A/N: Well, we've reached the end! :( I'll save my sappy closing remarks for the end. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: Les Misérables is copyrighted to and belongs to Victor Hugo. I'm just playing in his sandbox and receive no financial gain from this. Rats.
"Take my love, for love is everlasting"
- Les Misérables
Six Years Later
The sun beat down on the back of Éponine's neck and she made to dab at the perspiration that broke out on her skin with a handkerchief. It was considerably hot for the end of May—warmer than usual to her recollection—and still, Éponine had planted herself on a familiar bench outside, in the midst of Monsieur Gillenormand's colorful garden. Her neck was bent over the book she held in both hands, her mind immersed in the grand adventures of its hero.
The quiet escape was warranted. Her children would be finished with their tutoring lessons at any moment, and that left Éponine to grab for peaceful moments wherever she could snatch them.
With the afternoon sun starting to cause a strain on her eyes, Éponine paused her reading to stretch her neck and give her eyes a short break. Thinking of her children made her unconsciously rub her hand along her stomach. The emergence of motherhood was already starting to show, even in these early months of pregnancy. A soft smile drew across her mouth and she sighed with happiness, straightening her back when she heard the customary sound of high-pitched laughter suddenly disrupting her tranquility.
Éponine turned her head to the source of the noise and, soon, two small figures came into view, the one trailing after the other in a game of catch. The younger of the two was in the lead—a three-year-old boy with curly, dark locks like his mother, though the spirals in his hair were not her own, only the color. He ran in haste towards her in a frock coat of navy blue and beige trousers. He was barely as tall as the massive rose bushes he passed by and, although his legs were short, he sprinted at a speed his sister couldn't match.
The little girl—a five-year-old beauty with wavy blonde hair—stretched her arms to try to grasp her brother but to no avail. Her pretty pink dress gathered dust and dirt at the bottom as she made to catch him, forgoing the manners of a young lady in her reckless pursuit.
Éponine delighted in the sound of her children's laughter, as well as the rambunctious sight of them trampling over to her, entirely carefree. The boy shot into Éponine's arms and the girl rested at the edge of the bench, the pair of them panting for air.
"Momma, Momma!" the boy breathed excitedly. "Joceline couldn't catch me!"
"I was close!" Joceline huffed and crossed her arms, giving her brother a stern scowl that much resembled her father.
"Yes, you were," Éponine concurred with a wry smile and peered down at her son with a twinkle in her eyes. "And I daresay you'll only get faster as you grow."
The little boy's blue eyes lit up with excitement. "Will I, Momma?"
"Will I grow tall like Pappa?"
Éponine pressed the boy to her chest, bringing him into a warm hug. "Oh, you most certainly will!"
"What about me?" Joceline asked with a small pout Éponine recognized as her own. She reached out her arm to bring her daughter close and embraced her, too.
"You, too, dearest."
"I don't want to be as tall as Pappa!"
Éponine chuckled. "You won't. You'll probably be as tall as me."
That made Joceline's pout worse. "You're very short, Momma."
Éponine burst into laughter, and the children joined in. "Thank you for the reminder!"
She leaned closer to her daughter and tickled her chin, sending her into squeals of more giggling. After the humorous moment subsided, Éponine's eyes scanned their surroundings curiously.
"Where are Mariette and Rosalie?"
"Still with Madame Page," Joceline explained, weaving her hands behind her back. "They were misbehaving, so she's making them write lines."
"Oh, dear," Éponine tried to suppress her smile. She knew the twins' parents, her dear friends Marius and Cosette, would not be pleased. "Well, I hope you two were on your best behavior?"
"Yes, Momma!" they replied in unison. It was normally the pair of them getting into trouble—usually with each other—during their lessons and not the other way around.
"Momma?" the little boy pressed after a moment. "Where's Pappa? When will he be home?"
"Soon, Gavroche. He had some last minute duties to take care of at the school."
"But it's the weekend!" Joceline and Gavroche whined together, their mouths cast into frowns.
"I know, dearests, but he won't be much longer."
"He promised we would play!" Gavorche insisted, the grimace on his face reminiscent of the young Gavorche Éponine remembered growing up. The rest of him, however, like his sister, was an eclectic mix of both her and Enjolras. He was boyishly handsome, yet fair, with a mischievousness that Éponine shared from her youth. She was about to offer the disappointed boy further words of reassurance when another voice echoed from the edge of the garden by the house.
"Of course we'll play, Gavroche. Do you think I'd go back on my word?"
"Pappa!" the children exclaimed and dashed away.
Éponine watched the tiny children scamper over to her husband, who was standing in the open doorway that let a light breeze drift inside the house. He was wearing his finest red coat and black trousers and, as far as Éponine was concerned, cut a fine sight amongst the multicolored, picturesque garden blooms.
Enjolras strolled forward to greet Joceline and Gavroche, and his arms emerged from behind his back to scoop Gavroche first into his arms. The boy laughed spiritedly as his father proceeded to toss him high in the air and then catch him, repeating the motion several times. Joceline looked on happily and tugged at her father's waist coat, pining for his attention. Once he had Gavroche in a secure hold, Enjolras laced an arm around his daughter's shoulder and, together, the three made their way over to Éponine.
"Pappa! Pappa! We must play!" they both demanded, whilst Enjolras gazed back and forth between them.
"Were you good for Madame Page?" he asked, which made Éponine snicker.
It was unfailingly like her husband to project a serious tone when the children still usually managed to get their way with him anyhow. It didn't bother her, however. Rather, she found it quite captivating to watch Enjolras's firm hand so often crumble to their children's demands.
"Yes, Pappa," Joceline answered sweetly.
Gavroche shot Enjolras a devilish smile. "Mariette and Rosalie weren't."
"They kept fighting over each other's parchment and quills. Madame Page had to separate them and make them sit on opposite sides of the room."
Enjolras smirked. "That sounds rather like you two."
"But we were good today, Pappa!" Joceline contended, appeased when Enjolras reached his hand around to teasingly tug her chin.
"I have every confidence in you."
By that point, they had reached Éponine, who took Joceline into her arms on the bench as Enjolras set their son down on the ground. The couple locked eyes on each other, and Enjolras leaned down to greet his wife with a gentle kiss.
"How did things go this morning?" she whispered as he drew away from her, though still with a subtly loving gaze.
"Well enough." He gave a half smile. "We can discuss work later. How are you?"
His eyes glanced from his wife to her stomach and back to her face, all of which Éponine caught, and it made her smile broaden. "Very well, love."
"I want a boy, Momma," Gavroche asserted in a serious tone that so matched Enjolras's that she chuckled. The boy looked pleadingly up into his father's face. "I want a brother to play with!"
That prodded Joceline's opposite response. "I want a sister, Pappa! Someone who will play dolls with me!"
The attractive youth shot her brother a glare he didn't miss, and Gavroche matched it by scrunching his nose in disdain. "Dolls are so boring!"
Joceline looked on, affronted. "Are not!"
"All right, that's enough," Enjolras interrupted their feud, his tone sounding quite grave—that was until he proceeded to pick Gavorche up and dangle him upside down by his legs. The boy hollered with laughter and Joceline's temperament, too, lightened at the sight of her brother suspended helplessly in the air. "Would you like to go to the park or not?"
"Yes, Pappa! Yes!" they concurred enthusiastically.
"Then behave yourselves," he commanded, swaying his son a bit to amuse the tot before placing Gavroche carefully back down on the ground. "Go see Claudine about putting together some food for our outing. We'll have a late day picnic of it."
"Oh, that sounds lovely," Éponine agreed, which only excited the children more.
Gavroche and Joceline sped past Enjolras into the house, each trying to outrun the other whilst cackling loud enough to disrupt the entire household. Enjolras merely rolled his eyes and took a seat next to a smiling Éponine, who was contented when he roped an arm around her shoulder. She nestled in close to him and took his free hand in hers.
"You sure we should risk having another one of those?" Enjolras goaded, pointing towards the doorway, where the trampling silhouettes of their children disappeared from view.
Éponine tittered close to his face, her breath tickling his ear. "I thought of a couple more names this morning."
Enjolras raised a curious eyebrow. "Oh? Such as?"
"I was thinking Francois if it's a boy or Francine if it's a girl. What do you think?"
Enjolras's eyes brightened at the names, and he determined without further explanation from his wife where she had derived such names. "I approve of either one."
Éponine's glowing smile spread across her cheeks. "Oh, good! I'm so pleased you like them. I daresay they're befitting to us as a family, wouldn't you agree?"
"Indeed. Quite suitable for us."
Both fell silent afterwards, listening intently to the calming wind that lightly ruffled their necks, as well as the welcoming quietude of the quaint place that surrounded them. It was a serenity only to be found in this particular garden, when few moments of alone time could be spared for the married couple with two tumultuous, demanding young children.
Éponine fully leaned into Enjolras and slowly nuzzled the nape of his neck, causing his eyes to flutter and his head turn downward to capture her lips. Éponine found herself opening like a bud, her mouth welcoming Enjolras's tongue to slip inside, bringing her deeper into the passion of the moment. A hand came to rest along her jaw line, just as a hand weaved in between his tight curls to massage his scalp.
His warm, moist lips soon left hers to peck at her cheek, her ear, and along her neck—his movements calculated and controlled, making Éponine's heart flutter with anticipation. It was amazing to her how the man could still garner such a zealous response from her after so many happy years together; and yet, in many ways, it wasn't surprising at all. She loved him deeply and was devoted to Enjolras, just as he was equally dedicated to her. That was all it took for the intoxicating connection between them to blaze on, never lessening or dying out as the years rolled by, bringing them closer and more connected to one another with each passing day.
You made the right choice, Éponine, she told herself often, not because she needed reassurance of any kind, for she had no self-doubts about the loving man she had married; but because of the cold remembrance of the countless years she had spent without such returned affections, and how utterly deprived she found the world to be without love.
Just as Enjolras had once made his way in the world: without love or affections.
He had had a cause worth living (and dying for), but at the end of that rebellion, Éponine wondered, what would Enjolras have found if not for her? Would he have continued to wander the world alone as she surely would have done, though without anywhere or anyone to give his heart's desire to in time?
Probably, she determined, more than a tad grateful that that wasn't written in his stars. Instead, it had been her.
The two often recalled—in their own quiet ways—that emotional return to the café a year after the fall of the barricade. They reminisced in their minds how far they had come that day, how much they had grown together, and the life-changing conclusion both had drawn from the shared experience: that God, in His mysterious act of mercy, had brought them together to not only help each other heal but to also find everlasting love.
As the two shared a private, romantic kiss on a frequented stone bench in late May, with their turbulent past and any worries or woes pressed to the back of their minds, they were well into their passionate exchange when a male voice—not young but far older—disrupted their solitude, forcing both to break apart and turn towards whoever had stumbled upon their private snogging.
"I believe those two are yours?" Monsieur Gillenormand pointed with a twitch of his bushy mustache towards two beings that came barreling forward from behind him.
Gavroche and Joceline, both laughing hysterically, flew into their parents' arms—Joceline to Enjolras and Gavroche to Éponine. Enjolras quickly appraised their children for any hint of guilt in their flushed faces.
"Were you two disrupting Monsieur Gillenormand's book collection again?" he questioned sternly, knowing the children's tenancy to toss books off the shelves at will or rearrange them out of alphabetical order, mostly to the old man's feigned annoyance.
"It's quite all right," the old man chuckled, far too amused with the children to look angry.
"It's certainly not all right. I do apologize if they were disturbing you," Éponine tried to apologize, but Monsieur Gillenormand waved her concerns away.
"Come now, they're only children."
"We told them to see Claudine about fetching food for a picnic, but it seems that they had other ideas in mind?"
Éponine gave them both a serious look over, as did Enjolras, before he brought Joceline into his arms with a kiss to her forehead. She placed her head underneath his chin and snuggled into her father's tight embrace.
"A picnic?" Monsieur Gillenormand's brow furrowed. "Well, in that case, might we all go? Marius and Cosette are collecting the children now as we speak. Perhaps we could make a real outing of it, all of us?"
The children scooted out of their parents' grasps to jump up and down, overtly satisfied with such a plan. Éponine and Enjolras got to their feet and linked hands, just as Marius and Cosette appeared in the garden with their twin girls, Mariette and Rosalie.
Both had long, curly blonde hair that fell to their shoulders with fetching blue eyes like their mother. The faint freckles that dotted their faces, however, were entirely Marius's, as were their button noses. Mariette wore an ocean blue dress, whilst Rosalie was decked in purple. They immediately waved to Joceline and Gavroche and came tromping over to them, proceeding to talk in excited whispers about their impending picnic in the park.
"Poor Madame Page," Cosette moaned once they reached the other adults. "She really has her hands full. Do you think we've overwhelmed her?"
Marius and Éponine snickered, and Enjolras arched his eyebrows. "I believe that's an understatement," he issued matter-of-factly.
"It looks like we're all going for a late picnic this afternoon." Éponine smiled brightly. "Care to join us? You and the girls?"
"Of course!" Marius agreed quickly; he was nudged in the side by his wife, who eyed him humorously.
"Even though our girls were quite disruptive during Madame Page's lesson today?"
Marius turned to Enjolras, as though in search of some manly verbal support. "They're children! What does she expect? For them to get along every single moment of every day?"
"Such a softie," Cosette teased him lightly.
"So is this one," Éponine affirmed with a toss of her head in Enjolras's direction. Everyone laughed with the exception of Enjolras, though the gentleness in his eyes was something to be deciphered easily enough.
"If you're going to pick on us," Marius goaded further, "Enjolras and I will gladly stay put and let you go on to your picnic alone with all four children."
Monsieur Gillenormand gave a mocked look of insult. "And what about your grandfather, Marius?"
"What? They like you, Grandfather, better than us anyway! No one has the guts to insult you."
"No one would dare," Cosette added, sensing the warmness behind Monsieur Gillenormand's expression. He mumbled something under his breath and turned away from the group, waltzing over to the children instead, who had congregated in a circle with their heads huddled together.
The afternoon picnic turned into an evening affair, but the adults were well prepared for it thanks to all the stocked food and drinks compiled by Claudine, the maid. The children skipped about and played games for hours, their energy never letting up. Enjolras and Éponine eventually moseyed over beneath a tree to be alone for a time—far enough away where they wouldn't be overheard but not too far that they couldn't keep an eye on their children.
Enjolras settled his back against the tree with his wife situated comfortably against him. For a long while, they sat in silence, simply observing Joceline's and Gravroche's playful antics—capering about and getting along, for the most part. Éponine tittered softly a couple times whilst watching them, and Enjolras's arms came to fasten themselves around her. Before long, a few gentle nudges to the side of her face and a peck here or there against her exposed skin had Éponine purring with contentment.
"I hope the children go down early tonight," Enjolras said. "They should be tired out from so much running."
Éponine snickered and arched her neck to look up at her husband, giving him a seductive smirk. "And why's that?" she prodded, fully aware of what he was insinuating.
"I intend to have you all to myself for an evening, preferably without little faces popping into our room in the middle of the night."
Éponine wholeheartedly laughed at the reminder. Gavroche hadn't slept through the night in ages and usually always ended up in their room at some point or another, not only disrupting their sleep patterns but other endeavors as well. Last time, Enjolras had barely managed to roll off of Éponine before Gavroche jumped onto the bed, giving his father a funny look that made Enjolras squirm under the boy's scrutiny. No one else could do that, but his own children certainly could, especially in a situation like that.
"Pappa," the boy mumbled, still half asleep, "what were you doing to Momma?"
"Nothing," Enjolras answered hastily; Éponine, meanwhile, hoisted the covers up to her face to bite back her giggling.
"Were you wrestling, Pappa?" Gravroche asked, pressing Enjolras for answers all the way back to his bedroom. "You looked like you and Momma were wrestling. Can I wrestle with you tomorrow night?"
"You need to go to back to bed, Gavroche." Enjolras pushed the boy ahead of him, grateful for the darkness so that his son couldn't decipher his humiliated blush, nor the lingering erection through the night shirt that fell to his thighs. "The night is not for play. It's for rest."
"But you and Momma were playing just now!" he whined, as Enjolras did his best not to turn redder in the face.
"We were not playing, son!"
"Then what were you doing on top of Momma, Pappa?" A few minutes later, the question came round again, much to Enjolras's mounting frustration. "Pappa? Why won't you answer me? Pappa?"
Now, as the couple lay comfortably together beneath the shade, both chuckled unanimously at what the night might hold in store for them. If they were lucky, their son might actually sleep the whole night. On the other hand, he might interrupt their romp for wanting to play himself, and hound his father for the answers he hadn't yet received.
Enjolras's hand brushed Éponine's stomach, the first signs of her baby bump peering through her dress. Her own hand came to rest on top of his, holding it firmly in place.
"Imagine another curly-haired boy like Gavroche galloping about the house."
The mental picture her comment conjured made them both chortle. "Or it could be another girl as charming, yet detrimental, as Joceline and her mother," Enjolras suggested.
Éponine shook her head, amused. "It's hard to say..."
"Well, it's still early."
"You're excited, aren't you?"
Enjolras blinked. Her question was underlined by a false sense of security; he could sense it. He wove his arms tighter around her, keeping a hand placed on her swelling stomach.
"Of course I am. Are you?"
"Yes. Very much."
"Then there's nothing to worry about."
"Did you ever think..." Her voice trailed off and was replaced by the echo of childlike laughter coming from several feet away, where all four children continued to play.
"Do I wish what, my dear?" Enjolras whispered into her ear, making her spine tingle.
"This is what you want, isn't it?"
Enjolras's eyebrows angled in confusion. "What?"
Éponine craned her neck back to fully take in his contorted expression. "We—I'm, rather—not holding you back?"
"Of course you aren't." Enjolras stared hard, unable to grasp her meaning. "Éponine, where is all this uncertainty coming from?"
"It isn't uncertainty. I suppose, with the baby coming, I've been thinking a lot about... The past. I didn't mean to insult you."
"You haven't; only, you sound unsure."
Éponine's calming smile returned, which put his mind more at ease. "Well, I'm not, love. It was only questions."
"I see." Slowly, a smile mapped its way across his mouth. "You fear I may reenter politics now that we have a family, is that it?"
Enjolras snorted. "Well, you needn't worry. I've told you before, Éponine: my commitments have changed. I'm still the same man, but I'll never be so reckless with my life or anyone else's again."
Éponine was a little crushed by that sentiment, though she understood wholeheartedly where it stemmed from. The fingers interlocked with his squeezed gently.
"You're doing great things, you know—with the school, the children, us..."
Enjolras met her tender reflection with a softer smile, though she couldn't see it as she had turned around to watch the children. "As are you, my dear."
"I know. We both are."
Sensing where her thoughts were wandering, Enjolras delicately pecked her cheek before murmuring contentedly into her ear, "You're still my reason," which made Éponine's breath stall.
She compressed his hand a second time and peered up into his face that conveyed nothing but affection and peace, and her smile became as light and fulfilling to him as his expression was to her. She reached up to brush the back of her hand along his jaw line, savoring this intimate moment between the two of them.
"And you're still mine."
~ Fin ~
A/N #2: Thank you so much to the E/É community for being so welcoming to me as a writer! Your feedback, rec's, and general enthusiasm for this little story of mine carried it through to its conclusion more than you could possibly know. :) I've been overwhelmed and truly touched by your responses, and it has been so encouraging to my Muse to keep going and not give up. I sincerely thank you for that!
I hope this story will encourage more shippers who haven't read it yet to check it out in the future; or perhaps inspire a reread from a couple of you who've seen it through to its conclusion? After all, that's the only way that stories survive: through you, the readers!
At the moment, I have no future E/É stories brewing on the horizon. However, I'll be continuing to write, so, if you've enjoyed this piece, I encourage you to add me to your Author Alerts and to check out my other stories. I welcome all feedback (and, really, it would just be lovely to hear from you guys again.) :)
Until next time!