[A/N]: This was written to cajole my Muse for That's What You Get for Waking Up in Vegas in returning to me. I asked RosesAreForWriters for an idea, and it bore this, m'amie. I have taken a few liberties in borrowing some words and interpretations of Victor Hugo in Les Miz and many other things, so please pardon me. And if I have any inaccuracy in my portrayals of some sensitive issues, please do comment on it and pardon me. I hope you enjoy it, though, despite its length. For all that's worth it, I hope you do.

Summary: Colors, they mattered little to Enjolras. But the only colors he'd care about were red and black. So why was he seeing gold and brown everywhere, especially when he was just looking at his best friend, Éponine? Modern AU with E/É as best friends for RosesAreForWriters.

Disclaimer: If you asked, it'd be mine. But it would never… be that way!


Red and Black

By Leara Bribage

The colors of the world…

Colors, they mattered little to Enjolras. But the only colors he'd care about were red and black. They were extremities in the sense that they implied passion and despair—two emotions that were of outmost importance—to him. The foremost—a blazing flame of deep devotion and a stirring felt in the depths of one's soul. On the other hand, the latter—a lamp extinguished from despondency and gloom. And that was why he carried on with the void called life which his parents forced him to partake into.

For the meantime, though, he was silently battling with someone he called his best friend, who called her hair a mess of black curls, sported strong, sarcastic comments on Rosseau, and named Éponine, on whether or not she should hurl her desk at M'sieur Javert, their Physics teacher, in class.

"Like right now, 'Jolras," she whispered, gritting her teeth as she stared at their position- time graphs exercises. "Only this time."

"You've said that before," he whispered back as he gazed at her discreetly, careful not to let anyone think they were cheating or something. "Surely, you would not use this opportunity to get a red mark from him?"

She kicked him under his table. Enjolras bit his lip to refrain from grunting.

"Bummer," she hissed at him, putting a stray curl away from her eyes as she scrambled to press the equals sign on her scientific calculator.

"Would you rather I be a sycophant?" he admonished.

Before facing him, Éponine made sure that M'sieur Javert wasn't looking in their direction. Satisfied that their teacher was answering a query from Combeferre in front, and that his back was, therefore, turned on them, she smiled. "Bleh," she said with her tongue in display to show her disgust.

Enjolras merely rolled his eyes and continued answering his paper until he finished. He looked up from his desk and saw that they still had five minutes or so for their test. He saw Éponine, who was also done, napping but smiling at him.

He reddened a bit, but raised a brow in his defense.

She shook her head and closed her eyes.

He turned away, but if anyone saw him, no one would deny the fond curl that rested on his lips.

"All right, class. Do not forget to check your papers and put your respective sets. Sets A or B, on the upper left side. Pass your paper in ten seconds," M'sieur Javert ordered in his low voice.

They obliged, then fixed their things, and went out for lunch.

…are changing day by day….

"I cannot believe you would deny me of Dionysus's fine gift!" scoffed Grantaire, insulted by the fact that Joly would take his coke, which was spiked with some beer, away from him.

"I would not deny you your coke, R!" he said, annoyed. "I'm just going to sanitize the lid of this can! Have you ever even thought of the possibility that this—this bottle of can—has been touched by unhygienic hands?"

Everyone in their table groaned at this spectacle, save for Enjolras, who merely rolled his eyes and continued eating his home made lasagna. Even Musichetta, Joly's girlfriend, could not help but groan beside him.

"Oh, for the love of Asclepius! JOLY!" Grantaire burst tersely, getting his coke from his hands and his oh- so all purpose sanitizer.

The others laughed. Éponine elbowed Enjolras, who looked at her questioningly, and she smiled at him. "You made that?"

He nodded.

"You really don't buy food from our cafeteria?" she asked, a teasing smile on her lips.

"Yes, but because it's healthier and will help save me money for the flat," he answered, shrugging his shoulders. "Which you must help me pay, remember?"

"Yeah," she said, smiling ruefully. "But may I have some?"

"Sure."

"I'll just use your fork, if it's fine with you."

"Yeah, no matter there."

Then he watched as she took a forkful and ate it.

She moaned in satisfaction. He tried not to tighten his hold on his water bottle.

"Oh, my! 'Jolras! This is fucking good! Where'd you learn it?" she inquired, putting the fork down and gripping his shoulders. "It's something like I would eat in a restaurant! How come I didn't know this before?!"

"Because he's shy that way!" Bahorel hollered, earning laughs and grunts of agreement from Prouvaire and Combeferre.

"Domesticity doesn't fit with his tough guy exterior, so yeah," Courfeyrac explained further.

"Ohohohoho, right," Marius pitched in, while holding an arm around Cosette's waist.

Feuilly tried to imitate his glaring face while saying, "Le me is good with talking and all that jazz, but a no- no in housework! Ew!"

Everyone laughed, save, of course, the object of their criticism and laughter.

He coughed a little to get their attention.

"Pardon, but I beg to differ. On the contrary, I find it an invigorating and extremely helpful thing to do; and that is more than I can say for the rest of you, really," he said.

"We're not always like you, Apollo, who's so OC with his flat!" Grantaire bellowed before taking a sip of his beloved coke. "It's good you share it with Eppy here! She can make the mess for you!"

He simply rolled his eyes. She scoffed, feigning hurt and annoyance, but laughed after.

"I really thought you were just buying those stuff, sorry," Éponine said. "Guess it's my fault, though, because I'm not always around. Not yet used to the flat, so sorry."

"It's just been a week, so it's all right. Just make up when the bill comes," he said.

"All right-y," she replied in a sing- song manner.

"Domestic, all right," Courfeyrac whispered, earning a few playful shoves and guffaws from Bahorel and Combeferre.

"What?" Éponine asked.

"Nothing worth asking for, milady!" he quipped.

"Right," she said, and then scooted closer to Enjolras when Cosette put her head back a bit from Marius's tickling of her.

It took all of Éponine not to crumble there and then, so she turned away nonchalantly—at least she tried—and hit her nose on the shoulder of Enjolras abruptly.

"Ow," she said, rubbing her nose and then looking up apologetically at Enjolras. "Sorry."

"It's all right," he said, gazing at her. "Hey, are you all right?"

"Oh, yes," she said sardonically, smiling while shrugging her shoulders.

Despite her blithe façade, he saw the bitterness in the light of her golden brown eyes and undertone in the sarcasm of her voice. And try as he might to shrug it off like she would, Enjolras did not like the tone of that.

"Right," he said back.

She laughed mirthlessly and leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder. And no amount of fabric would cover the fact that Enjolras shivered a bit. He sighed, patting her head, anyway.

"I'll believe you this time, 'Ponine," he murmured softly, finishing his lasagna with his left hand instead to accommodate her resting head. "But do remember I am here, right?"

She peered at him from his shoulder, and though he could not see her smile, he saw it in her eyes.

"Thank you, 'Jolras," she said, and he felt the movement of her lips on the right sleeve of his red shirt. Then she moved away, finished eating her burger, and drank her bottle of water.

He cannot even try to hide his incarnadine cheeks.

Not even as the bell rang and gave him an opportunity to evade the smirks of his other friends.

Red…

"Bonjour, 'Jolras!" she screeched in his phone, and it was all he could do not to take the phone away from his ears.

"Yes, 'Ponine?" he asked calmly. "Where are you?"

Given the loud pop music roaring from her phone, though, he guessed that she was in a bar again. But he wasn't sure if it was in Corinthe or Le Café Musain—the café had started trying out selling a few beers last summer, so it could widen its market and succeeded; and that explained why Grantaire and Bahorel has learned to love Mme. Hucheloup even more.

"Corinthe. Capital R or B'orel are dowhere in dight, so would do bring me home, 'Jolras?" she answered, managing to sound sober whereas her words failed a bit.

"All right. Be there in ten," he replied. "Stay put, all right?"

"Yup!" she said, giggling.

So it really should not surprise him when he arrived at the place and see why she would use wine to wallow in her sorrows like Grantaire would. But he still really can't shake off the fact that his head ached from trying not to remember his mother's drunken stupor. He shook his head, anyway, because this was his best friend, who was trying to survive and get over her broken heart because Pontmercy wouldn't even try to see her feelings for him. It had been a year already since Cosette became that guy's girlfriend, but what Éponine was doing to herself was face palm- worthy.

He knew she knew she deserved more, but first loves are hard to forget, as people would say. But even more so when it is unrequited and unreciprocated.

He gritted his teeth and tried to shake away an unwelcome feeling threatening to make his knees weak at the sight of his best friend, but luck was not with him this time.

She was sitting on a stool, wearing her knee- length army boots, a micro mini denim skirt, green lacey tank top, which showed too much of her cleavage, and was covered by a leather jacket zipped up beneath her bust line. In her hand she held a shot of tequila, which she toasted to him as she saw him walking towards her. Enjolras tried not to cringe a bit when she yelled his name as a greeting, but he managed to hold her up when she nearly fell off her seat.

"Mon Dieu, 'Ponine," he admonished her, but continued to hold her up. He managed to leave a bill on the table for the barista and helped her limp her way outside.

When they managed to get in his car, he struggled to put her seatbelt on because she was so touching him in all the wrong places. Enjolras just reasoned out that she was doing this in her drunken haze, thinking that it was Marius and not him, but he cannot pretend that the caresses were making his breaths quicker and his thoughts a little horrid. Éponine has kissed and sucked on his neck in the process already, and that was just more than he could take. Finally, however, he got to restrain her a bit and put the darned seat belt around her and drove.

He sighed in relief when she stopped and began to sing tunelessly as he drove home, but that was not to be the case. She has more than once tried to lean in and tickle him. But, at last, they got to their flat safely, and he swore he would try to persuade Éponine from going to the local pubs. He had to carry her, though, in his arms when she looked dazed and walked in a tipsy manner up their stairs.

Enjolras opened the door to her room and had taken off her boots and placed her on the bed gently when she dragged him with her and cuddled to him like a pillow—or, perhaps, how a child would with a stuffed toy.

"Éponine," he tried saying, but was soon shut up by a finger on his lips.

She went above him and put her head on his chest, clutching his shirt.

"Comfy," she muttered.

And it was all the poor marble could do not to scream in aghast or delight in the nearness of the softness of her body. So Enjolras arched his back a bit while using an arm to prevent her from falling off his side, and with another hand, reached for the blanket beneath to cover them. Éponine hummed beneath him and pressed her chest more on his, in an attempt to get more comfortable. He shut his eyes tiredly and just hugged her, taking in her warmth and temporary nearness.

He made small, circular motions on her lower back to calm her even further, and that was when he heard her mutter his name softly, endearingly, lovingly… like she… she…

Enjolras was thankful that she was asleep because she would have laughed at how the blood had rushed into his cheeks. He grinned a little, but his head was swirling because he didn't know if she really meant something by that tone and if she had finally gotten over that Pontmercy, so he could, like, try to make a move or something. He continued those ministrations, however, and tried to sleep.

And it was a great and terrible feeling when he finally did after he heard her say she loved him.

I feel my soul on fire!

When he awoke, Enjolras slipped off from beneath Éponine carefully to prepare her aspirins and a glass of water and bucket. He opened the loo and put the pail on the floor. Soon enough, he heard her grunt and hurried steps as she went her way to their shared bathroom.

"'Jolras, I, uh, I need to—," she tried explaining, but when she saw him sitting on the cold floor with a bucket, glass of water, and aspirins beside him, she didn't hesitate taking the pail from him and vomiting the contents in her stomach.

Éponine continued gagging three or four more times before she was finally rested. Through it all, Enjolras silently held her hair back with one hand and caressed her back as he made small circular ministrations on the lower of her back with the other. When she was done, finally done, he gave her the aspirins and a glass of water.

He propped up a fist on his cheek as he looked at her.

"How many have you drunk last night, 'Ponine?" he asked.

"Um, I dunno, honestly. I forgot… Hmph. Maybe a cocktail at first and then… tequila, or stuff," she said, taking a deep breath and resting her head on his shoulder.

"It would seem so," he remarked. "You've sung tunelessly again."

She scoffed and moved away from him to hit him playfully on the chest.

"How dare you mock my singing abilities?" she asked, feigning hurt on her features.

"Oh, no, not at all," he said, trying keep his face straight. "You were even slurry and lousy last night. I had to carry you all the way to your room, honestly."

"Aw, thank you, my dear marble lover of liberty," Éponine answered sardonically.

That was it—he laughed with mirth, his neck stretching in the process and blonde curls bobbing behind him as he did.

Éponine joined him, or at least, for a few seconds before asking, "Hey, who gave you that love bite?"

Fuck, she wasn't supposed to see it, he thought uncomfortably as she leaned in and touched the darned spot.

Caressing it, she asked softly, "Did I do this last night?"

He shut his eyes and sighed, trying not moan when she did not stop stroking it.

"Yes," he said honestly, taking a deep breath when he saw those golden brown eyes gape at him. "Yes, you did."

"Oh, I'm sorry," she said, but he did not exactly note its sincerity since they must be thinking the same thing. There was something in that raspy, sultry voice she used.

"Don't," he said, his voice breaking a little. "It's all right."

Her gaze softened.

"Now, come on, we do have another test on Physics come Tuesday, and I know you hate that class, so we have to study, all right?" he asked, standing up and hauled her to rise.

"Aw, dammit," she replied. "But all right."

When they got out of the loo and pored through their notebooks, all Éponine could say was:

"Fuck Physics."

Black…

"So, if it's down, it's always negative?" she asked, confusion and frustration evident in her raised brows and pouting lips.

It was already eleven in the evening, their supposed supper over for a while, while ago, and they had continued practicing on more exercises about the damned graphs.

"Ah, no, see: imagine an inclined plane. And that the direction says that a cart is to go up towards the starting point," he started explaining, but seeing no sign of comprehension dawning on her, he took her notebook. With his pen, he then drew an X, a diagonal line going up and a cart on the middle of the diagonal line. "It's like this. The X here – that's the starting point. The reference point. So, if this was a graph, it would be the zero, you get me?"

She nodded, leaning in to see more of the sketch.

"All right. It said here, right, that the cart was going up towards the starting point?" he asked and then drew through the cart an arrow pointing to the X. "But we do know that going back to the X makes it negative, right? 'Cause the number decreases when you go from, like, say, five to zero. So the displacement is negative, and so is its velocity. The velocity's decreasing, too, because it's going up. You remember how when we climbed up the mountain last summer with Grantaire and Bahorel, it was so hard to go up? That's because the gravity of the earth was pulling us down, so our speed had to decrease. We were trying to defy gravity by going up, so we went slow and steady."

"A bit like life, wouldn't you say?" Éponine brought up suddenly, smiling a little.

Enjolras gazed at her and grinned. "Yeah, pretty much. The road to success is painful and long."

She nodded.

"So if the displacement and velocity are negative; and its velocity, again, is decreasing; what ah - bout its acceleration?" she asked, yawning a bit.

He smiled, glad that she comprehended this particular matter. "You remember how the acceleration is extremely dependent on the slope of velocity? Well, the relationship of velocity and acceleration this time is inversely related. Like you said, its velocity is negative and decreasing. But this time, since it is slowing down, it is—," he stopped, noticing that Éponine had fallen asleep on her notebook with her hand as a pillow.

Enjolras tried poking her awake, but she just groaned. He sighed, but smiled after. "You can be a lousy student, sometimes, 'Ponine."

And he was about to stand up to get a glass of water when he yawned too. "Or, perhaps, we both are," Enjolras remarked. He saw her lips part a little and tried not to lick his own, thinking if he should or should not try and kiss her. But he was tired, so he rested his golden head upon his notebook, too, and gazed at her that way. Her black locks managed to cover her face again, so he put it on the back of her ear and stroked her cheeks a little.

How she kept it soft, he wondered, but he continued caressing it, anyway. His fingers moved to trace her eye lids and nose, but eventually, finally, to her lips. He lingered there and seemed to be not able to take his fingers away, so he leaned into her and felt her breaths on his face. Enjolras observed her lips, which looked a little wet but subtle still, and found himself nearing her.

He ignored his aching, galloping heart, and finally rested his lips on hers.

She felt so delicate and sweet. And, yes, a little dry, but it was all he imagined. He didn't move, however, and just lingered a few moments to close his eyes and savored the feel of her lips.

Enjolras now knew why he was so confused, dazed when he talked with her sometimes.

Her lips were highly distracting, and he would have asked for it to be removed, but then its delicacy was such a gift to him.

But he moved away, sooner than his heart would have wanted, because he heard her moan—or was it his imagination—and reciprocated a little with his lips—was he dreaming or not (?).

And probably, most importantly, because she was his best friend. And she might just not see him that way. And she might still be in love with Pontmercy. And for all his awkwardness, she might just not accept him… And, and, and…

But what were those smiles earlier, lips on his shirt during lunch, or even the evening before?

This was all so confusing, so Enjolras decided that he better leave the matter first and try to get some sleep to gain some strength to think about it.

Morning found Éponine awkwardly waking to the sight of Enjolras's face near to hers. Before she could even yawn, she had to think of her breath first, as it was just dawn. But she couldn't exactly cover it with her hand, could she, when his hand was holding it below the table? Oh, she couldn't even use her other because she was using it as a pillow. Doing that would just disturb Enjolras, and she actually liked this view of him. So unguarded and gentle, the rigid lines on his face going softer with every breath he inhaled and exhaled.

It was then that her eyes traveled from his jaws to his lips, which was slightly parted, as if in the middle of saying something.

Wait, she has fallen asleep on their study, right? Oh, my!

She will have to repay him for that, then. Darn.

Looking at him now, though, why not give him a kiss? An equally brilliant and stupid idea, Éponine, she admonished herself. He's your best friend!

But she does want to know how it would feel like kissing him, or how would his lips taste like.

So when she gradually, ever gradually neared herself to him, debating on whether or not to continue this silly plan, why, why, why was her heart thumping like a train going north?

But she ignored her aching, galloping heart, and finally rested her lips on his.

It was not unexpected to have his lips dry, but there was a certain wetness and softness on his lips when she did kiss him. Still, she concluded that it was sweet and delicate. So she was rendered immobile for a while as she memorized the feel of her lips on his. How it made her heart jump, her body in tingles of delights… even as she closed her eyes and relished it.

That must be it, then, why he orated so passionately and sincerely and managed to get everyone persuaded by the tremor in his voice and words that came out from his lips. And that must be why she had been berating herself about looking at his eyes and not at his lips when they were talking. But that was a problem, too—gazing at his blue, blue eyes—because she would always drown in its depth and the sincerity he showed with it.

She'd be happy without it, and yes, she could try, but her 'Jolras was not just her 'Jolras without the blue eyes and lips.

But she had to move away, away from his distracting, soft lips, sooner than her aching heart would have wanted, because she felt him stir already, and/or was it her imagination when he shifted in the kiss?

But most probably, most importantly, because he was her best friend. And he might choose not to see her that way because he respected her a lot. And because he might just not be interested in romantic relationships. And for all her weirdness and fucked- up life, he might just not accept her… And there were a million reasons she could state, but, but, but…

But what were those caresses, gazes, or even the night before? Or did she feel something on her lips last night? Was that her imagination, too?

This was all so frustrating, so Éponine decided that she had better move a little away and pretend to be asleep because she could feel him waking already. And also because she needed to think on it… Now, that she has kissed her best friend, what would she do?

…the color of despair!

"Do you think they'll suspend classes? The rainfall's heavy and hasn't stopped since dawn!" Courfeyrac whined, shaking his wet black curls as they sat in their Advanced Literature class.

"Apparently, Helios has decided to hide," Grantaire said, snorting as he leafed through the pages of his copy of The Odyssey.

"It is quite hard to travel, especially when the authorities have allowed the Metro to increase its fares again," Feuilly said, putting a fist on his left cheek.

Combeferre nodded, zipping his blue jacket up to his chest. "Yeah, but at least the temperature's cooler in a way."

"The thing is I'll have to worry about the insects when it does stop. Good thing I brought a repellant," Joly added, spraying some of it on his hands. "Want some?"

"Uh, no thanks, man," Bossuet kindly rejected. "Not good for me. I've got allergies with that kind of stuff. Sorry."

Bahorel groaned, napping on his desk.

"Oh, sure," Jehan said, showing his hand to Joly, who immediately sprayed on it. "Thanks."

"You're welcome!" Joly said brightly, happy that someone had already decided to accept the services of his insect repellant. Then he turned to his left and was about to try offering it to Éponine and Enjolras, but stopped when he noticed that the two were silently discreetly staring at each other. He smiled wickedly at this and pointed it to Combeferre, who was seated in front of him.

Combeferre chuckled at it and rolled his eyes.

"It's a good thing Marius and Cosette aren't here to contest that level of staring," Bahorel commented, snorting as he looked up from his desk. "It'd be sickening."

"Nah, it's just Persephone reciprocating Apollo's feelings," Grantaire added, glancing at the door to see if Madame Fantine would be coming any time soon.

"The marble cracks will always be entwined with the rose's thorns and leaves," Prouvaire mindlessly uttered, gazing at the two amusedly.

Courfeyrac's jaw dropped. Bossuet merely chuckled.

Before Feuilly could say something on the matter, Madame Fantine entered the room and called the class to order.

"Good morning, everyone! Have you read a brief summary of L'Histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prevost? We shall compare it to the–," she began, smiling as she saw her students nod. "All right. Good. A few queries, then. Let's see. Mademoiselle Thérnardier—"

Éponine snapped out of gazing at Enjolras, who did the same and stared at his notebook, and looked at their teacher.

"Yes, Madame Fantine?" she asked, trying to keep her face as straight as possible.

Fantine smiled softly, noticing the exchange between her two brightest students. She would be a fool not to see something stirring between Aurélien Enjolras and Éponine Thérnardier, but she chose not to comment on it. "Well, my dear, would you care to tell me why this story was so controversial it was banned here in our country upon its publication?"

"Abbé Prevost's title character Manon Lescaut wa—," Éponine began answering, but was interrupted by a loud crackling noise from the intercom above their classroom's whiteboard.

"Announcement: Good morning. This is M'sieur Blondieu, Vice Principal of École secondaire de l'Insurrection, calling for senior student Aurélien Enjolras to come to my office immediately. Urgent matters wait. To the teacher, kindly excuse him. And to the rest of the students, no, there will be no suspension of classes. That is all. Thank you. Now, resume to your classes and please be guided accordingly."

Groans and cries of disappointment echoed through the classes.

Éponine gazed at Enjolras, who had simply set his mouth into a firm line and nodded to her. Then he looked at Fantine, who bobbed her head, as well, and inclined her eyes to the door. His friends looked at him inquiringly and worriedly, so he mouthed, 'later'. Then he went out, but not without a small pat on Éponine's shoulder.

She closed her eyes and breathed.

M'sieur Blondieu had glared at him upon his entrance to what he thought the vice principal considered the office he worked on as his 'throne'. But unlike other authorities of their school, this man did not like to stray to incongruous topics before settling onto the heart of the matter. So Enjolras had silently sat on a chair adjacent to the table as he directed.

"In a few minutes, M. Enjolras will speak to you of the current state of health of your mother. It is grave, I am told," the vice principal began, peering at him like how a predator would its prey. Enjolras merely stared at him blankly, showing no obvious sign of paling at the despondent news such as the one on the phone he was talking to a while ago was about to impart. But before Blondieu could comment further on the matter, his phone rang. He hummed monotonously before pressing the green button and picking it up.

Enjolras was not sure why they were calling him, of all people. His parents were powerful. His father, Olivier, was a widely renowned and respected docteur. Élisabeth was a coveted ingénieur in the modern industry. So why, why, why were they calling him now? At the most inopportune and precarious of times, even when they did not expect him to care simply because they were the ones who had estranged him.

But he kept silent as he watched M'sieur Blondieu converse with—were his ears right?—the secretary of his father. He heard a seemingly deep, but remarkably female voice—a contralto, all right—and guessed that this must be Mme. Rigoureux, someone he could trust and who would have no dubious rapport with his father, at least. His father would always stay true to her mother, which at least something he could count on.

"Aurélien, a correction," the vice principal said, his right eye twitching—a sign that he did not like being disproved or making mistakes. "In the meantime, Mme. Rigoureux would speak for your father, who's in charge of the operation. Here, take it."

Enjolras took the phone from his clammy hand and put it beside his ear.

"Mme. Rigoureux, how grave is it?" he asked, staring straight ahead into the white walls of M'sieur Blondieu's office.

"Enough to make you leave the school as soon as possible that vice principal of your school would allow," Mme. Rigoureux answered flatly.

Enjolras shut his eyes, rubbing the side of his temples. He took a deep breath before answering.

"All right," he said, opening his eyes. "All right. But could I at least take Éponine with me?"

He heard M'sieur Blondieu protest in front of him, but he ignored him.

"Yes, ma cher," Mme. Rigoureux said immediately. In spite of how intimidating the old secretary could sound and his family's distorted history, Enjolras had disregarded that demeanor and so gained fondness and respect from her. "Now, let me talk to that guidoune!"

Enjolras barely managed to hide a smirk from this jab to M'sieur Blondieu as he handed him his phone back. He slowly counted to ten as he waited his vice principal to relent to Mme. Rigoureux's orders. He looked down, trying to breathe deeply to prevent unshed tears from falling.

1005… 1006… 1007…

"Oh, all right," M'sieur Blondieu said, gritting his teeth. "I'll send for her, too. They'll be escorted outside, all right. A car will wait for them in ten minutes?! Ten minutes? Why, you—! I see, all right. It will be taken care of, Madame. Now, if you would, goodbye."

M'sieur Blondieu glared at him one more time before reaching to the microphone on his desk and announcing:

"Announcement: Good morning once again. This is M'sieur Blondieu, Vice Principal of École secondaire de l'Insurrection, calling for senior student Éponine Thérnardier to come to my office immediately. Urgent matters wait, as well. To the teacher, kindly excuse her. And to the rest of the students, no, there will still be no suspension of classes. That is all. Thank you. Now, back to your classes and please be guided accordingly."

Éponine jerked up from the paper she was writing on. She heard her name and was being called to Blondieu's office. Everyone looked at her, but she mouthed 'later' to Jehan and the others only. She nodded to Fantine, who merely sighed softly but agreed with a bob of her head. She got up and went, squaring her shoulders. Before she left, though, she heard Prouvaire remark:

"Carpe diem, Éponine et Sabinus!"

She closed her eyes and sprinted to Blondieu's office.

When she got there, Blondieu beckoned her to sit beside Enjolras, who had chosen to stay silent and not gaze at her. Éponine guessed that she would have to wait until this session with their vice principal was over before she could get him to talk. She raised a brow at the glowering man of authority in front of them and tried not to smirk.

"Éponine, you shall come with Aurélien to the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur. A car shall take both of you there in five minutes. Get your bags. You will be excused for the rest of the day," the vice principal said, rage barely contained in the few twitches of his right eye. "Remember, though, that being excused today does not mean you two will get any marks for your absence. Be responsible for your losses. Now, if you would, leave now and be guided accordingly."

The two nodded, departing immediately.

On the way back to their class, Enjolras had not uttered a single word to her, so she bit her lip. She told Fantine of their leave and simply got a nod of approval. Taking their bags with them, they waved to their friends and then left.

She looked over to Enjolras, getting more anxious because he had not yet spoken to her. Whatever he was called for earlier was dragging him into the recesses of his mind again. She would not have that. Not again. She would not lose her best friend over this darkness.

So when they got into a Toyota Camry five minutes later as promised, she immediately looked at him and crossed her arms.

"What's wrong, 'Jolras?" she asked, her brows furrowed and lips pouting. Enjolras looked at her from the side, his hands in fists.

It was not her imagination when she saw his eyes stray to her lips, right? So she licked it just to be sure and found him shutting his eyes and sighing. Éponine scooted closer to him, uncrossing her arms and putting one hand over a closed fist.

"Aurélien," she whispered, smiling when he gazed at her directly. He seemed to be pondering on something before he replied, "I… I'm not sure if I can say it to you yet. But you do know how ma mére has been ever since they told me to go out and I voluntarily refused any 'special' treatment from them—save for school expenditures on pére's insistence. A-And right now, she is—she…."

His blue eyes spoke volumes of a whirlwind of emotions, and he was biting his lip. She just looked at him and pleaded to him to breathe, but she felt his fist tighten even more under her hand. Éponine sighed and then pulled him into a hug, trying to drown out the harrowing, heartbreaking sounds of his sobs. She ran a hand across his back, making small circles on the lower part like he did when she threw up after a bad case of hangover. The other hand, however, she used to brush through his hair because she remembered he did that when she was sobbing over Marius. They remained like that for the rest of the trip.

Red… a world about to dawn!

"I'm sorry, Aurélien," his mother said, her green eyes losing its luster with every second passing. Enjolras and his father held her hands on both sides. Éponine sat beside him quietly, a hand on his lower back.

Enjolras didn't want to cry. He supposed he should since that was what people do at times like this, but he wanted to be strong for his mother. He had to, even if his head was aching from controlling his tears from falling. Even if his mother was the one who turned him out. Even as his father did nothing to stop her. But they were his parents, and even if you turned the world upside down, they would always be.

"Just let me be, mére," he replied, taking a deep breath, but thankful for the comforting hand Éponine has on his back. "Let me be."

"Will you forgive us, then?" his father asked in the silent room. Enjolras looked at his father, Olivier, who was the best docteur, but could not even save his mother Élisabeth. The irony of ironies, he thought sadly, feeling disappointment but guilt for him who must have been beating himself up because of it.

Red—it was the color of his mother's blood draining as the hands of time gradually stopped for her. Black—the blankness, darkness, and grief painting the very scene they were in. It was not anger he felt anymore. Not repulsion or derision. No, the colors he loved wouldn't be able to describe what he was feeling. Nor would any strong or despondent emotion do. So he looked at Éponine and gazed into her golden brown eyes, which seemed brighter and bigger because of unshed tears or the blaze of determination. And that was it, golden and brown. This moment was golden—an irrevocable, tangible, perpetual event in their lives. Brown—because it was warm even if the situation called for the stiffness of hearts.

So he turned to look at his parents and slowly nodded. "Yes," he said, smiling hesitantly. "Yes, mére and pére."

Then Élisabeth gazed at his son and faintly said, "I love you, Aurélien." She smiled as he said it back, relief and happiness filling her lungs. So she turned to her husband and told him the same. Likewise, Olivier pronounced it with love and the strength of forty five years of marriage. It would have to do, she thought, feeling her eyesight lose focus and oblivion clouding around her. She held on to her Olivier's and Aurélien's hands with her last, weakening power as she felt herself whizzing away, away from the conscious, present world into a plethora of light and then—nothingness.

Éponine took Enjolras into her arms, trying to give him all the warmth she could in her limbs. He grasped her around her waist and buried his head in her neck. His body in a tremor of harrowing, soulful sobs, she hummed. She didn't say words of comfort since that was far from what he was feeling, so she held him quietly and respected his mourning. But she saw his father caress his mother's face with silent adoration and heartbreak. It was too much—this family of love whereas hers was not—and so she cried for her best friend, his father, and his departed mother.

Black… the night that ends at last!

"Labor was the first price, the original purchase—money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased. Adam Smith. And my wife, Élisabeth, favored this quote simply because it reminded her of us, her family," Olivier said, standing in a dais in front of her casket as he performed the eulogy for her funeral. "And I could not disagree because the labor of mutual love and faith brought us together for a great and terrible forty five years and gifted us our son, Aurélien, with it. So I regret nothing—all the years—with her and will continue loving her."

Olivier began telling tales of wonder and anecdotes of his wife to everyone. Éponine and Enjolras sat with the other Amis in front silently. Combeferre and Feuilly were trying to console their friend Jehan—oh, the poor poet—who was crying softly. Courfeyrac and Grantaire were looking down, gravely upset and serious. Bahorel was biting his lip, obviously failing in his attempt not to bawl his eyes out. Joly and Bossuet held each of Musichetta's hands as she sniffled. Marius held Cosette, both of them sobbing. Éponine could see Enjolras growing paler as his turn to speak inched closer, so she squeezed his hand and laid her head on his shoulder. "You won't be fine yet, I know, but this is your forte, and I believe in you, so you can do it. You can let her go," she said softly but firmly.

"Thank you, 'Ponine," he replied as softly as she did, and then with a quick move, beckoned her chin up to him and kissed her. Éponine had hardly a time to react because it all happened so fast and he left immediately to begin his speech for his mother. But for all it's worth, she smiled with a sigh and tried not to notice the teasing and knowing smirks of their friends. She focused instead on Enjolras as he stood in front, putting a finger on her lips to remind herself of that bliss.

"This is not the moment to pronounce past aches and agitations. No matter, I pronounce its damnation and redemption in all its glory. And so, ma mére, your love will root and revitalize us all our days, even in the unknown future. For us, your death does not mean an eternal suffering without you, for as your soul is an immortal residue implanted within us, you will not be forgotten. And so, it will come, even without you here, that we will be stronger, better people for you. For you, and it is that it may come that you have entered the realms beyond us. I love you, ma mére. And so does pére. Pacis erit vobiscum," he ended finally, his lips quivering a bit as he bowed and went back to his seat beside Éponine, who was smiling at him.

Everyone clapped after an interlude of momentary shock and wonder.

And when his mother's casket was rested and buried below the ground and the funeral services were over, his father and friends hugged him for intervals before leaving. He returned home with Éponine peacefully, small mercy it may be.

They sat on their couch, watching tv and sharing a bowl of cheetos. It was in the middle of watching The Sound of Music when Éponine kept staring at him and he could just simply not ignore it anymore.

"Yes, 'Ponine?" he said, seeing her golden brown eyes twinkle with the light from the television.

"I love you," she said unabashedly though softly, her cheeks going red so she looked down.

His blue eyes widened for a second as he registered what she said, forgetting Edelweiss playing in the background. Then he felt himself smiling as he lifted her chin up to look at him. Golden brown eyes, he thought fondly, will be always what I love from her the most.

Colors, yes, they mattered little to Enjolras. Though he loved red and black best of all, he will never ever forsake fancying gold and brown. Especially, especially when those colors were in the eyes he adored most. Yes, gold does not last, as beauty would, but it is not that that matters. It is the heart—the heart that would always revolt for the sake of egalité, liberté, and fraternité, but most of all for her. And that was why his 'Ponine was the most significant person in his life.

"As I have been loving you," he replied, kissing her softly after.

How the world may be changed… in just one burst of light!