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21 December 2013 @ 10:48 pm
 

A/N: No one does pre-wedding jitters like Enjolras does. Segue to the wedding next chapter.

Chapter 77: Farewell to Idyll

The earliest days of August saw a great deal of activity in the area of the Rue Guisarde, in the neighbourhood of the Marche St. Germain. This flurry was centered on a certain house that was half-hidden from the street by a lofty acacia tree. A few rosebushes grew to the opposite side of the yard and formed a graceful line nearest the fence. There was no separate carriage gate, but only a simple iron one that opened to a gravel strewn path leading to the simple threshold: a large door embellished with a knocker in the shape of two great bells meant to clash together, and an awning supported by two graceful columns in the Delphic style. The house itself was what some people would have called 'slightly worn' mainly owing to the fact that the bricks were old and chipped in some places but on the whole it was a sound structure that promised much warmth in the winter. The shingles on the roof were of an elegant dark gray that went very well with the windows, which featured weather beaten shutters and light blue drapes.

This dwelling, still known to most as simply Number 9 on the Rue Guisarde, was now a house that five young people were already happy to call their home, even if they had yet to properly occupy the premises. It was no surprise that the early evening of the third of August saw four out of the five new tenants making a quick tour of the place, in preparation for finally moving in.

"Are you sure that all three of you will share the same room? There are three unoccupied rooms, so that means each of you can have a room of your own," Enjolras asked Gavroche, Neville, and Jacques as they went downstairs after making a quick tour of the second storey.

"It helps the momes sleep better, especially Jacques," Gavroche said with a nod, jerking his thumb towards his brothers.

"Jacques is still afraid of the dark," Neville teased his younger brother.

"Am not," Jacques said, crossing his arms. "You hide under the blankets when there's thunder!"

"I have to cover my ears!" Neville retorted.

"That is enough you two," Enjolras said sternly, all too aware by now of how the Thenardier boys' fights usually started. Fortunately this warning was enough; Neville sighed contritely while Jacques settled for merely scowling at his older siblings. He waited for a moment for the children to fall silent before he spoke again. "It's settled; we'll move all of your things here on Monday, most likely in the afternoon. Now unless there are other things you boys want to see, we'd better head back to the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau for dinner."

"Everything is set up in the kitchen and the rest of the first floor, so why can't we eat here tonight?" Neville asked.

"There's nothing yet in the cupboards," Enjolras pointed out. "Anyway luncheon is going to be here tomorrow; you already know this."

Jacques scratched his head. "After Monday, we'll get to always stay here?"

"Yes, but it is up to you if you want to live elsewhere on your own, when you're older," Enjolras replied. "That is a good many years away."

Jacques nodded slowly. "What will you do with the other rooms?"

"Those will be for when Ponine and Enjolras will have kids too someday," Neville said smugly.

Jacques scowled at this thought. "Why do you want that? You already have us," he asked Enjolras.

"We'll discuss that some other time," Enjolras said quickly, only to elicit a round of snickering from Gavroche and Neville, as well as yet another quizzical look from Jacques. "Whether that happens or not, Eponine and I will still take care of the three of you."

Jacques nodded again, but this time his expression was one of pure relief. "Even if sometimes we fight and get too noisy?"

"Of course," Enjolras said as he ruffled Jacques' hair.

Jacques smiled more widely and hugged Enjolras' legs before racing with his brothers out of the house. The sounds of the Thenardier children's chatter suddenly sounded so new and even a little disconcerting to Enjolras, perhaps for the fact that he was hearing all of this in a new place. 'Another new thing I was never counting on,' he mused as he made one last survey of the front room to make sure that he or the boys did not forget anything before he stepped out and locked up the house for the night.

Despite the still rather oppressive summer heat, Enjolras had to fight the temptation to roll up his sleeves and loosen his cravat, even if those were exactly Gavroche, Neville, and Jacques did before scampering much of the way back to the Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. When they arrived there, they found that the tenement door had been left open in an attempt to dispel the heaviness of the air. The boys lost no time in racing to the kitchen to pester Citizenness Leclair for their meal; the concierge had offered to take over cooking dinner in order to allow Eponine and Enjolras to spend the rest of the evening making any last minute preparations for the next day.

For Enjolras' part, this involved packing up his personal effects to move to the Rue Guisarde the next day. Before seeing to this, he looked through his pocketbook, where he had jotted down the schedules of the upcoming hearings and voting sessions concerning the various petitions still pending in the assembly; as of this day there were seven bills to be deliberated upon by the Parisian legislature. 'Ironically the one that is always hindered is the one drafted in this very city,' he noted, observing that the petition drafted by Eponine and the other ladies was still the last on the agenda, being slated for a vote in the middle of the month.

He took off his coat and his cravat before he set about to emptying his closet, leaving only one outfit for the morning. After this he folded his clothes such that they would fit in one of the large carpet-bags he'd acquired a few days ago. At length he heard the familiar cadence of Eponine's footsteps approaching the doorway of his room. "Do you need help with anything?" he asked, looking over his shoulder at her.

"I s'pose not; I'm through seeing to my own things, and I shouldn't have trouble with what the boys have," Eponine replied as she entered the room, squeezing his shoulder as she stood next to him. She was wearing her old gray workdress and had tied back her hair with a length of linen. Her face was covered with a sheen of sweat, owing to the weather as well as the fact that she'd been thoroughly cleaning out her apartment. "Did they behave themselves?"

"Yes, and picked out a bedroom already. Very astute of them," Enjolras replied, quickly averting his eyes. Just looking at her, even in her slightly dishevelled state, was enough to make his mouth go dry. He found that he had to muster a little more self-control than usual in order not to reach for her and kiss her senseless.

"Oh, and which one did they like?"

"The one on the furthest end of the hallway from our room," Enjolras said as he placed one last shirt in the carpetbag and tied it shut.

Eponine snorted. "So when Jacques gets nightmares, it will now be up to Gavroche to deal with him."

"That is, if Neville is not up reading the whole night."

"I wonder who he learned that from," she teased. She wiped her face with her sleeve and frowned at the dust streaks that came away. "You know what I heard today?"

"Yet another rumor?"

"Yes, and the silliest yet; that tomorrow is only a show and that we're already secretly married."

Enjolras smirked at the absurdity of this matter even as he absent-mindedly reached out to wipe away a smudge of dirt from Eponine's brow. "A marriage is a public acknowledgment as much as it is a legal matter with contracts and duties. By their very nature almost all legal matters are public affairs and therefore not meant to be concealed. In a certain sense then, a secret marriage is a contradiction."

Her eyes widened at this insight. "I never pictured it that way."

"Most people overlook that aspect, or at least it is not given too much emphasis," he said.

Eponine smiled at this matter of fact comment as she began to run her hands through his hair. "I think things like that sound better when you're the one saying them," she said.

He caught her hand and kissed it before turning so that he was facing her properly. He saw Eponine's lips quirk upwards knowingly as she slipped her arms around his shoulders, mere moments before several sets of footsteps sounded in the passage and someone threw the door open.

"There, I knew I'd find you both here," Therese said triumphantly as she stood with her hands akimbo. "Enjolras, you'd better step out of the house; it's time for Eponine to try on her wedding dress."

Enjolras gritted his teeth with frustration. "Is vacating the house necessary?"

"There's going to be fitting even for the boys and for some of the other ladies here. I'm sorry Antoine, but you'll only be in the way," Monique chimed in from the hallway. "Besides you need to stay with your father; he's waiting downstairs. He wants to speak with you."

Enjolras raised an eyebrow, knowing this was their way of employing the old custom of not allowing a bridegroom to see his fiancée in her wedding attire until the wedding day itself. "I am not quite finished yet with what I have to do here," he said querulously as he gestured to his desk, which was still littered with some of his books and papers.

Monique sighed resignedly. "You have two minutes," she said before pulling Therese out of the room.

Enjolras rolled his eyes at the chorus of feminine laughter from the other side of the door. "All this trouble for a mere superstition," he groused as he began clearing the desk. "The point is already moot since we've been living under the same roof for months now."

"It's all a little fun, Antoine, and besides I think you'll like this in the end. You'll see tomorrow," Eponine said as she placed some of his books in a second carpet bag.

'She's probably done something with the dress,' he realized but he decided to keep this thought to himself. "I still think this is absolutely unnecessary."

She shrugged before bending to pick up his pocketbook, which had fallen to the floor. "The voting on the petition will be towards the end of the month?" she asked disappointedly as she glanced at the page it had fallen open to.

"Unfortunately that is the case, regardless of all clamors to proceed to the contrary."

"I s'pose it is better than it not being decided on at all and anyway this will give us some more time to discuss it with the other deputies."

"That being an unlooked for advantage in this situation," Enjolras said, taking the pocketbook back from her and packing it with the rest of his belongings.

Eponine nodded as she helped him tie up the carpetbag. "Then on to other matters then like schools Claudine is so excited about it, and so am I."

"That may very well be a long question, one spanning years to answer properly."

"We do have a lot of time for it, I hope?"

"Nevertheless we must not delay," Enjolras said, smiling at this turn in the discussion. "It's something that has to be addressed to allow Progress to continue."

"I s'pose it is also to let everyone have a fairer chance at it."

"It happens to be part of the picture, Eponine."

She laughed as she checked the knot in the carpetbag. "I s'pose we'll talk about it later then?"

"You mean tomorrow?" Enjolras asked.

She shrugged. "It's still some sort of 'later' isn't it?"

"In a sense," he replied before giving her a light kiss.

Eponine scowled disappointedly at this gesture and she smacked his shoulder lightly. "Why must you be so proper now?"

"You know why we have to be."

"Then I s'pose I should tell you that I may as well be counting the hours."

He nodded, knowing that there would come a point wherein he'd be doing the same thing. "I'll see you in the morning," he said, allowing himself a moment to brush her hair out of her face before letting them both out of the room. Much to his mortification he saw that his mother was still waiting in the hallway, along with Azelma, Therese, Claudine, Musichetta, Leonor, Nicholine, and even Simone.

"That took you three minutes," Leonor chided.

Eponine rolled her eyes. "Does it matter when we'll be spending the rest of tonight fussing about everyone's dresses?" she said before fishing in her pocket for the keys to her own apartment.

"We should be done in about two hours or so; you won't have to sleep downstairs tonight," Claudine reassured Enjolras.

"Thank you for that," Enjolras said cordially. It was all he could do to walk downstairs with some semblance of dignity, despite knowing that much of the humor for the rest of this evening would certainly be at his expense.

He found his father crouched on the kitchen floor, showing the Thenardier boys how to improve on their usual game of marbles. "Now finally I can teach someone these tricks," Louis said when he noticed his own son. "You were always more interested in books, Antoine."

"I figured there was only so much one could do with marbles," Enjolras pointed out as he crouched next to where Neville was about to flick a marble. He saw that the boy had aimed the smooth globe so that it would bounce off another, which would then cause the rest of the marbles to ricochet against each other, one after the other. "What did you want to discuss?"

"Some things you ought to know before commencing your marriage," Louis said nonchalantly as he got to his feet and then found two chairs for himself and for his son. "Not about the wedding night; I gather your friends would have instructed you about that and Combeferre would have made sure it was done in a sensible fashion," he added on seeing how Enjolras had turned bright red.

The younger man sighed with relief, more so since his father had hit upon the truth of the matter; he had indeed asked Combeferre about it just the night before. "Then is it something to do with the general conduct of things?"

Louis gave his son a serious look. "You and Eponine are somewhat, shall I say, private persons, but very much in the public eye by choice. I only hope that this never ending storm will not change how the two of you regard each other, or even how you act around each other."

"In what sense?"

"I am sure you've noticed how it is expected that after a certain period of time, many couples become more perfunctory in their manners, to the point wherein lack of affection almost becomes the course and marriage soon becomes a duty and a tie as opposed to what it ought to be. You have to take care not to fall into that trap even if others do."

Enjolras raised an eyebrow. "Why are you warning me of this?"

"I know you two have proud characters; it shows differently but there's pride all the same. It sometimes serves you both well but you must not let that quality overcome honesty and earnestness," Louis said. He smiled at the sound of chatter from upstairs. "Your mother and I have been happy together for thirty-three years because we are most plain-spoken around each other. There is no reason to feign a polite distance. I am not saying that you two have license to be indecorous, but you must not veer towards the opposite extreme either."

It took a moment till Enjolras understood what his father was talking about. "I believe that we will manage in our own way."

Louis nodded as he lifted his feet to let the Thenardiers' cat walk past them. "I understand you will still allow Eponine to continue with her occupation? It will be impossible for you to rely only on your compensation for your legislative work."

"Of course. I suspect that even if I could give her the option not to work, she would still wish to be employed anyway," Enjolras said.

"What of her political involvement?"

"Will be as she chooses it to be; it is not my place to insist on the position or the manner or even the matter of it."

Louis whistled worriedly. "As her husband you would be within your rights to control her. People, especially your colleagues, would be expecting you to keep her in check and turn her docile. "

"I would not do such a thing to anyone, least of all to her," Enjolras pointed out tersely.

"I am not saying you would or that you even should, heaven forbid it since it is clear that one of the reasons you love her is that she can stand her ground against you. You aren't afraid either of what people will say to it," Louis said with a knowing smile. "I'm glad I've brought you up well enough such that you know how to properly handle opinions and censure, whether founded or unfounded."

It was at that moment that the front door swung open to admit a raucous chorus of voices. "It's the bachelor's farewell!" Gavroche laughed as he looked up at Grantaire, Bossuet, and Bahorel.

Enjolras shook his head when he saw the large bottles that his friends had brought with them. "I'm not drinking any of that."

"Come now, there is nothing wrong with a little liquid courage when one is entering a struggle that is more protracted than any barricade," Bossuet said gleefully as he set down the bottles on the table.

"If it is a struggle then sobriety is required, not the fumes of alcohol," Enjolras retorted. He examined the bottle nearest him and shook his head on seeing the tampered seal near the neck. "Though next time you would do well to better disguise the fact that you filled these bottles with water instead."

Bahorel cuffed his friends. "I told you he would figure it out even if he doesn't drink. He's dealt with us long enough."

Louis failed to hold back a loud guffaw at this scene. "Antoine, you should still remember that this is a night for revelry. It was always that way back in Aix."

"Tomorrow morning before the mayor's office and the church will be another story," Enjolras said, remembering all too well a few mishaps involving intoxicated relatives during such solemn occasions. He sighed when he saw Combeferre and Prouvaire entering the kitchen. "You too?"

Combeferre smiled mirthfully. "Enjolras, this is the eve of a wedding, not the Ides of March."

"It may as well be the Ides of March; it is the end of a particular state," Grantaire pointed out as he set aside the bottles, sounding cheery despite the fact that his prank had been foiled.

"But not a sorry end this time around," Prouvaire chimed in.

"Says the one who enjoys Racine and other tragedies," Bossuet said.

"To read about but not necessarily to take a part in," Prouvaire quipped, righting one of the bottles of water before they could spill. "But after everything I've seen so far, I would have to say that tragedy is rather easier to write than comedy; there are too few happy nights like this that can adequately inspire the latter form of drama."