A/N: And here we are! Many thanks to shadows-of-1832, Smiles1998, the equestrian potterhead, hihiyas, just-an-occasional dream, illa95, all the guests, and everyone who has been following and reading this story. Especial thanks to Lee Chua for going over ideas with me and helping tweak my prose.
Epilogue: The Years from Where We Stand
"I'm glad you've come to work with us. There's a lot to do but it's always worth it."
The young doctor grins gratefully as she gets to her feet. "Thank you for giving me this chance, Doc E. I'll be here at seven-thirty on Monday," she promises.
"I'm sure you will, Nancy," Eponine says with a smile as she shows her junior colleague to the door. As soon as the door shuts she turns back to her desk and writes Nancy's name on a post-it note, which she sticks onto a list marked 'Social Interventions Officer of the Day'. After six years of this office's establishment there are now nine names on this rota. The sight has Eponine crossing her fingers, eagerly hoping for still more.
She checks her watch and finds the time to be already just before five in the afternoon. As quickly as she can she sorts and organizes the files from today's patient interviews and documentation, and then locks them up in a drawer, to be encoded by the next day's team. After making sure that she has stashed a box of gloves and a spare set of basic surgical implements in another drawer, she grabs her work tote from its place on a shelf. It may already be the end of hours full of casework and surgeries, but as far as she is concerned, the day isn't quite done.
As she races down a side corridor past the hospital cafeteria she catches sight of Musichetta and Joly trying to extricate some snacks from a vending machine. "I thought you guys would already have signed out for the day," she teases as she pounds on the machine's front panel.
"Case conference," Joly replies drolly. "The interns and residents admitted a patient with an unusual rash today, mimicking the malar rash we all know."
"He had to stress at least five times during the conference that they were not looking at a case of lupus," Musichetta supplies sympathetically.
"The joys of internal medicine," Eponine quips. "Anyway I'll see you both in a little while. Cosette and Marius said we should all be there at seven."
"Ideally!" Musichetta laughs. "Good luck though for the rest of us except for Marius. He signed out early, after lunch of course."
'Now that's someone who'll beat the traffic,' Eponine muses as she bids her friends goodbye and then continues down the hallway. She stops at the end of the corridor, at a yellow door emblazoned with the words, "Junior Docs and Nurses Room'. The silly moniker has her laughing even as she knocks on the door once and then pushes it open only to be greeted by the sight of a dozen youngsters playing catch or running about the playroom. "Ian! Ada!" she calls.
Immediately a golden haired boy jumps away from a kickball game while a tiny girl with raven pigtails tosses aside a large picture book. "Maman!" the boy shouts as he races his sister just to try to leap into their mother's arms. "I was winning! I run fast fast than anyone!"
"Oh but the time for the game is over, Ian," Eponine croons as she hugs her son and ruffles his curls before scooping up her daughter and kissing her forehead. "You finished another book, darling? You were reading about bears when we were having lunch today."
"She's read two!" Ian chimes in.
Ada's blue eyes widen with pride and glee as she nods enthusiastically. "Home?" she asks in a high-pitched voice.
"Not yet because we're going to a party later. Mr. and Mrs. Fauchelevent invited all of us," Eponine replies. "Your cousins will all be there too," she adds more for Ian's benefit.
Ian bounces excitedly at this news. "Darren said he'd teach me a new game," he says cheerily.
"Maybe. It's not the sort of party where you boys can run about. You might have to be quiet," Eponine reminds him. She nods to the nurse in charge of the hospital day care center. "Thanks again for taking care of them."
"I hardly have to do anything; you keep dropping in here all the time and besides they are such sweet children even when you're away," the nurse points out lightly. "Your little boy is such a charmer; all the other mothers keep fawning over him and wanting to pinch his cheeks."
Eponine laughs when Ian buries his face in her leg, clearly embarrassed at this praise. "Come on, let's go. We still have to meet your Papa at his office, and you know we have to drive to get there," she says in an effort to coax him to let go of her knee so they could walk out to the parking lot. Halfway there she sets down Ada but makes sure to keep a hold on her chubby fingers; even at the age of two, this curious little girl has already gotten into the habit of running off or ahead to pursue whatever catches her interest. 'Before I know it she'll be asking questions that I can't answer,' Eponine muses wryly as she buckles her children into the back seats.
As she drives down to the law office she has to keep a straight face throughout Ada's slightly shrill renditions of her favourite nursery rhymes. She's thankful that her present working arrangements, with more flexible hours and a day care facility on hand, allows her to share more of these moments with her children. 'For now' she reminds herself; next year Ian will be starting at the first grade, which will certainly be quite an adjustment for their entire family. It's something she cannot help being excited for, yet all the same wishing she could put it off a bit longer.
Ian cheers and practically wriggles out of his seatbelt as they pull up to the law office. "There's Papa!" he shouts, pressing his face to the window.
Eponine grins as she parks the car and steps out. "Someone has had a good day at court," she calls cheerily as Enjolras walks quickly across to the curb.
"More of a good argument," Enjolras replies before kissing her soundly. "It's still a long way till the verdict though," he adds more seriously but all the same there is that unmistakable resolve mingled with optimism in his tone. "And you?"
"Things are looking up," Eponine says, knowing that he'll be glad to hear later that she has an additional trainee to help with her work. She opens the backseat door to allow Ian and Ada to rush out and greet their father after their own fashion, which is to basically climb all over him. The sound of their laughter is so pure and unsullied in a way that lifts her spirits, more so when she sees how Enjolras' smile brightens in turn. "They missed you all day," she tells her husband as she picks up Ada again before she can throw him completely off balance.
Enjolras raises an eyebrow as he hoists Ian onto his hip. "How so?"
"I told all the other boys that my Papa fights scary bad guys, and that he could do anything," Ian brags.
Eponine giggles and shakes her head. "You've been listening to your uncles' stories, haven't you?"she asks, receiving an impish grin as an answer. Only their friends could make legal battles sound like heroic exploits, but then again who is she to deny the truth in these matters? 'There will certainly be more tales to tell and retell tonight,' she thinks as she and Enjolras settle their children safely into the backseat for the drive down to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Grace.
Despite their best efforts to bypass the rush hour traffic they only manage to get to a tent in the church grounds just five minutes before seven pm. Enjolras immediately looks around for a place to sit only to find Combeferre and Florence waving to him. "It would appear that they have saved us seats," he remarks.
Eponine nods gratefully as she and her family slide into a bench that is already occupied on one side by Combeferre, Florence, and their twin sons Thomas and Eugene. "How did you beat the traffic?" she asks her colleague incredulously.
"We met halfway, and I drove," Florence says proudly. "Come on boys, go greet your uncle and your aunt- never mind!" she mutters on seeing her children as well as Ian scamper to the back of the tent in some strange game of theirs. "A good thing I didn't force them into suits!"
"I think that only Elodie and Darren are old enough to properly manage it," Eponine remarks, glancing towards the tent entrance, where these two youngsters are signing to each other as well as to two blonde little girls. At fifteen years old Elodie is already very much a young lady in a coral pink dress, while Darren has somehow managed to keep his coat and tie from getting dirty. Elodie's younger sisters Layla and Mina are also dressed up, but have gotten their attire rumpled in the way that only a four year old and a three year old could manage.
It is at that moment that she hears her phone beep with a newly received message. 'Hey Doc look over here!" the text reads. Eponine glances to where Tess has just entered the tent. She is dressed in an elegant pantsuit but she is lugging an overnight bag. "Looks like someone just got off the plane," she muses aloud.
"All the way from Bangkok?" Combeferre asks, looking quite surprised.
"Tess wouldn't miss this either, not even if it kills her," Eponine concurs as she lets Ada scramble up onto her lap. It has been a long road for their young friend, involving quite a bit of soul searching leading up to a decision to take up management courses and eventually accept a job out of the country. There is little of that bitter girl left in Tess' mien; the woman joining this celebration is nothing short of self-possessed and proud to tell her own story. Just looking at her further buoys Eponine's conviction that to have gone to that halfway house and later, to have let this girl into her home had been more than just a right decision.
"Considering that this isn't just about the Fauchelevents renewing their vows," Enjolras chimes in.
"Oh you know we'd all take an excuse to get together," Eponine quips. By now she can see Azelma, Courfeyrac and their daughters Alexandra and Amelie, all listening to Gavroche, Jehan and Grantaire regaling them with some outlandish tale. Feuilly is bouncing Bahorel and Karen's baby son Oliver on his knee, while the parents of this particular infant are caught up in a conversation with Bossuet, Joly and Musichetta. 'All of us, and so many others,' she thinks, noticing how many of the Fauchelevents' other friends have all gathered in this place. The sight of this crowd is heart-warming; if anyone ever deserves this, it's the t two people who have made hr and so many others feel like friends, or dare she say it, even family.
After a moment Cosette and Marius make their appearance, looking quite harried. "Party planning issues?" Eponine asks.
Cosette nods. "Thank heavens that a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary is a onetime thing," she whispers before signing for her daughters to take their seats.
Marius cups his hands to his mouth. "The organist is here. Everyone settle down please!"
Cosette bursts out laughing at Marius' antics, and squeezes his shoulder before she stands on tiptoe. "Papa is at the front of the tent, thank goodness."
"And your mother is waiting outside," Marius says. "Are you sure about this?"
"She'd like nothing better than for you to walk her down the aisle-no one walked her down the aisle then!" Cosette says.
Enjolras shrugs bemusedly at this scene. "Is that necessary at a renewal of vows? I didn't even know till a few weeks ago that such a thing was an actual ceremony."
"Each to his own." Eponine laughs as she squeezes his hand. The way that he always is so in awe and so sure about the world around them is part of why life with him is anything but dull. "When it's our turn, Auguste, I won't make it so elaborate," she jokes.
Enjolras' smirk grows wider as he bends to kiss the back of her ear. "Thinking that far already, aren't we?"
"With you? Always," Eponine replies, certain now that they will get to this point and even further on.