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18 October 2013 @ 11:59 pm
Chapter 66: On Testimonies  

A/N: And the second trial comes up!

To the Guest: That's exactly what Magnon was going for. Unfortunately more people are savvy nowadays as to the ramifications of executing him, so he gets thwarted. And yes, it's really the little things that matter for Eponine.

To Iceflower: Oh snap indeed, and more here!

Chapter 66: On Testimonies

It would have been an understatement to say that the aftermath of the Magnon trial was the subject of much discussion and commentary by nightfall. 'So much that every single newspaper had something to say about it,' Eponine thought as she got a glimpse of the previous day's edition of the Moniteur, tucked under the arm of a carpenter standing ahead of her in the queue at the bakery on the corner of the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. She already knew that the broadsheet's front page had a long and prosaic article detailing the trial's proceedings, with an emphasis on its explosive conclusion. 'That was already the most reasonable piece on it,' she mused as she counted out once again the money she'd brought.

She scowled as she got a whiff of the telltale tang of water gathering in the air; even at this early hour it already promised to be a stormy day. Knowing this did not do anything to ease up the disquiet that had been building in her chest for more than a day now. Today was a Friday, the fifteenth of March, and in a few hours she would have to take the witness stand at the trial of Christophe Duchamp. 'Will anyone believe me?' she wondered as she stuffed the coins back in her reticule. She bit her lip as she caught sight of the people in the queue and some passersby looking her way. A good many gave her sympathetic, even cheery smiles, but there were a number who turned away swiftly and began exchanging furtive whispers. One wag even went as far as kicking a stone in her general direction, but Eponine deliberately sidestepped this and shook her fist at him, ready to let loose any invectives if he provoked her any further.

"You watch your manners there Girard!" the baker roared from his worktop. At the sound of this, the uncouth passerby slunk away, allowing Eponine to breathe a sigh of relief. The baker smiled warmly at the young woman. "Now don't you mind him, Citizenness. He's just forgetting he has a mother who bore and nursed him."

Eponine smirked as she emptied her reticule on the worktop. "I'll have the usual two loaves, and five pieces of brioche to add to that."

The baker pushed some of the coins back towards Eponine's hand. "The brioche is on me. Now don't refuse it, young lady. You're one of the people on this street without standing credit with me. Consider it a gift for the little ones, and a gesture of thanks for you and Citizen Enjolras."

"Thanks for what?" Eponine asked confusedly.

"For helping lock up that Royalist viper," the baker said, setting down the two loaves and the brioches on the worktop. "Of course I'd rather see him strung up for it, but who knows, maybe the police will find him useful."

'Maybe for throwing a dagger,' Eponine thought, biting her lip at the memory of the courtroom and seeing her former employer Ravigard with a knife in his shoulder. "He's not going to make a show of himself on the guillotine. That's good."

The baker shrugged. "What is good for me is that he's not causing any havoc. Now good luck to you, and Citizen Enjolras. You two will need it."

"Thank you," Eponine said as she picked up the bread, knowing that he was referring to the upcoming trial. 'At least he's discreet enough not to ask about it with so many people about,' she thought with relief as she raced back to the tenement. That would certainly have drawn more attention than she was ready to deal with at such an early hour.

As soon as she got in the door, she was greeted by the murmur of several voices complaining about something in the kitchen. 'What is Grantaire doing here?' she wondered, recognizing one voice that carried over the rest. She stepped into the kitchen and saw that Grantaire and Gavroche were standing quite near the stove while Neville was picking at what seemed to be slivers of last night's cheese. Jacques was trying to wipe his face with a grubby handkerchief. All three of her brothers were still in their sleeping clothes while Grantaire had thrown his coat over a chair. "What are the three, no I mean the four of you doing?" she asked suspiciously.

Gavroche grinned at her. "The hens have laid something fancy," he said proudly, pointing to a pan that held just one freshly cooked omelette.

"You mean what eggs you boys did not put all over the wall," Eponine groaned, noticing now the splatters of egg, puddles of oil and bits of cheese littering the place. The kettle was also set out to one side, reeking suspiciously of burned coffee. She gave Grantaire a withering look despite the laughter of her younger brothers. "I know you want to talk to Enjolras before the trial today, but this isn't the hour for it; he's still upstairs."

"I had news to precede today's edition of the Moniteur. I had hoped to keep up with Iris and Hermes," Grantaire replied merrily.

"Those are messengers, not deities of the kitchen. I'm telling Nicholine what you did here," Eponine snapped, setting down the bread next to four eggs that had clearly been intended for this culinary misadventure. She caught sight of a carefully twisted piece of paper next to the food. "What is this?"

"The other thing I came here for; it's a note that came on the roundabout: from your sister to a milliner, then to Nicholine," Grantaire replied.

Eponine smoothed out the note carefully; even so it was difficult to read it owing to Azelma's newfound habit of embellishing her penmanship with flourishes. The missive was to this effect: 'I wanted to go to the trial, Ponine, but Angelique says I shouldn't. I might cause a stir. I want to see you soon though so I'll be at the Hotel de Ville later- Azelma'.

"What did she say?" Grantaire asked.

"She won't be coming later," Eponine said before inspecting Jacques' sticky face and hands. "This will not do; it's time you had a wash," she muttered, scooping up her brother.

Jacques squirmed in her grip. "It wasn't my fault, it was Neville's!"

"I told you to hold the eggs, not to squeeze them!" Neville argued.

"Come on you two, not now," Eponine scolded before hauling Jacques into the small washroom near the kitchen. "You could have waited a little bit if you wanted omelettes," she chided him lightly as she doused a washcloth in some water.

Jacques sniffed as he held out his hands. "Neville said we should have our turn cooking since you and Papa take turns. Gavroche said that you and Papa will be busy trying to stop someone bad today."

Eponine shook her head before she began scrubbing Jacques' face and hands. "I've told you so before. I'm not your Maman. Enjolras isn't your Papa."

"Why are you my sister?"

"I just am."

"Where's my real Papa?" Jacques asked, pouting slightly. "Why did he leave us?"

'I wish it was just a story of leaving,' Eponine thought as she inspected her brother's face, so akin to Gavroche's own during their early days in Montfermeil. "He just wants to be elsewhere, where the rest of us shouldn't be," she said at last. Hearing this from her lips somehow hurt, but it was the ache akin to that of drawing out a splinter, something that was quite necessary.

Jacques nodded slowly. "Will he come back?"

"He's not supposed to, ever," Eponine said quickly before letting him out of the washroom. As she rinsed out the washcloth, she heard laughter from the kitchen followed shortly by the sounds of Grantaire regaling Enjolras with some sort of story. When she returned to the kitchen she had to stop to take in the sight that greeted her. Enjolras was helping Neville and Jacques clean out all the dishes and pans they'd used in their misadventure, while Grantaire and Gavroche were wiping off the eggs that had gotten splattered on the walls. "How did you convince them to do this?" she asked Enjolras half teasingly, sliding her hand over his shoulders as she walked past him.

He smirked at her. "With a little difficulty."

Grantaire burst out laughing as he watched the pair. "Just like Marat's situation: no need for a priest or a notary." He guffawed more loudly when Enjolras glared at him while Eponine crossed her arms. "Like I was saying a few moments ago, the general assumption at the Cafe du Foy is that the conclusion of the trial of Magnon is hardly a conclusion. There are still two questions: how to best house him now, and who fired those shots at the back of the courtroom. Not to mention the rumor that the jury was paid off to spare him from the guillotine."

"The last part is nonsensical," Enjolras replied sternly.

"Yes but now that you and the rest let him live there is the problem of keeping him under constant guard, otherwise he may very well find his water poisoned one of these days," Grantaire said, sitting back casually. "Will he be allowed to eventually become a witness the way Citizen Ravigard was?"

"He may be persuaded to give information but he will never be a witness under oath since he is already convicted," Enjolras said as he began putting some of the clean pots and pans in the cupboard.

Eponine surveyed the remaining eggs and set about to making another omelette; one was hardly enough to feed even Gavroche. "Speaking of Citizen Ravigard, how is he? I know he lived at least."

"Still at the Val-de-Grace. It would be so much easier for him if the arteries could be filled up with wine to make up for nearly being exsanguinated," Grantaire replied. "As for the shots at the back of the courtroom, was that an overreaction?"

"No, a breach of the rules. No weapons were to be allowed to that particular trial especially," Enjolras informed them seriously. "It was no accident."

"The gendarmes will have to be careful today since there are so many important people who want to see the trial," Eponine noted with distaste as she carefully poked at the egg she had sizzling in the pan.

"More buzzards," Grantaire said. "The defense attorney, a nephew of the infamous Blondeau, was bragging that he can secure Citizen Duchamp's acquittal."

"He won't do it," Eponine said firmly. "So many people saw what Citizen Duchamp did and too many people know what happened to Citizen Paquet."

"It depends what the jury sees, as you might remember from what happened two days ago," Enjolras pointed out as he began cutting up some of the bread. "What the jury decides will depend on the strength of the evidence presented."

"It also depends on how they perceive the witnesses," Grantaire said nonchalantly.

Eponine swallowed hard, seeing the veiled warning in these words. "If they want to see that," she replied at length. After a hurried breakfast, Enjolras and Grantaire left to visit Prouvaire and see to some errands, while Eponine rushed upstairs to make sure her brothers were ready for school and to finish her own preparations for the day.

The disquiet had now built up into a sort of tempest; in fact Eponine could feel the beginnings of an ache in her temples as she finished up her toilette as swiftly as she could manage. She made sure to dress carefully for this debacle, eschewing her usual bright dresses for her more sedate blue work dress. To achieve some semblance of elegance she donned a more elaborate lace collar and tied a white ribbon around her waist. 'I s'pose I could almost be a lady like this,' she decided as she quickly braided her hair and pinned it up in a knot. It would not do to confirm any notion of her being an unkempt harridan or worse.

Although she had been told to be at the Palais de Justice before half-past eight, owing to the trial being scheduled for nine in the morning, Eponine made sure to be at the Palais de Justice a whole quarter of an hour early. All the same, she found herself lost for words on seeing the crowd that had turned out to watch the proceedings. 'It's even more than the trial for Magnon,' she realized, biting her lip as she prepared to brave the buzzing throng amassed near the steps. Before she could take a step forward, she felt a hand yank her arm. "Therese?"

"That's how to get in trouble, Eponine. You ought to try going in by the side doors; I'll help you get there," her friend advised in an undertone.

Eponine nodded even as she noticed Therese attempting to stifle a knowing giggle. "What is suddenly so funny?" she asked.

"Look at Marthe's collar; it's rather high. I know the exact reason for it," Therese whispered, gesturing to where Marthe and Bossuet were conversing with someone a few feet away. "She and Bossuet were together at the Palais de Justice during that trial last Wednesday, didn't you know?"

"I saw them for a while but I didn't notice anything since there was so much else happening," Eponine replied. Now it was all she could do not to redden at the memory of the moment she and Enjolras had prior to his testimony. 'At least it was only ink we had to worry about,' she thought mirthfully as she followed Therese through the less crowded side of the square and to a side entrance of the Palais de Justice. Inspector Perrot was stationed there; he nodded to his cousin before personally escorting Eponine to the room where she would wait out the hours before being called to testify. Fortunately this time someone had thought to leave a jug of water and a single piece of bread by way of refreshment.

However Eponine could not bring herself to have more than a bite of the brioche she'd brought and a few sips of water; anxiety already served to banish hunger, thirst, as well as lassitude. As time dragged by she thought back on her friends, some of whom had already been troubled enough by this entire mess. There was Enjolras, whose name would probably be dragged through the mire if Duchamp was allowed to go free and exact his vengeance. Then of course there was Azelma, who had the most to lose now. 'For them then. No one can tell me to shoo,' she resolved even as she heard the guard approaching the room to summon her to the trial.

She arrived at the courtroom in time to hear her name being announced and the collective gasp and murmurs that followed. "She's just a child!" a former general gaped as Eponine made her way to the witness stand at the front of the room.

The defense counsel threw a questioning look at the judge. "She cannot testify!"

"Citizenness Thenardier is already of the age of discretion," the wearied presiding judge said, waving away the complaint. He looked at Eponine for a long moment, as if trying to figure out what to do next. "Answer this court truthfully Citizenness: have you ever been convicted of any criminal offense?"

"None that I know of," Eponine replied.

The judge wiped his spectacles. "Then you may give your testimony under oath," he said, motioning for an official to commence the proceedings. After this the judge looked at Eponine again. "Please state in detail your previous dealings with the defendant and what happened on the sixth of March of this year."

Eponine bit her lip, now painfully aware of all eyes being on her. She could see most of her friends in the gallery; even Jean Valjean had accompanied Marius and Cosette to this trial. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Duchamp watching her intently, but she paid him no heed. A flash of gold at the other side of her peripheral vision was enough for her to decide against even glancing towards where the witnesses were seated. Instead she looked towards the jury. "I s'pose the trouble is that I didn't want to deal with him," she said, earning some chuckles from the court. "I only spoke with him two times before the fifth of March. The first was when I visited Citizenness Bayard about politics. That was at the Rue de Chevert, the twentieth of February or so. Citizen Duchamp was upstairs and he wanted to show off some pieces. I told him I wouldn't be able to purchase anything he had there."

Eponine had to pause since murmuring and some tittering had started in the gallery. She realized that this had come from where Angelique and Cerise Lafontaine were seated. For a moment she looked down to collect herself before continuing. "The second time was at his show, at the Rue de Berlin. I didn't mean to go there but I had to meet my sister there. Citizen Duchamp asked me if I was interested in getting anything, I told him I wasn't, so I left." It was as much of the truth as she knew she could tell without convoluting the story or implicating Azelma too strongly in it.

"What of the sixth of March?" the judge asked.

Eponine swallowed hard. "Citizen Duchamp sold a piece to my sister, but there was a question about the money there so I went with Citizen Prouvaire and Citizen Enjolras to clear it up. While we were there, Citizen Duchamp said he could settle it all nicely if Citizen Enjolras did business for him in the legislature. That wouldn't do as you all probably know, and we all told Citizen Duchamp so, and I also said that I'd write about it. Then that afternoon Citizen Enjolras and I were arrested because of what happened to Citizen Paquet. I didn't really know how much Citizen Duchamp had to do with it till later that evening, when we found his valet Citizen Bellanger at the Cafe du Foy. That's all."

The judge nodded before looking to the counsels for the defense and the prosecution. "You may proceed with the cross-examination."

The counsel for the prosecution looked up from his notes. He was a slim, almost ineffectual man who reminded Eponine of her friend Emile Stendhal on a bad day. "Did you ever discuss politics with Citizen Duchamp?" he asked.

"No. Not that I recall."

"Did you ever see Citizen Duchamp negotiate with your sister?"

"No. She told me as much though and she showed me the piece she bought. It was one of those he had been trying to ask me to buy," Eponine said. 'That was an understatement though; she showed the entire city,' she mused.

"Where did you publish that article you said you'd write?"

"I gave it to a journalist friend, who brought it to every newspaper he could think of."

The attorney closed his notes smartly and set down his pencil. "Those were the points I wanted to clarify. Thank you, Citizenness Thenardier. "

Now it was the turn of the defense attorney to begin his questioning. He was a burly man who made every effort to appear imperious, but only gave off the impression of an overly cavalier dandy. His smile was condescending as he looked at Eponine. "That was a very pretty testimony, Citizenness. It seems though as if you cite a great deal of names-yes, I am aware some of them are present in this courtroom, but allow me to clear up this interesting web that Citizenness Thenardier spoke of. Were you alone when you first visited Citizenness Bayard and met the defendant?"

"I was with my friend Citizenness Claudine Andreas."

"Were Citizen Prouvaire and Citizen Enjolras with you on any of these visits?"

"Citizen Prouvaire also visited the show at the Rue de Berlin. That is all."

The defense attorney's eyebrows nearly reached his hairline. "And what of Citizen Enjolras?"

"Both times, he had work to do elsewhere," Eponine replied. "Didn't he say so already?"

"It's your testimony I am concerned with, not his," the counsel said. "You are friends with Citizen Prouvaire, I understand? Is he also a friend of your sister?"

Eponine bit the inside of her cheek. "He is."

"I am sure though that you would not say that Citizen Enjolras is merely a friend of yours. Are you by any chance in his employ?"

"Not at all."

"Then what? You have such an interest in his doings at the legislature."

"That isn't the only thing," Eponine replied quickly. "I don't s'pose you know or remember that I'm also working with a number of ladies on a petition of our own. I also did work for the Radicaux party before the elections, so it's not only one person's work that I'm concerned with."

"Ladies indeed!" the defense counsel scoffed. "You are involved with that new...group, aren't you?"

"More than involved, Citizen," Eponine said. "Is that a problem?"

He waved off her question. "No wonder you took it upon yourself to write that...expose. Were you asked by the gentlemen to write it?"

"No. It was something I thought of doing on my own," Eponine answered. 'If only to save Azelma as well as Enjolras and Prouvaire,' she thought, even as she could hear murmuring in the galleries once again. She heard a chair scrape across the floor near where the witnesses were seated, but she still kept her gaze averted.

"It must have been rather taxing on your part, especially since you apparently have an occupation," the lawyer said, toying with his lapel. "You are employed at the household of Citizenness Odette Stendhal as her assistant?"

"In her shop if that is what you want to know; she and her son do translations. I copy out the finished work and keep the books in order," Eponine said.

"How rare for a working girl of your station and circumstances," the attorney said, looking to the gallery. "Who taught you such things?"

"My parents," Eponine shot back more acridly. "I don't know why you're so interested in asking about the rest of my affairs. I s'pose they have little to do with this case."

"Citizenness, I do hope you will see my point in a few minutes," the attorney said. "You are very young; hardly a child yourself and yet you are quite emancipated. Where are your parents?"

"My father doesn't concern himself with me and my sister and our brothers. My mother is dead. Since then I've been looking out for my siblings, especially the boys."

"I see. Well, if you were unable to afford Citizen Duchamp's pieces, why did you not resort to other resourceful means to acquire them?"

Eponine felt her face burn at this question, remembering now all the looks of pity during meetings, and even during her years on the streets. Her stomach twisted as she looked Duchamp's way and met the jeweller's hooded gaze, which she knew to be that of a mind busy with calculation. It reminded her of waiting for her father's orders as to where to bring his latest letters. She could feel the defense attorney's eyes roaming all over her, stripping her bare as if he had already thrown a few francs her way. Her fists clenched as she found her voice again. "I knew I shouldn't do it and I s'pose that should be enough. You've already poked into everything except the testimony. Maybe you should ask a little bit about it instead of about everything else."

The attorney gaped at her for a moment. "This girl should be thrown out of the court for contempt!"

"I believe the counsel has exhausted its questions. Please take your seat," the judge answered roughly. "You as well Citizenness Thenardier," he added more gently.

"Thank you," Eponine replied, somehow managing to still raise her chin as she said this. As she went to an empty seat in the row of witnesses, she allowed herself an angry look at the attorney who was now conferring with Duchamp. Nothing could ever banish from the minds of the onlookers all the insinuations in this botched cross-examination.

Jean Prouvaire, who was seated nearest to her, gave her a kind smile. "You had them. That's why he did it," he told her in an undertone.

"Is it that obvious?" she asked wryly. She saw Enjolras two seats away; his face was impassive but for the way he clenched his jaw, a sure sign of a fury he was holding in. Their eyes met and the anger there gave way to concern. She shook her head and mouthed 'later', and smiled briefly when he gave her a slight nod by way of reply. 'It's a good thing he didn't say a word,' she mused. Not only would it have made the cross-examination take a dire turn, but she was sure she would have been far too mortified by such an intervention even from him. She could no longer bring herself to pay much attention to the prosecution and defense counsels making their final pleas regarding the case nor even to Duchamp's plaintive, ingratiating speech before the jury conferred to make its decision. Instead she found herself picking at her gloves or watching the other people in the courtroom chatting or even surreptitiously eating and drinking.

At last, the jury turned over its decision to the judge. "The jury has voted to convict Christophe Duchamp as guilty of the charges of bribery and murder. He will serve the sentence of a convict for life in La Force from this day onwards. This trial is now concluded," he read out loud over the applause and catcalls of the gallery. Not even the repeated banging of the gavel served to restore order to the crowd. Several gendarmes approached Duchamp to escort him out of the hall while the lawyers for the opposing sides crossed the room to shake hands.

Eponine had to wiggle her right foot a few times to banish the feeling of pins and needles before she stood up. Almost as soon as she did this she caught sight of Claudine and Leonor rushing down towards her, holding up a folder. "Eponine, you have to see this now!" Leonor shouted, practically beaming with excitement as she pushed through the crowd.

'The committee report!' Eponine realized. She glanced over her shoulder to where Enjolras, Prouvaire, and Grantaire had gotten caught in a conversation with Auguste Lafontaine and some other officials before shrugging and hurrying to her friends. "What does it say?" she asked excitedly.

"We can expect an excellent third hearing," Claudine said, opening up the folder. "There are some points we will still have to fight out such as the wage scheme, but on the whole the recommendations are good."

Eponine flipped through the pages of the report, noting some of the less acrimonious words there. "Shouldn't we meet with Allyce about this?"

Leonor shook her head. "She's got a relative to see to. She wants us to meet tomorrow."

"I s'pose I can manage to be there," Eponine said. Even so she was silently thankful for this development; she was not sure how much more argument she was willing to stand over the next few hours. "Now that this case is over-"

"We're celebrating," Claudine said with a grin. "You did admirably; Enjolras' testimony shook the court enough and you corroborated his. Though I'd like to show the defense what contempt really is."

"We should tell Enjolras and the others then. Where could they be?" Eponine asked.

Leonor gestured to the door. "Probably out there in the corridor."

Eponine followed her friends out of the hall, only to lose sight of them when they unexpectedly ran into a group of chatty dandies. Gritting her teeth, she peered round a bend in the hallway only to catch sight of Enjolras still in the middle of a heated discussion with Auguste. With Auguste were Angelique, Cerise, and a few other acquaintances of theirs. Somehow seeing them was enough to root Eponine to the spot and she stayed in a corner to wait till the others left.

"After such a brilliant endeavour, you have certainly earned the distinction of being the man of the hour," Auguste said to Enjolras. "For sure you will have little difficulty pushing your legislation."

"As well as in making an advantageous match. It is something you should definitely consider," Angelique chimed in.

"I am afraid I do not follow what you mean," Enjolras said convivially.

"Oh you surely cannot consider still staying with her after the spectacle of today," another woman remarked. "A young man with your prospects should certainly be matched a woman who will be an ornament to your station as opposed to a millstone."

"You are too free to comment on personal affairs, Citizenness," Enjolras replied, his voice now terse.

In the corner, Eponine shut her eyes, willing herself to stay calm before she risked another peek around the hallway. Aside from the anger now building in her chest, she also felt panic creeping up her limbs. 'What is he going to say?' she wondered, suddenly feeling even more exposed and bare than she had at the courtroom.

Meanwhile the conversation still continued. "I mean no offense of course, but you did disappoint a great many ladies at the soiree," Auguste laughed. "The lady has her merits, yes, but that is not an opinion shared by all. A decided disadvantage, my friend."

"If advantage is the only question here, then I have the advantage by being associated with a woman who has proven her courage and talents several times over, and possesses a strength that is all too rare nowadays," Enjolras retorted firmly. "However this is not merely a question of advantages. Good evening to you."

'If he is not merely looking for advantages, then what else?' Eponine thought, resting her palm against the wall for support as she heard some indignant reactions from the group. She swallowed hard on hearing footsteps in her general direction, and made ready to leave her hiding place if necessary. Before she could take a step, she realized that the footsteps had stopped and that Enjolras was standing a few paces away, his eyes deep with a look that was both quizzical and worried. She met his gaze and took a deep breath. "I heard, Antoine."

"I know." He reached for her hand to pull her out of the corner. "All of it?"

"Yes, well at least from the part of an advantageous match," Eponine replied, stepping closer to him. She wrapped her fingers around his, determined not to let go regardless of what would transpire next. "I could figure out the advantages. But what else could there be?"

Enjolras' eyebrows shot up. "I thought you would have guessed by now, especially after our discussion a few days ago at the Hotel de Ville."

"You're not the easiest person for me to guess about," she said. Somehow it was so easy to talk to him this way, even if she felt as if the ground could slip out from under her feet at any moment especially after what transpired earlier in the day. "And now you'll have those sillies confused about exactly what you mean," she added.

"The point is that you should have heard this all first, Eponine," he said, his voice now dropping in the way it did when he had to tell her something meant for her ears only. It was enough to send a shiver up her spine, more so when he let go of her hand and lifted her chin so that she had no choice but to look at him. He kissed her forehead lightly. "I love you."

She grasped his palm, if only to be certain that she was not dreaming. "You would do that?"

"Yes. I do not want to give you anything less," he said, his voice firm with conviction.

Eponine smiled at last as she began running her hands through his hair; there was no way she could doubt his earnestness at this moment, no more than she could doubt the wonderful lightness and warmth she now felt flooding her entire being. Suddenly she found she could almost laugh even at the sordid events of the day. "I am happy you finally did tell me. You would have some day, I'm sure."

"Admittedly there might have been a more opportune time for us to have this discussion," he pointed out a little apologetically.

"Antoine, I s'pose you should know by now that we never have such a thing as an opportune time!" she laughed before drawing him down for a kiss, determined now to convey what he should have also heard from her all along.