AN: I know, it's been a while, but what can you do? I really like this chapter... it may seem a bit ramble-y in parts though :P Oh well, Enjoy!
Éponine knew that she was doing something that she shouldn't. More than that, she knew that it was completely pointless and utterly stupid. And even further, she had no idea why she was doing it.
But she found herself following the little man who confused her so, and to where she was following him she didn't have a clue. All she knew was that she had a burning desire to find out more about him.
. . .
Jehan was practically shaking as he walked away from Éponine. He didn't know where his little speech had come from (usually he was only ever good with words when putting them to paper), but it had certainly gotten him a reaction. The rush of it had almost left him exhausted, and he walked slowly back towards his apartment.
He was so lost in his own little world as he walked that he didn't see the figure following him, like a shadow blending in with the shade cast by the now sinking sun. Perhaps, if he had, he would have found more inspiration in the way Éponine slipped through the crowded streets of Paris.
. . .
It wasn't until Jehan was climbing the stairs in his block of flats when he realised that he was being followed. Try as she might, not even Éponine could disguise the sound of her bar feet padding up the wooden stairs, her injured foot causing every other step to be heavier. Jehan glanced around, just about catching her eye, but carried on walking.
He turned the corner at the top of the stairs and walked down the corridor, his flat being the door right at the end. He reached the door and paused for a moment, listening out for Éponine's soft footsteps but hearing nothing. As he put the key in the lock and unlocked the door, he worked out a plan in his head (or tried to at least). Pushing the door open, he took a deep breath.
"Would you like to come in, mademoiselle?" He waited for a moment, before seeing Éponine's head appear around the corner. She was frowning.
"You knew I was following you?" she asked, walking up the corridor to join him in the doorway. He smiled slightly.
"Not until we were walking up the stairs," Jehan told her, "Now... after you?" he stood aside, leaving the doorway free for her to enter. Éponine rolled her eyes, pushing him into his flat before her, and then following him in carefully. If she had learnt anything from her experiences on the street, it was to never enter someone's flat unless you were sure of their motives, and that said motives didn't involve anything inappropriate. Éponine had promised herself a long time ago that she would never sell her body, no matter how hungry she was.
But this man fascinated her so. Thus, she followed him in, hoping desperately that she would get some answers.
. . .
Jehan was firstly completely caught offguard by Éponine shoving him into his flat; he counted himself lucky that he hadn't tripped and ended up sprawled on the floor. But, after recovering from the shock of it, he realised that his heart was racing, and Éponine was lingering in the doorway. The former of these occurrences was completely unexpected, and Jehan couldn't for the life of him explain it.
The latter of the occurrences struck Éponine as completely new; never, in her rather short but experienced life, had she found herself scared. Not of the man who was now standing in front of her, looking slightly lost, and not of the setting she found herself in. She was scared of the consequences of letting this man get to her. And the very fact that this scared her did little to calm her anxiety.
. . .
Jehan honestly didn't know what to do. On the one hand, if he so much as opened his mouth he would no doubt start spewing random words that would make so little sense that he may as well have been doing interpretive dance. On the other hand... if he didn't talk to her, if he didn't try to understand her the way she wanted him to see her, then he would probably explode.
Éponine didn't want to go in. She knew that she probably wouldn't receive anything that would change her life dramatically, and anything that a monsieur Jean Prouvaire had to say was probably of little importance. Yet she couldn't bear to go another minute without finding out exact who this man truly was.
With this is mind, she stepped further into the room, pushing the door shut behind her, the click of it closing snapping Jehan out of his day.
"My apologies," he mumbled, I'm being incredibly rude..."
"No, no," Éponine said hastily, "Don't worry. I... I probably shouldn't even be here anyway. I have work and-"
"And that work will, no doubt, end with some old bourgeois man being a few francs short by the time he reaches his next destination." Jehan said quietly, a small smile forming. Éponine shrugged.
"You do what you have to if you want to survive," she reasoned, "Paris is an unfair place to live. You of all people should realise that."
"I tend to stay away from thinking about that side of the revolution," Jehan said, "A little positivity never hurt anyone. And it's beneficial for one of the Amis, at least, to see the good in the world. Not everything and everyone is bad, you know." Éponine frowned.
"Your views are strange," she stated, stepping closer to him, looking down at her bare toes, "I've never met someone who sees Paris as good and fights for a better one."
"There is always room for improvement," Jehan smiled more, "You just have to identify the areas that need your urgent attention before tending to those which are good without intervention."
"How very poetic," Éponine smirked, "Although, I hear that that is something of a speciality of yours."
"I've improved in recent days, if I say so myself," Jehan told her, "You've done something to my self-conscious, Éponine, and I'm at a loss as to what you've done and how you've done it. Though, I must say, I am eternally grateful."
"You know so much about me," Éponine said, closing the gap between them as she took another step towards the curious man, "And yet that is the first I know about you. Which leaves me with two questions, monsieur: first of all, who are you?"
"You know who I am," Jehan interrupted, "You wander the streets alone, Mademoiselle Thénardier, and you hear things that no one else hears. So you tell me: what have you deducted?"
"Well, here's the thing, monsieur," Éponine said quietly, going up on her toes so that her eyes were level with his, "You're quiet. Unheard of on the streets. Unless you know where to go, and who to ask. People know you not by name, but by nature. They look out for you. Yes, Enjolras with his speeches and ideals, and Marius with his supposed sacrifices, they catch the eyes and the minds of the people. But you catch their hearts. The man who can be so optimistic, so happy in such an oppressed world. You give them some hope alongside what Enjolras thinks they can achieve."
Jehan was struck speechless; never had he even imagined that he had made an impact on the people by simply being himself. Yes, he went out across Paris, with Enjolras' perfectly constructed speeches that he was supposed to stick to no matter what, and yes he went around encouraging people to join the revolution, handing out leaflets and shouting 'Vive la France' alongside his friends. But being himself was what had made him known.
"I believe it is your turn to answer my question now, monsieur." Éponine said quietly, the heels of her feet falling back onto the ground, "I know what the people think. I know what you do. I know your name, and your nature. But who are you, Jehan?"
It took him a while to answer, because who was he, really? When was he ever himself? When he was alone, certainly. There was no reason for him to not be himself when he was alone. Because, despite his more commonly seen exterior, Jehan Prouvaire was a confident man, who knew what he wanted from life; he wanted happiness, and fulfilment, and would do what was necessary to achieve it.
When around his friends, however, it was different. They wanted different things to him. 'Justice' they called it, all of them willing to fight and to die for the cause. Though Jehan was also willing to fight and die for his country, it wasn't for 'justice'. For there to be justice, there is a requirement of someone to blame, someone to hold accountable for the state of their country. Jehan didn't see the point in this. Enjolras spoke of a day when they would fight, when force would be used if necessary to achieve what must be achieved. But why, Jehan often wondered, is there a need for violence when fighting suffering, when it would only ensure that more suffering is to come?
"I am..." he muttered finally, "I'm someone who wants to help. But not just the poor, or the oppressed. I want to help my country, and my friends, to see that... violence isn't the way forward. But you already know that, don't you?" reaching out slowly, he traced the outline of a bruise on her forearm, and she opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again, reconsidering.
"How did you know?" she whispered finally, "I hide it. No one else has ever noticed before. Why you?"
"I've already told you," he said, stepping away from her, "I look as opposed to just seeing. You should tell someone about it, Éponine. Someone who you can go to when it happens so that... so that in times of need, you know you're not alone." Éponine scoffed, looking away from the man.
"What good will it do?" she asked, her tone cold, "Because, in the end, monsieur, we are all alone. We can surround ourselves with people who we could be deluded into thinking are our friends, but can we ever be sure who to trust, who to care about? Caring makes you weaker; it gives you more to lose. People use it against you. If you don't care about anything or anyone, then you have nothing to lose."
"That's where you're wrong," Jehan said, "Because something to care about means something to fight for. If you care about nothing, then what's the point in living? The things we care about make us whole. Without passion, nothing would ever get achieved. So... stay with me." The final part of his speech had come out of his mouth before he had ever had the chance to think about it. Éponine, who had still been looking away from him, whipped her head around, turning to face him once more. He met her fiery eyes with calm ones of his own, and watched amusedly as she gaped.
"Stay here?" she asked, "With you? You must be completely out of your mind! I can't just leave home and move in with you! We're not together, we're not even friends, we-"
"We probably know more about each other than we do about ourselves," Jehan said. What annoyed Éponine most was that even she couldn't deny it.
"But I can't just leave... my father, he-" she stopped herself from going any further. She had never admitted anything about what happened within the rooms that she called home.
"You father isn't worthy of your company," Jehan insisted, stepping closer to her again and taking her hands in his, "You are clever, Éponine. You are clever, and interesting, and inspirational, and you have opened my eyes in a way no one ever has before. I want to help you, Éponine-"
"I don't need your help!" Éponine snapped, interrupting him before he could go any further, pulling her hands out of his angrily, "I was fine... I am fine as I am! I don't need your interfering! Why couldn't you have just kept out of my business?!" she looked away, from him, her arms crossing stubbornly, her face scarily determined.
Jehan just smiled sadly at her, "You know that you deserve better than the life that you're living," he stated it, not leaving any room for her to argue, "And you know that one day... it's not going to be a few bruises, or a sprained ankle. One day, your father is going to snap, and it's going to be so much worse. Just know, Mademoiselle Éponine Thénardier... I'll be here."
And with that, he disappeared into another room in his apartment, closing the door softly behind him and leaving Éponine alone to contemplate on what he had just said.
Éponine left Jehan's flat a few moments after Jehan had shut the other door, hurrying as much as she could with a sprained ankle, desperate to get herself out of the block of flats that suddenly seemed to be suffocating her.
She burst out into the fresh air of the early evening, leaning against the wall as she caught her breath, trying desperately to slow her racing heart. The way Jehan knew how she was feeling, and that he know what would happen if she stayed with her father and his gang... the way he knew infuriated her. More so than when he had appeared weak, and timid. The sudden change of personality from him was what confused her the most.
She found herself wondering if she knew anything about the strange little man at all.
. . .
Jehan knew that he had gone about it the wrong way. He knew so much about the little gamine that he should have realised that she wouldn't simply move in without a second thought. But, he realised, a part of him had actually thought that she might.
It was a difficult situation, one that he would never have dreamed of picturing himself in, and one that he couldn't bear to simply let go. And he made a promise to himself then, as he sat at the desk in his bedroom, a blank piece if parchment in front of him, nothing in his mind that was remotely to do with poetry.
He promised that he would help Éponine Thénardier if it was the last thing he did.
Little did he know that his promise would be fulfilled sooner rather than later. That night, with no meeting scheduled, Éponine had no choice but to go out hunting for food, her stomach growling viciously after days without anything close to a proper meal. Her father and his gang were all out, no doubt waiting to pounce on an unsuspecting victim, all of them desperate to release some pent-up anger that they had acquired during the day.
At sixteen, Éponine currently had little to do with her father's schemes other than petty theft and being his punch bag when things went wrong. He promised her that that would soon change.
But Éponine found herself with the title of 'unsuspecting victim' later that night. It was just about dark, with men still drifting in and out of various cafes and restaurants, the alleys and backstreets of Paris deserted.
Éponine would later curse herself for her stupidity; she had learnt long ago that when on the streets, you have to keep yourself alert at all time, no matter how tired or hungry you may be. But Éponine had had a long day, and it didn't even occur to her to watch out for what was creeping in the shadows.
"Hasn't anyone ever taught you that it's not a good idea for little girls to be out so later?" a sneering voice made her jump as she walked down an alleyway, and she turned around quickly, almost losing her balance as she put too much wait on her bad foot.
"Montparnasse," she muttered, "Leave me alone."
"No can do, Éppy," his sneering voice gripped at her heart; there was something in his tone that made her want to run for her life, but something kept her rooted to the spot, "You see, you're Papa doesn't think you're doing enough to help our little... organisation."
"I steal from normal people every day for you and your ridiculous gang," Éponine snapped, "God knows how many times I should have been arrested. Isn't that enough for you?!"
"No. It's not." Another voice carried down from the opposite end of the alley, and Éponine found herself trapped.
"You see, Éppy, things go wrong for us quite often..." Montparnasse started advancing towards her, and Éponine instinctively backed away, before remembering that her father was waiting at the other end of the alley, "We get mad, you see..."
"We need something to take out all of this anger on..." her father joined in, his voice almost gleeful, "And a stranger really isn't as entertaining as taking it out on someone who needs to learn their lesson..." Éponine could see where the conversation was leading, and she didn't like it one little bit. Part of her wished she had heeded Jehan's words and grabbed the chance to stay with him whilst she could. The other wanted to curse him for jinxing her situation, somehow causing her to be in her current circumstances.
"And you need to learn your lesson, Éponine." She could feel Montparnasse's breath on her face, and she shrank back even further, bumping into another body behind her. And Éponine's thoughts drifted once again to Jehan Prouvaire, and she wished that he was there to help her.
Jehan found himself with trouble sleeping. It wasn't unusual; he often had ideas for poems, pieces of music and artwork drifting through his mind, and more than once he had gotten out of bed in the early hours of the morning to write it all down in an attempt to clear his mind.
But this time it was different. For his mind wasn't alive with inspiration, but with thoughts of a certain gamine who hadn't left his mind since she had left in the early hours of the evening. She certainly was a riddle that was much harder the crack than he had first thought.
So, unable to write his thoughts down in a way that he deemed appropriate (he had already tried to fit them into verse, and had failed magnificently), he paced around his bedroom, hoping to wear himself out enough to be able to sleep.
Eventually he crawled back into bed, his mind still active with thoughts of Éponine, but his body too tired to pace for much longer, the late night it had been when he started to pace now transformed into the early hours of the morning.
Just as he was beginning to drift off to sleep, a quite knocking sound alerted him. He lifted his head off the pillow, listening intently and finding the banging to be becoming more insistent by the second. He rushed out of bed, the fact that there was someone at the front door now occurring to him. Utterly confused as to who would contact him at such a ridiculous hour, he opened the door to find Éponine leaning heavily on the doorframe.
"You were right," she said quietly, new bruises and cuts littering the skin that was visible, her left wrist cradled to her chest, "He snapped."
She then collapsed forward, Jehan catching her in his arms, wondering what on earth he was supposed to do now.
Little bit of action there! Not that you actually read the action but... that'll come up later :3 I'm such an evil writer... *Typos are apologised for*
I sincerely hope you enjoyed this chapter and feel free to drop me a review if you see fit. Other than that, thank you very much for reading!