A/N: Welcome back everyone! I've had this planned for a while, just for fun, but I'm starting it now just to get my mind off my own exam stress. In which the dynamic duo takes on a new life challenge, in addition to the usual business of trying to change their corner of the world.
It's absolutely necessary to read "Don't Mess With the Surgeon" and "The Quirkiest of Foundations" first. I'll be going through some recaps every now and then throughout this tale though. This story will tackle medical matters, congenital disabilities, parenthood, and messed up legal systems. So some caution may be advised.
Pairings: Enjolras/Eponine, Courfeyrac/Azelma, Marius/Cosette, Joly/Musichetta/Bossuet, Jehan/Grantaire. Other characters are seeing OCs.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of Victor Hugo's characters.
THE EVERYDAY FIGHT
Chapter 1: The Innocents
There is no such thing as a 'routine' raid, especially for the precincts located downtown. 'Nothing is routine when ambulance support is required,' Eponine reminds herself as she pulls a bullet proof vest over her black t-shirt. She can feel the sweat gathering under her collar even as she dons her white coat; as hot and uncomfortable as this may be outdoors on a cloudless day, it is necessary for her to remain in some sort of medical uniform for this venture, if only to be easily identified by her team mates as well as the people they are set to rescue.
The police inspector in charge of the operation eyes her sceptically, lingering particularly on the name embroidered on her coat. "I am surprised that the attorney did not personally endorse you," he mutters as he fiddles with his gun belt.
"He follows the rules," Eponine says calmly. "I already notified him that I was decked to this case, on short notice."
"He still allowed you to be involved here?"
"It's not within his jurisdiction."
The policeman nods curtly. "You may move in when I give the signal. Till then, stay put with your crew."
"Understood, Sir." Eponine grits her teeth as she stands on the sidewalk, listening to the inspector briefing the rest of the police team. She can only hope that their strategy for securing the area will not result in more casualties to add to the already gravely ill and injured workers in this sweatshop hidden in a deceivingly well-kept bungalow. She walks back to the ambulance parked at the corner of the street and nods to one of the EMTs accompanying her. "This is what we'll do, Voisin. We'll take care of the initial interviews and documentation right here, but only the most injured or sick patients go with us to Saint-Michel," she tells him.
Voisin nods slowly. "You think the halfway house can take the rest of them, Doc?"
"Right now we don't have much of a choice in terms of facilities," Eponine replies. Though she hasn't been in this particular line of intervention for very long, she's all too aware of how much still needs to be done in terms of social work and safety for the most vulnerable groups in this city. 'It's why we have sleepless nights,' she muses even as she absent-mindedly twirls her wedding ring.
Voisin bends to retie his shoelaces. "You're going to be following up this case all week….your exam week," he points out. "Are you going to deck this case to a junior resident?"
"Just to help, but in the end the papers still go through me. I may as well see this through from start to finish," Eponine replies. She glances back towards where several agents have now taken up their positions outside the bungalow, making sure to cover all the doors and windows. The doctor bites her lip as she watches the policemen now signalling to each other, clearly waiting for their cue to either break down the doors or open fire. There is no way this will be a completely bloodless rescue.
The afternoon air is still for a single moment before suddenly a shriek followed by a shot pierces the quiet. Four young women rush out from the house's back door, and one of them almost collapses before reaching the fence. Eponine immediately grabs a tackle box from the ambulance and runs to them. "How many are you?" she asks rapidly as she checks the fainting woman's breathing and pulse.
"Fifty," one of the other captives says frantically. "Not all of them can walk."
"Give her some oxygen, now, and get the others clear," Eponine instructs the EMTs. She looks up to see the inspector already waving to her to run into the house. "Have you found them?" she asks.
"They say the basement," the inspector barks before cocking a gun and rushing to chase someone out of the bungalow's back door.
'Where could it possibly be?' Eponine asks herself as she makes her way to an adjoining room. The astringent reek of paint thinner and toluene almost makes her head spin but she fights back the urge to gag as she searches for any hidden doors or passages. She tentatively knocks twice, then thrice on a wall, then breathes a sigh of relief when she hears a shout from someplace in the room. "Where are you?" she calls in a stage whisper as she raps the wall again. This time she follows the sounds of footsteps and hushed voices to a section of wall covered by a sheet of dirty canvas. She quietly rips away the canvas to expose a hastily nailed on plywood panel. The voices are loudest here, more so when she knocks on the wall.
By this time more police officers have arrived at the scene. One of them retrieves a chair from a nearby room and swings this at the wall, effectively making a hole in the board. Eponine helps pull the pieces away enough to make an aperture large enough for someone to climb into. The stench of vomit and blood is overwhelming but Eponine grips the tackle box more tightly before stepping into this secret room. "I'm a doctor. I'm here to help," she tells the crowd of women who mob the entrance.
"Where are the watchers?" one of the oldest ladies asks frantically as she seizes Eponine's arm.
"Away. The police are taking care of them," Eponine replies. Everyone here looks as if they haven't slept all night, and a few are in dire need of a shower. 'Not a single decent stitch of clothing on them, and yet they spend all day sewing shirts and jeans,' she notes as she follows this spinster down a narrow stairway towards a room filled with rows of sewing machines. At the far end of the room are twelve people lying on dirty pallets; five of them are awake but staring listlessly at the ceiling, while the rest are fast asleep. It is not the worst that Eponine has ever seen, but it is horrific enough to have her running in order to buy what precious seconds she can.
One of these unfortunates, a girl of about seventeen, cries on seeing Eponine. "Am I going to die?"
"Not if you don't want to," Eponine says as she kneels by this patient's bed and starts examining her for injuries. She knows better than to make promises to this child or to anyone else, especially in a place like this. Within a few minutes the EMTs and some of the police officers are with her, helping administer medications or move the patients to the upper floor and then soon, to outside the house.
As Eponine is helping out the last patient through the door she hears a curse followed by the sound of someone spitting. "Bitch! You're going to wish you never came here!" roars a man sporting a torn shirt and a bloody nose.
Eponine wipes off the spittle from her face as police officers collar this suspect. "Tell that to whoever asked you to set up shop."
Voisin whistles from the ambulance. "Doc, we've got to bring three. Anyone more?"
Eponine looks over the crowd of patients now being guided to a large van to bring them to a halfway house near the precinct. "We're good." As she walks to the ambulance she brings out her phone to send a voice mail. She takes a deep breath and sighs with relief before speaking. "It's done. I'll see you later."
Even in the middle of a long and tedious meeting, Enjolras doesn't miss the sound of the arrival of a voicemail. It is hours before he can pay proper attention to it, while he is already through with his last appointment for the day. A smile briefly crosses his face as he listens to the message, but he immediately pockets his phone before anyone can notice. 'First we take care of the survivors, and then we build the case,' he decides silently as he starts driving to Saint-Michel Hospital.
He walks through the lobby and past the emergency room towards a door marked Office for Social Interventions. He knocks twice before pushing the door open, only to find Eponine ending a phone call. She looks his way and smiles brightly. "You're a little early today, Auguste."
"Actually you're thirty minutes into your overtime," Enjolras points out as he crosses the room to her desk. He leans in to slip his arms around her, just as she suddenly she reaches up to catch his lips with hers in a brief but nonetheless cheeky kiss. "What was that about?" he asks as he brushes her hair out of her face.
She clasps his wrists tightly. "Immigration. I'm taking charge for documentation and medical care for the people we rescued today, but anything about asylum and having them stay on as witnesses will have to come from your desk."
"Sounds fair," he concurs as he feels her let go of his hands so he can pull up a chair next to the desk. "How many?"
"In the end, forty-nine. One was shot before we got there," Eponine says morosely. "That might change. We got there in the nick of time, just barely for some."
"What do you mean?"
"I had to send two of the worst off all the way to the ICU. You know how it sometimes goes."
Enjolras nods slowly, knowing better than to say anything to this. "I will have to go to the halfway house tomorrow morning before meeting the fiscal."
"You're going to need this then," Eponine says. She opens a drawer and puts an envelope on the table. "It's the preliminary report for the rescue. The halfway house will have some records by tomorrow but you're only going to get the medical abstracts from here after the patients are discharged."
"That sounds like a lot of work," he comments as he puts the envelope in his briefcase.
"I'm endorsing that to the resident on duty since my leave officially starts now." She grabs some forms from her desk. "It will only take a few minutes."
"Do you want me to get you a medium or large mocha in the meantime?" Enjolras offers as he gets to his feet.
Eponine grins widely. "I'm not really in the mood for coffee. Maybe some hot chocolate." She kisses his cheek and hugs him tightly. "You're the best."
"I thought I was the bane of your existence, Eponine."
"You are, but that doesn't mean you're only that."
Enjolras raises an eyebrow at this, making her chuckle even as she leads him out of the office. He's not sure how he makes Eponine laugh so easily, considering that he often has quite the opposite effect on many people. Yet he's not about to question this, especially when everything has been going so well in the first month of their marriage.
Within a quarter of an hour Eponine has already signed out for the day and they are on their way to Grantaire and Prouvaire's home. Their friends' terrace apartment is more studio than dwelling, a place wherein Grantaire's numerous experiments with color on board and canvas mingle with Prouvaire's stacks of notebooks and his ever growing collection of miniature gardens. 'Now there's another element in this mix,' Enjolras realizes when he sees taped to the door a drawing of large trucks on a roadside. "Are we late, Grantaire?" he greets the artist when the latter opens the door.
"Only for the moving. Gavroche, Bahorel, Bossuet, and Feuilly were here but they're out buying ramen now," Grantaire says cheerily as he pulls his friends into the apartment. The change here is stunning; instead of heaps of discarded papers and pools of paint, there is now a clean floor, soft but sturdy chairs, as well as drawers that apparently now hold all the curiosities and artwork that had been lying around here. A small whiteboard hangs on one wall. "What do you think of what we did?"
"I'm not sure whether to say you two grew up or aged down," Eponine quips, gesturing to the plastic picnic table that has replaced the card table in the corner. "Where's Darren?"
"Over there with Jehan," Grantaire replies, shooting a glance to the poet napping on the sofa, with a dark haired boy dozing on his chest. The child is skinny and looks almost lost in his denim overalls and striped socks, and his thin fingers seem to be clutching Prouvaire's shirt for dear life. "Did I tell you guys that Darren has hearing problems?"
Enjolras shakes his head. "What exactly do you mean?"
"The audiologist said it's something called sensorineural deafness. It's probably congenital," Grantaire says seriously. "He might be able to use one of those cochlear implants someday but now he's pretty reliant on sign language."
"Who taught him?" Eponine asks.
"The other kids at the orphanage," Grantaire explains with an incredulous smile. "Jehan and I have been taking lessons, but we're still trying to keep up. That whiteboard there is for everyone else."
"In the meantime," Eponine says. "We have time to learn sign language too."
"A little time," Enjolras points out.
"Since when did a jam-packed schedule faze you?" Eponine scoffs.
Before Enjolras can say anything to this he catches sight of Darren stirring on the sofa. "How do we greet him?" he asks in an undertone.
"Watch," Grantaire says as he goes over to the couch. He kneels in front of Darren so that he can make eye contact with the youngster. Darren smiles and then begins making rapid gestures, pointing at least once to Enjolras and Eponine. "He's saying hello and asking who you are," Grantaire translates.
"We're your dads' friends," Eponine replies, also crouching now to look at the boy.
Grantaire signs back more slowly, as if he is spelling something out to Darren, who nods slowly by way of reply. "I told him that, and your names," he explains.
"I see," Enjolras notes. If he wasn't absolutely certain that he was wide awake, he would easily dismiss as an absurd dream the sight of Grantaire caring for a child. 'Everyone could imagine Prouvaire doing such a thing, but not this,' he muses even as he hears a knock on the door again.
"Are we at the right place? The door is painted and I don't smell ramen," Courfeyrac quips as he holds the door open for Azelma, who is carrying Alexandra. He grins on seeing Darren. "Hello there little guy!"
"He can't hear you," Eponine informs her brother-in-law as she hands the whiteboard to him. "You look great, Zel," she greets her sister.
"Thanks. At least the extra weight is mostly in one pretty good place," Azelma says, motioning to her chest. She kisses Alexandra's nose when the baby begins to yawn. "Hey there Alex. You want to say hi to your aunt Ponine or your uncles?"
"You sure you'll let me hold her?" Eponine asks worriedly.
"You're a doctor, you've held more newborns than I have," Azelma points out.
"It's different when it's family," Eponine mutters but all the same she does not hesitate to pick up Alexandra and cradle her against her chest. "Sorry if my clothes still smell a little funny, Alex," she says when she sees the baby grimace and sneeze.
In the meantime Prouvaire yawns and stretches on the sofa. "When did you all get here?" he asks before yawning again. He looks to Darren, who is staring confusedly at something Courfeyrac is drawing for him. "Not like that. You don't have to play Pictionary with him," he remarks before going over to help Darren and Courfeyrac out.
Grantaire grimaces at Courfeyrac's scribbles. "Alexandra draws better than you."
"Alex can...hey, I have studied art!" Courfeyrac protests.
"Studying is one thing, dexterity is another!" Grantaire cackles as he dodges a throw pillow that Courfeyrac lobs in his direction.
"That is precisely why you're in law and not in art, darling," Azelma chimes in.
"I'm cut to the core," Courfeyrac says dramatically, flinging his hand to his forehead in a way that has even Darren laughing loudly. "By you of all people."
"I'm only being cruel to be kind, love," Azelma points out over the sound of yet more knocking on the door. "Finally, there are more adults," she jokes as she sees Grantaire let Cosette, Marius, and Elodie into the apartment.
Elodie runs up to Enjolras and hugs him around his waist. "Mister Enjolras! You're not late to the party!"
"Of course not. Your uncles would be upset if I was," Enjolras says candidly as he steps back to get a good look at the nine year old. It only seems like yesterday when he and Eponine were defying all the odds just to make sure that she would be safe, healed, and living with a family that truly cared for her. "You're starting to grow fast, kid," he observes, seeing that Elodie now stands only a few inches below his shoulder.
Elodie looks down. "Not up here," she says, pointing to the side of her head. "I'm stupid in Math."
"It's only one pop quiz, Elodie," Cosette calls, clearly having overheard this. "Now come here and say hello to your cousin Alex."
Enjolras watches Elodie run off to where Cosette, Eponine, and Azelma are cooing over the baby. "It's not just one quiz," he says as he catches Marius' worried look.
"She's been behind in those speed tests for arithmetic, and she still has problems with coordination, so she's also lagging a bit in PE," Marius confides. "At least she's always making progress."
'But not fast enough for her,' Enjolras realizes. "That aside...how is she?"
"Good. Very good. She's such an angel," Marius says more proudly. "I don't know what Cosette and I would do without her."
In the meantime Elodie kisses Alexandra's forehead before running off to where Darren is avidly watching Prouvaire and Courfeyrac arranging a plate of nachos to resemble a smiley face. "Hi, my name is Elodie. I heard your name is Darren," Elodie chirps as she holds her hand out. However the little boy only stares at her for a moment before turning away and burrowing his face into Prouvaire's sleeve. Elodie gapes at him for a moment and bites her lip, as if unsure what to do. "Uncle Jehan, why is he so scared of me?" she asks Prouvaire.
"He just can't hear you, sweetie," Prouvaire consoles her.
Elodie's brow furrows. "You mean he's deaf?"
"Elodie, that's not very polite!" Cosette chides her daughter. "Jehan, I'm sorry about that."
"She didn't mean to be rude," Prouvaire says amiably. "The word you're looking for is hearing impaired. That means Darren can hear just a little, but it's not enough," he explains to Elodie. He pulls Darren on his lap before signing to him till he nods understandingly. "I'm just telling him it's going to be okay."
Elodie wiggles her fingers. "How did you do that?"
"It's called sign language," Prouvaire says as he takes Elodie's hand and guides her fingers to make one sign after another. "This is how you spell your name: E-L-O-D-I-E."
"Do you have to spell everything like that?"
"No. Different signs stand for different words. Darren knows a lot of them. He also understands writing too, so don't worry."
"That's good!" Elodie pronounces before fetching the whiteboard and a marker in order to begin writing to the little boy.
"You two are doing it right," Eponine remarks proudly, sharing a smile with Cosette. "She really is your own now."
In short order the rest of their friends arrive with the ingredients for this night's batch of ramen, as well as some gifts for Darren. The evening passes almost too quickly for everyone's liking, but there is no denying the need to study for exams, prepare for cases, or simply let the youngsters sleep. By nine in the evening Grantaire has to carry little Darren to his room, which becomes pretty much everyone's cue to end the party, wash the dishes, and go home.
"How late are you planning to stay up?" Enjolras asks Eponine as soon as they are back home and readying for bed.
"Maybe another hour," Eponine replies as she scoots onto their bed, one hand clutching her tablet.
"No plans of burning the midnight oil?" Enjolras asks incredulously as he checks his watch, which only reads half past ten.
"I've had a long day, and anyway there's only so much paperwork I can take after a certain hour...unlike some people."
"It comes with the territory."
Eponine laughs as she snuggles up to him. "You be careful tomorrow. Those sweatshop overseers were rather rough, and I'm sure they weren't working alone," she says more pensively.
"They're in custody, and I have yet to build the case," Enjolras reminds her. With matters still so nebulous and uncertain, there is no need to unduly worry his wife especially at such a busy time. He kisses her before picking up a book of his own to read. "All will be well."
She nods before pulling the covers over them. "I'm sure. I love you Auguste."
Enjolras pulls her closer before beginning to read, but it's not long till he feels Eponine's breathing grow light and even at his side. He carefully sets aside his book and her tablet before adjusting the blankets around them for warmth. "Good night Eponine," he murmurs before turning off the bedside light. He doesn't hear her reply but the way her hand comes up to meet his is already an answer enough.