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28 January 2014 @ 07:00 pm
Epilogue: Thine is the Future (Part 2)  

Within a quarter of an hour, Eponine, Laure, Gavroche, Neville, and Jacques arrived at the Rue Guisarde. Neville immediately dashed off to feed his pet cat, Gavroche and Jacques headed to the study to find some books for their assignments, while Eponine paused to retrieve some letters that had piled up outside the door over the course of the day. She noticed some thick letters from Louis and Monique in this stack but she set these missives aside for later perusal and headed upstairs with Laure.

Much to Eponine's relief, it only took a few minutes till the child stopped fussing, at least enough to be nursed without any interruption. "There now, you didn't have to fret so much," she whispered as she patted Laure's back till the baby let out a tiny burp. Eponine then closed her eyes for a few moments, relishing the relative calm of the early evening. It was far from a quiet night; even now she could hear carriages on the street, the wind in the trees, and the chatter of her brothers downstairs. Yet this was the sort of bustle that Eponine liked best, a further reminder of how real this everyday was, no matter how impossible it seemed just two and a half years ago.

After a few minutes she heard the front door opening followed by her brothers' voices all competing for attention. She saw Laure's eyes go wide as she tried to follow the source of this sudden commotion. "I'm sure that when you're a little bigger you'll be just as noisy as the boys all are," Eponine whispered as she smoothed out Laure's clothes before bringing her downstairs. She tiptoed towards the kitchen, where she could hear the lively sounds of chatter punctuated by the opening and shutting of cupboard doors. She bit her lip to hold back a giggle at the sight of her brothers and Enjolras putting bread, cheese, some potatoes, onions, and a few other foodstuffs into the larder. She signed to her brothers to keep quiet and then as quietly as she could she went up behind Enjolras. However before she could kiss the back of his ear just to tease him, Laure let out a small squeak, clearly excited to see her father and her uncles.

Enjolras quickly turned to look at them, only to end up smirking with amusement as he realized what Eponine had intended to do. "Most people prefer to be face to face when greeting each other 'good evening,'" he greeted dryly.

"Antoine, we're not most people," she pointed out. "I know you like that."

Enjolras smiled before giving Eponine a light kiss and then bending to ruffle Laure's hair. "I gather that you also had a long day?" he asked.

"Every day is like this, even when it's not summer," Eponine quipped. Somehow just the sight of him was enough to dispel much of her weariness, especially when he returned her joke with a bemused, yet affectionate glance. "And how was yours?"

"Interesting enough; we settled one question about trade and tariffs today. So much the better, so there will only be the deliberations to worry about tomorrow," Enjolras replied. He nodded to Gavroche, Neville, and Jacques, who were rolling their eyes and snickering at this interlude. "I'll see you three in the study; we'll go over your assignments in a few minutes after Eponine and I finish up here."

Eponine felt her cheeks grow pleasantly warm as she caught her husband's gaze. Somehow even after all this time, he still had that effect on her, perhaps even more so nowadays since they were far more used to each other than before. "So who else will be at the meeting tonight?" she asked.

"Combeferre, Claudine, Bamatabois, Rossi, Jeanne, and Foulon. Two of the authors of that proposal for the primary schools said they would attend," Enjolras replied as he shut the cupboard door. "Did you invite anyone else?"

"Simone, and there are two ladies she said she's bringing along," Eponine remarked. "I hope it will be worth their while; they're coming a long way to visit."

"There is a great deal to discuss. It will be a lengthy meeting, Eponine," Enjolras said more concernedly as he reached out to brush her hair away from her face.

"I know, but we have to make things clear with everyone before the deliberations tomorrow. I s'pose I'll manage well enough tonight, at least as well as you do," she reassured him, gently kissing his cheek before carefully handing Laure over to him. "Hold her for a little bit. She missed you."

Enjolras smirked before tickling Laure, who squealed and giggled before swatting at his hand. "Now don't put that in your mouth, petite," he warned, gently extricating his finger from her grip. "Florentin Ouvrard just accepted the post for the committee on education," he told Eponine after a few moments.

Eponine paused to mull over this bit of news. "Is that a good thing, especially since he's from the Constitutionalists party?"

"It is, in the sense that he is open-minded and convivial as both of us already know. As to how he handles influences from his party, it remains to be seen. You know he does not act unreasonably."

"Can you really expect the best of him?"

"It is far better than expecting the alternative."

Eponine shrugged before searching her pockets for the letter of introduction she'd been handed earlier in the day. "This is from a critic who wants to call on you at the Hotel de Ville tomorrow," she said, putting the note in Enjolras' waistcoat pocket. "I s'pose I should tell you that he was quite startled at first by Prouvaire and his idea for a play."

"Emphasis being on 'at first'," Enjolras said, not even bothering to hide his amusement. "I take that you also had something to say to him?"

"Only because he was being a little awful to Prouvaire and Zelma," Eponine said in a tone that was both mischievous and innocent. She peered over at Laure, who was yawning a little restlessly. "Could you bring her upstairs? It's about time she got some sleep I s'pose,"

He gave her a slight nod. "Just call if you need something."

"I will. Thank you," Eponine said before Enjolras and Laure quit the kitchen. As she went about preparing some vegetable soup and lightly spiced potatoes by way of a simple dinner, she could not help but listen to snatches of the slightly hushed chatter coming from the study. 'Leave it to Antoine to turn a discussion about history into story-telling,' she thought, hearing the conversation turn towards the topic of the storming of the Bastille. Her brothers usually came to her for help with their essay work or arithmetic, mostly since they liked to think that she had the time for it, but they almost always reserved their questions on history and politics for when Enjolras was home. Admittedly it made the task of helping with their schoolwork a great deal easier.

Just as she left the kitchen to allow the soup to simmer, she heard three rapid knocks on the front door. She arrived there in time to find Neville already excitedly showing the halved stone to Combeferre while Claudine and Enjolras were making small talk. "How did it go at the Sorbonne today?" Eponine asked by way of greeting.

"One of our articles is getting published, but the rest are under review," Claudine said enthusiastically. "It's slow, but it's better than being rejected outright."

"That's even including the article about magnets?" Eponine asked, knowing that this one particular work was her dear friend's lone effort, a project she'd taken on to prove that being known as Claudine Combeferre nee Andreas did not mean any change in her academic focus.

Claudine nodded gleefully. "If it gets published, I will send you and Enjolras a copy immediately."

"You can expect that in a month or two," Combeferre said. "It will be published in time for the new lecture series at the Sorbonne."

"How many of those are you giving?" Enjolras asked him, glancing down to where Jacques had unexpectedly hugged him around his leg.

"Three," Combeferre said with a smile as he handed a thick sheaf of papers to his friends. "These are the compiled recent curriculums of various schools; it's surprising how much variation there actually is despite all previous efforts to standardize the curriculum on a national level. The variation isn't always a negative development; some subjects and trades require more emphasis in other districts than others."

Enjolras looked over one heavily underlined entry. "These will have to be taken into account in the revision of the petition, or even as early as tomorrow's deliberation. I believe that some of the figures quoted in the first draft were a little outdated."

"Define outdated?" Claudine asked.

"September 1832," Enjolras said.

Eponine laughed. "It may as well be another age." She felt a tug on her skirt and she looked down to see Jacques. "We'll have dinner in a few minutes, Jacques. You saw that we will have good potatoes tonight," she said.

"Why do we have so many visitors again?" he asked her.

"Because there's another big meeting tomorrow," she said. "It will end late, but you can go to sleep earlier if you like. We'll just be here downstairs."

"What will all of you be talking about?"

"Some things, like about what you boys and Laure might be studying at school in a few years."

Jacques frowned at this. "Gavroche won't like it; he says we read too much. But I don't think so," he said, saying the last part as if it was a secret.

"What do you mean?"

"Neville told me we'll have a race to read every book in France."

Eponine could not help but grin at this thought. "Well you'd better start by reading your schoolbooks, and do those well so you can read even newer books," she teased him. 'What if they actually manage it?' she mused. After all this time, she had learned not to dismiss any dreams as being too far-fetched or too lofty for anyone to reach for.

After a quick but nonetheless light hearted dinner, Eponine headed upstairs to check on Laure while Enjolras went to the study to sort through papers and correspondence in preparation for the meeting. She found Laure fast asleep, carefully bundled up against the slightly chilly autumn evening. 'And who knows what you'll grow up to be? What extraordinary thing will you do?' Eponine wondered as she carefully adjusted the sheets in the cradle and kissed the sleeping child. "We'll be back here soon, petite," she whispered before going back downstairs.

By this time she could hear the lively conversation of the rest of their guests now congregating in the front room; judging by the raucous laughter she guessed that they were teasing Rossi about an acrimonious entanglement with none other than Cerise Lafontaine. 'Now that is a story that will have a complicated chapter to it,' she thought, knowing better than to raise any comment on this matter.

Eponine slipped to the study where she found Enjolras standing near the window of the room, seemingly deep in thought. She went up to him and slipped one of her hands into his. "What are you thinking of?" she whispered.

"About how it will all play out," he replied as he settled an arm around her waist to pull her closer. "It won't be just hoping anymore, Eponine."

She smiled as she rested her cheek against his shoulder, simply revelling in the comforting rhythm of his breathing. "You sound so certain of it."

"It will succeed, no matter how long it may take," he said, lifting her chin so that their eyes met before he gave her a deep but affectionate kiss, such that she could feel her toes curl in her shoes. "Of course it would be best not to delay the progress of this venture, so we should start the meeting in a few minutes," he said against her lips when he pulled away.

"I knew you would be anything but patient even with this!" she laughed as she ran a hand through his hair before moving down to adjust his cravat. "There, now that looks better," she said before they left the study hand in hand.

The living room was full of guests now: Combeferre and Rossi were debating about the applications of steam engines, while Bamatabois and Claudine were discussing the news, and in the meantime Simone, Jeanne, and Foulon were talking with the guests from out of town. "Finally you two are ready," Simone said as everyone scrambled for seats.

"We just had to go over a few things," Eponine said as she found her favourite chair in the room. She tossed her pocketbook on a table as she looked first to Enjolras, and then to the rest of the group. "I s'pose now, shall we begin?"