care of to some extent. Gavroche and Azelma need a mother who isn't there—so she steps in. And Enjolras, her best friend, her balance, never really thinks, always lands himself in some sort of trouble.

Combeferre doesn't do that.

He doesn't need someone to look after him and keep him in line.

Honestly, she's not sure what, exactly, Combeferre's getting out of all of this.

Maybe that's what worries her the most. That the one thing that she feels like should be easiest for her to give isn't something she even knows she has.

Cosette: so explain to me why Bela got killed at the end of season three.


Cosette: actually explain to me why I let you get me into this show

Eponine: are you shitting me right now after you got me into game of thrones you have nothing to complain about



For some reason when Eponine gets to the Musain to grab coffee before class Combeferre is sitting across from Gavroche.

It's an afternoon class, so he's not skipping school (which is good, at least), but if he's going to be here with anyone she'd expect him to be there with Grantaire, whom he practically worships. Instead, her little brother is sitting at a table with her boyfriend.

This could either go really well or be terribly awkward and so Eponine does the most adult thing she can imagine—she pulls her hood up before either of them can see and recognize her and promptly takes a seat just far enough that she likely won't be seen, but still close enough to hear.

Combeferre is helping him with his homework (is he for real? Does he walk little old ladies to their cars in parking lots, too?) and explaining something to do with biology when Gavroche cuts him off with, "You're dating my sister, right?"

There's not even a pause. "Yeah, I am." Then, as if he was talking to another adult and not a fourteen-year-old with a smart mouth who liked to play at being entirely grown up, "Why do you ask?"

No 'kid', no 'squirt', none of the affectionate but somewhat patronizing nicknames the others use for him. Eponine can just imagine Gavroche swelling with pride, because she knows he's noticed, but he keeps talking.

"You're just not like the guys she usually dates, that's all."

"Is that a good thing?"


Eponine has to press her fingers to her lips to keep from snorting with laughter, because that's just so very like her little brother, but Combeferre seems to be taking this as seriously as he would any of Enjolras' talks, or Cosette's discussions, or Grantaire's rants.

He takes this as seriously as he would any conversation with any adult and Eponine feels a surge of warmth in her chest when she realizes this.

"On what? Do you mind telling me, or should I be figuring out on my own?"

Gavroche lets out a bemused sound that seems to hint at approval. "You're a good guy."


"If you hurt her I'll gut you."

Eponine sets her coffee down and bows her head, trying to keep her shoulders from shaking with her silent snickering.

"Shake on it," Combeferre insists, and Eponine stops laughing, because here he is, encouraging her little brother to vivisect him should he hurt her—and they both know Gavroche can and probably will.

She wants to look over her shoulder and see if they do shake on it, but she refrains, waiting for someone to talk again. "We don't need charity, you know," Gavroche is saying, and he sounds so bitter, so angry, that it leaves Eponine reeling because she's been that angry since she knew what anger was. "We don't need anybody coming in and trying to save us, alright?"

"Alright," Combeferre agrees, and the conversation segues back to biology.

Her phone vibrates in her pocket, startling her back to reality, and she leaves as quickly and discreetly as she can, hoping to avoid notice.

Gavroche: I saw you

Eponine: What are you talking about?

Gavroche: Come on sis when was the last time anybody was able to pull one over on me

Gavroche: Anyway I like him

Gavroche: For what it's worth

Eponine: It's worth a lot, kiddo.

Combeferre picks her up at her dorm for their date and compliments her blazer and kisses her as if nothing's happened. She's relieved, but also not; he doesn't push her, he never does, and as much as she appreciates that she's nervous that he's just going to hold this in until it bottles over and is beyond fixing.

But the way he curls his hands around her hips and smiles against her mouth means that Eponine is having a very hard time imagining that he could be upset with her and not say something when he is honest, so honest, and she can taste when he lies through his kisses.

His lips and teeth fix over a spot on her shoulder that she likes best, that he has to tug her blazer to get to, and she has to force herself not to tangle her fingers in his hair because it takes forever to flatten it out when one of them messes with it, no matter how soft and perfect it is between her fingers. Once he's left a mark that the blazer, thankfully, covers, he lifts his head to press another quick kiss to the corner of her mouth.

"We should probably get going," he mutters, and the before we end up fucking in the back seat of my car is unspoken but most definitely implied.

The best parking they can find is a few blocks away, which is fine, really, because Eponine doesn't mind walking in heels, and also because she and Combeferre keep trying hard not to do anything more than hold hands, until finally she loses her patience and pulls him after her into a bookstore. It's small and quiet, but also cluttered with filled shelves; there's just enough to get lost in, and she tugs him to the most secluded spot she can find to pick up where they'd had to leave off outside the car.

His hands are everywhere: her sides, her hips, her hair, the back of her neck. His breathing is ragged and uneven and she takes a moment to congratulate herself silently because Combeferre doesn't get like this, especially not in public (and fooling around in public is hardly a new thing for them). They're going to miss their reservation and she honestly could not care less if she made an effort to do so; things are normal, things are fine, things are—

With a reluctant groan he pulls away from the frenzied kissing and laces his fingers into hers. "Come on," he murmurs, leaning forward to bite lightly at her lip when she scowls. In response she presses her hips to his hard enough to pin them to the bookshelves; she grinds down against him tortuously slowly and can't hid the self-satisfied smirk spreading across her face when she realizes just how hard he is. She's tempted to fuck him right here, and she would, she really would, except that even though he's got his face tucked in the curve of her shoulder he's saying "really, though, we should go, and—Christ, Eponine, that's just playing dirty—we can pick this up later, where there's a bed involved…"

The noise of irritation that claws its way out of her throat is more comical than she wants to admit.

They do make it to dinner, just in time for the reservation that they probably didn't need, but he managed to get them a table on the roof of the restaurant and so she's not complaining.

Once they get to dinner and they place their order and Combeferre is holding her hand while looking through the wine list idly, he says, very casually, "I'm sorry for upsetting you last night."

"It's not—" There is absolutely no way to explain this without sounding utterly ridiculous. "You didn't upset me."

He looks up at her and raises his eyebrows and he's infuriating, so infuriating she'd like very much to pull him over the table right now and kiss him senseless. "You left my apartment near tears less than two minutes after sex, Eponine."

"Okay, I was upset, but not with you."

Squeezing her hand, Combeferre sets the wine list down and laces his fingers into hers. "We don't have to talk about it if you'd rather not."

This is it, the out she really wants, so she can avoid having to discuss this at all and they can go back to how things always are, but—and this takes her a moment of staring at his long, calloused fingers curled around hers to realize—this is Combeferre, and even if she's utterly ridiculous he'll take her seriously, because he always takes her feelings seriously, even when she doesn't.

"Tell me again what you said." Her voice is low, so low she can barely hear it herself, but he hears it. He always hears her.

"I said that I love you," he answers, so calm, so sure, even as her insides are twisting and snarling in ways she didn't think possible.


"Why did I say it? Or why am I in love with you?"

How he can manage to be so perfectly frank without looking even a little nervous is entirely beyond her, and she spares a quick second to hate him a little for it. "Both, I guess."

Combeferre pauses to arrange his thoughts into something coherent, chewing on the inside of his cheek and frowning. "The freckles on your back—the ones that go up to your left shoulder—they make up Scorpius. The constellation. It takes a bit of squinting sometimes but I can see it. When you get worried about Enjolras or your siblings, you get that crease right there, between your eyebrows. It's the only time you do. You're going to have laugh lines someday and I can already trace where they're going to be because every time you laugh I cannot look away. I can't even try. My hands fit into yours like they were made for that purpose alone and sometimes when you think I can't hear you, you start singing.

"I told you because I'm not in the habit of not saying what's on my mind, and this has been on my mind for days now, really, but if you're uncomfortable with it I don't mind not saying it, so long as you know. As for why I'm in love with you I honestly couldn't tell you. I just am. I'm not going to question it. It's right, for me, and I don't like the thought of not being in love with you. And every time I pick up my cello I swear every note comes to me more naturally than any ever has in all my years playing."

He's tracing the bones in her hand now, and she shivers, transfixed. "I don't know if I can say it back," she says slowly, and he shrugs, as if it doesn't matter.

"I don't love you with conditions attached," he promises.

Eponine bites her lip and stares at their hands and asks, "Say it again, then?"

And he does.