"Gone? What do you mean gone?" Grantaire cried, his head rising from its place in Enjolras's lap.

"She left you?" R nearly laughed out at the very though of it. Out of every couple in their group (incest was best ;)), he found Combeferre and Éponine's relationship to be something else entirely. No one saw it coming which is what made it priceless and unique. It was on their own terms, no matchmakers could have their say. Combeferre's head dropped and he tore away his glasses to rub the bridge of his nose.

"No." He replied, and though everyone wanted to return to their merriment, his next phrase halted the happiness completely. "She left yesterday morning and never came home, I haven't even heard from her."

Enjolras was on his feet so quickly, he knocked a startled Grantaire to the floor, who, once up, joined in stride, eventually followed by everyone else. They all cautiously gathered around the pale man, each realizing they hadn't seen Éponine since their last meeting, three nights ago. Enjolras put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, willing him for more information. Combeferre closed his eyes and tried to remember all that had been said and done between them in the last day or so. Pulling his eyes shut, he remembered the conversation…

"I'm gonna to be back late tonight, ok?" She dropped casually, her voice was steady, but there was something else fraying the confident edges.

"Is everything alright?" He asked gently, spreading his peanut butter not only on his toast, but on her nose as well. She smiled before saying,

"Yeah, everything's fine, I just promised Gav and 'Zelma something, so I'm gonna be home late."

Snapping his eyes open, he drew in a sharp breath.

"Before she left, she said she was going to be home late because she promised Gav and Azelma something."

"But," they all turned to see Gavroche "I haven't seen Ponine since movie Monday."

"Zelma's out of town at school." Feuilly offered, standing up from his chair.

"Gav, can you think of all the promises Ép's made you in the last month or so?" Courfeyrac questioned, kneeling to meet the boy's eyes. His young face twisted into thought, silently counting off all the bribes for various treats his sister gave him to keep his trap shut about their pranks. Then there were their past secrets, before the Thénardier siblings found their salvation in Les Amis. Suddenly he remembered one in particular and his eyes bulged in his tiny skull, color draining from his terrified face.

Courfeyrac gripped the boy's shoulders at this, pulling him into a hug before gently whispering into his ear,

"Gav, it's alright, what is it?"

The others waited with baited breath as the little boy found the courage to speak.

"There is one promise Ponine made me, long time back, when I was still living with the rat."-Combeferre stiffened. - "I broke the last bottle of beer and before the belt came down, she stepped in the way. Later she pulled me and 'Zelma into her room and made us a promise. She said 'I will always protect you two, no matter what, and I will get you out of here, I swear to you, I'll be there and it'll be ok.'"

With that, another memory flashed through the men's eyes, the first they'd learnt of Master Thénardier's ways.

It was a blistering hot July day, July 14th to be exact. Enjolras was having a Bastille Day celebration at his pool and all Les Amis were present. Sitting around the pool, Courfeyrac and Bousset were teasing Marius for his new love when Joly questioned,

"Marius, where is your lovely shadow today?"

"Joly," Marius sighed, "Ponine is not my shadow! And she said she'd be here late, she had something important she had to go to. Hope she stayed on her feet!" He laughed, but Courfeyrac's smile vanished,

"Why you say that?"

"Ponine? She's the clumsiest person I know! Always covered in bruises from tripping."

The boys stared at each other in worried disbelief.

"I've seen her carry an entire tray of drinks at the café, while holding on a phone conversation." Bahorel offered

"And she walked in a straight line after out drinking Grantaire!" Joly laughed.

"I don't want to talk about it." Grantaire mumbled into his seventh drink of the hour. Before more remarks on Éponine's grace could be made, the girl in question arrived. She was wearing large sunglasses that covered her entire face and her arms were covered in a long sleeved black dress.

"My my, if it isn't Miss. Mary Kate Olsen, to what do we owe the pleasure?" Grantaire slurred

She stuck her tongue out at the drunk before remarking "She is dating a Frenchman, must have some taste."

This launched Enjolras into a political debate that none of them wanted to hear, so Combeferre simply pushed their leader into the pool.

Games were played, food was consumed, drinks were flowing, but when the sun reached it's peak they began their game of capture the (red) flag. Despite the heat and everyone insisting she remove some layers, Éponine ignored their pleas, and continued to play as she always did, with determination to win at any cost. Éponine was chasing after Enjolras, who had the flag shouting,

"VIVE LA FRANCE!"

One moment she was laughing out of breath and the next she collapsed.

"ÉPONINE!" Enjolras shouted, Joly quickly by her side, the rest of the boys to follow.

"She's passed out from the heat. We've got to get her out of this dress!" Tearing away the sunglasses, Joly gasped and everyone froze.

Underneath the glasses were two dark purple bruises that surrounded both her eyes. When the dress was finally removed, more bruises were revealed, along with a deep gash that ran down her arm.

"Who would do this to someone like Ponine?" Musichetta whispered, clutching tightly to Bousset, one hand on Joly's shoulder. Gavroche, who had been silent throughout this whole ordeal spoke, his tiny body shaking with anger,

"Papa."

"But no one's heard from him in months right? Not since Éponine moved out for good."

Bahorel spoke, trying to erase the image of bruises on Ponine's face from his memory. After the incident, the boys were extremely protective of Éponine. Whenever she went out, one of them was sure to follow or walk her home. At first she fought this. Éponine didn't want anyone's pity and she certainly didn't want the boys getting hurt over her. So despite their best efforts, she always managed to come into the café with various cuts and small bruises.

"True, but it's the last thing he said that worries me the most." Enjolras shuddered at the memory and Combeferre paled instantly when he remembered Thénardier's parting words to his daughter.

They stood in a line by the car, each set for action if anything happened, but Éponine wanted to do this on her own. The door swung open, and out she came; her hair flying behind her, a crudely packed duffel slung over her arm, a broken suitcase clamoring on the cracked pavement as she dragged it along. Fierce determination illuminated every feature of her tired face. Behind her, shouting every profanity known to man was Master Thénardier, a beer in one hand and the belt in the other.

"Where'll you go, huh? No one cares bout you, you're a worthless, useless pathetic whore! Gonna drop out of school now? Got to, to get a job, support yourself, cause nothing more will be coming from me!"

Enjolras put a firm hand on Bahorel and Grantaire's shoulders, he hated hearing this about her too, but she'd never forgive them if they came to her aid now. Reaching the end of the driveway, she put her bags down on the curb before turning to face her father.

"I've supported myself entirely the moment I could get myself a job, so don't give yourself credit for something you never did. And I am going to finish school, because unlike you, I have something inside my head besides saw dust and alcohol! And, not only have I already finish high school, but I'm going to finish college as well, maybe even grad school! I am going to make something of myself and in order to do that, I have to get as far away from you as possible. You are a murderous, heartless, pathetic RAT! And I'd rather be in hell than live another day with you." She spat at his feet. His face was blood red and his eyes were flaming with anger, storming towards her, he grabbed her by the arm and swung her around, bringing his hand powerfully down on her face.

"OI!" Enjolras leapt from his car, followed by Bahorel, Grantaire, Courfeyrac, and Combeferre. Thénardier looked up from his daughter, who was now clutching her face, fighting back tears.

"Who the hell are you?" He spat.

"Ponine and Gavroche's protection." Grantaire spat back, strutting forward to give the man a piece of his mind.

"Get off my property or you'll suffer more than she will tonight." He said darkly. At that remark, Éponine rose to her feet, turning to her father, she brought her arm back and swiftly punched him in the nose. There was a sickening crack that followed.

"DON'T YOU DARE THREATEN THEM!"

She screamed, but before Thénardier could react Bahorel had swept Éponine into his arms and darted for the car, the rest of the boys in tow, each with one of her bags. Thénardier staggered back up to see them pulling away. Hurling his bottle at them, he shouted,

"Mark my words Girl, if I ever see you or those siblings of yours again, you'll regret ever leaving! You can't run forever! I will find you and I WILL KILL YOU!"