A huge hug and a wet, slobbery kiss to gravity01, Madhatter45, SSLE, Jareth's Genevieve, LazyChestnut, Humpy, Takhira, mskennedy04, Lillebule, friendorphantom, and No One Mourns the Wicked for reviewing. You guys made my, uh, two months. But hopefully I'll be better. I want to update every week, so there. :)

There is an English lyric(ish) from the musical hidden (I think it's rather obvious), but if someone finds it, they may get a special treat…or trick. Probably a treat.


Claude Frollo glared disdainfully at the broken cup. He had never dreamt that someday he would live as a pauper with such few items. As he lazily began to pick up the shards of broken clay, visions of a warm, brightly lit house and a healthy Esmeralda flooded his mind. He smiled whimsically.

Placing the shards on the top of the worn table, Frollo frowned at their current misfortune. Even living as a poor priest was more luxurious than the little shack. But, he reminded himself, with all the comforts he once had as the Archdeacon, he had not been content. Up until the first glorious morning when he saw La Esmeralda, life had been a series of disappointments, of failures. He decided this current hell with her was paradise.

Frollo strode across the room and opened the door and leant against the doorframe. At first he thought he was looking for Quasimodo lurking in the woods, but his thoughts began to stray away from the deformed boy to the weather. The air was cooler than it had been and the days were getting shorter. Winter was several months away, but it suddenly became a concern to him. He hoped the little house would be inhabitable.

His thoughts were far away when he heard Esmeralda's voice behind him. Surprised, he jumped a little. He hadn't planned for her to wake for at least a couple of hours, and even if she had, he didn't expect her to come out of her little retreat area. She was talking, asking for something.

Esmeralda was looking at him pleadingly. He realized he hadn't heard her request. He raised his eyebrows in hopes she would repeat her question. She sighed unhappily.

"Can I go outside?" she asked quietly.

Frollo wanted to laugh at the how petty her request seemed, but he frowned. Of course she would ask. She saw him as her jail keeper, and he had hardly let her outside of the four walls.

He stared at her for a moment, contemplating what to do. She started to fidget under his gaze, which only made him more disheartened. "Yes," he said, trying to soften his features. She gave a slight, nervous smile.

When she didn't immediately step forward, Frollo realized she was probably waiting for him to move away from the door. Quickly he stepped out of the doorframe and onto the soft grass. Slowly, cautiously Esmeralda walked outside. He noticed she was once again barefoot.

Once outside, Frollo thought he saw a genuine, happy smile grace the Bohemian's lips. If it was there, it vanished quickly. She looked back at him, and there was no smile. She seemed dismayed.

"Something not to your liking, my love?" he asked.

"He really is gone," she replied, looking around the woods.

He instantly knew who she was talking about. "Not to worry, Esmeralda, I'm sure your champion is still prowling around the woods, waiting to snatch you."

"He is good and kind," she said, taking a step away from Frollo.

"Yes, the poor fool. And he will be wretched until he dies," Frollo smirked. He expected her to defend the hunchback, she was surprisingly energetic when protecting Quasimodo's good name, but she remained silent. However, he did see her give a little huff.

"Let us not fight, dearest," he exclaimed. "You wanted to be outside, why not take advantage of the situation? Perhaps you would like to walk in the forest or go to the little pond." She seemed to perk a little. "Go wherever you would like."

She stared at him incredulously. "Alone?" she queried. He chuckled, but then realized that she might feel more liberated if she thought she was alone.

"Of course," he said. La Esmeralda narrowed her eyes in obvious distrust. "Why should I worry? Where would you run to? Even if you make it through the night, how do you plan on living, or traveling to Paris?" he chuckled. "I'm sure you don't know the penalty for an unfaithful wife. I'm afraid citizens frown on disloyalty."

With a departing smile, the priest walked into the house. Once inside, he pressed his ear against the door, waiting to hear her soft footfalls move away from the house. He heard her take a few steps, then there was silence. He waited several moments before opening the door and walking outside.

Frollo walked only a few paces and looked in the direction he thought he heard her go in.

"Alone?" Esmeralda said. "I knew you had planned to follow." She was sitting on the ground next to her happily grazing little goat. Her hand absently pet the creature and she was scowling at him. "Like you said, where would I go? You've taken everything."

"Perhaps I wasn't going to follow you. Perhaps I have grown weary of you and have decided to leave for Paris," he quipped. Her features remained impassive. He walked over to the girl and goat and sat down by the pair.

"Is his name still Claude?" he asked, gesturing to the kid.

"Yes," she smirked, "and there's even a little bald spot in between his horns." She chuckled acrimoniously, pointing to the cowlick on top of its head. He grimaced.

"It gives him a distinguished appearance," Frollo replied. "Handsome fellow."

Esmeralda raised an eyebrow. "Poor thing," she said and smiled bitterly, "to resemble such a vile beast. I pity him. But his silence is appreciated."

"How pleasant," said Frollo. "You are such a charming creature." He scowled playfully. La Esmeralda seemed repulsed. She remained quiet for several moments, apparently lost in thought. Around them the trees whistled and bent in the gentle breeze.

The two sat in relative silence until she spoke. "Please, may I sit here alone? I promise not to leave," she pleaded. She wound a single strand of hair around a finger and nervously bit her lip. He noticed dark, sickly looking circles beneath her eyes. Was she still ill?

"Are you well?" he asked. She stared at the ground; her hand fell away from her hair.

"Yes," she whispered, "but my heart is sick for home, and I miss the sun." She glanced up toward the sky. Brilliant orange peeked through the branches and illuminated the great trees and the floor of the forest. The bright sunlight reminded her of a wonderful time when she leisurely danced in the sun's golden rays. Carelessly she began to pet the goat again.

Frollo started to speak, but the gypsy suddenly threw her head into her hands and began to wail softly. Her tiny body shuddered each time she let out a sob. The priest shifted nervously, unsure whether his touch would be welcomed. He reached out a hand and patted her shoulder; she hissed.

"Leave me alone," she spat through bared teeth.

"So you are not well," he said sternly, letting his hand fall to the ground, away from the gypsy.

"You put up a good farce, demon," she exclaimed. "You put on quite a show, but you care not of my wellbeing, only of your pleasure. I can feel myself dying, and it makes me happy."

"Silly girl," he responded, "such heathen words. I think it best if you went inside until you are in a more suitable mood, perhaps when you have recovered from your present melancholy."

"No!" she wailed. "It has been so long since I have seen the trees, or the sky. Let me stay a while longer," she begged.

Frollo looked at the broken woman before him. Her face was wet from tears and her eyes were dull. He idly thought to himself that she was mourning the hunchback and would soon forget her grief. "I do not know, my love," he said. "Look through the trees; the sun is going down and soon it will be dark. Tomorrow we will walk outside, but for the moment, come inside."

The Bohemian wearily bent her head in submission. He tenderly grabbed her little hand and pulled her up. Once standing, she kept her eyes on the ground and barely made a noise. He placed his hand on her back and pushed her forward toward the house. Obediently, she marched into the little shack.

--

Esmeralda was dismayed to hear the patter of rain against the straw rooftop. Tiny streams of water leaked from weak areas in the roof to the ground and created little rivers that flowed out of the side of the house. It had been several days since it had started to rain, and with each day her spirit became even more depressed. She found she lacked the energy to move out of bed, so she usually remained there all day.

She could hear Claude moving around in the front room, but she found it hard to muster the energy to care. She imagined several scenarios in which the old priest slipped and fell, hopefully breaking his neck. But from what she could hear, the wretched man was able to stay on both feet. She was even more disappointed, although she did hear him curse when he ran into the table.

A wave of nausea wracked through her body and she clutched her stomach. Although she was no longer remaining sick all day, she found the mornings were usually the worse. Luckily, though, the priest was usually far away and did not hear her.

La Esmeralda ran to a corner and knelt, ready to release her body of the poison, but it never came. She felt warm and sickly. She then decided to return to bed and see if the nausea went away. She carefully made her way to the straw bed and ungracefully fell down on it. Almost immediately she was asleep.

When she awoke, it had stopped raining and she felt marvelously better. She hastily scrambled to her feet and ran to the front room. Claude was not in there. She flew to the door, flung it open, and ran outside.

The world was glorious. She could see the blue sky and hints of the golden sun peek through the trees. The ground, although moistened and soggy, seemed revitalized, and the grass seemed a brighter hue of green. Birds seemed to be chirping louder. For a moment, she was happy.

She carelessly twirled around, but soon stopped, realizing she had an audience.

--

Bellamy was anxious. For five days it had been raining, and he had been restricted in his duties. He wanted to travel to the little house in the woods, but the midwife refused to go in the rain. So when he walked out of the little church to find a blue sky clear of grey clouds, he headed straight for Geneva's house.

As he approached, he heard the midwife's little girl happily yell, "Bellamy!" The midwife, alerted by her daughter's shrill cry, turned and greeted the priest.

"Bellamy, how kind of you to visit," Geneva said, hints of contempt in her voice.

"Splendid morning, isn't it?" the blonde priest asked and smiled at Quiterie.

"If muddy roads are your idea of splendid, then I guess it is," the midwife dryly replied.

"Geneva, you have always been too pessimistic. Think of all the good the rain has done," he said.

"Yes, I'm happy that not matter where I walk, the hem of my dress will get dirty," she said, pausing to look painfully at her daughter rolling in the mud with her dog. "Bellamy, how may I help you today?"

"I thought we could take a walk." When she changed her disdainful look from the ground to the priest, he added, "To see how our friends in the woods are doing."

"You are a pain," she sighed, then turned to her daughter. "Quiterie, do you want to go for a walk?"

"Yes!" the girl exclaimed happily.

"Come on, then." The little girl joyfully jumped up, ran the short distance to her mother, and stretched her arms upwards. Her mother's scowl deepened. "No, no, you will have to walk. You're too filthy to carry."

"Can Marlon come?" the child pleaded, looking back at her puppy.

"Absolutely not, that cur is more of a nuisance then I bargained for."

"Feeling well, Geneva?" Bellamy laughed.

"I've been better," she snapped, straightening her dress.

"Quiterie," the priest smiled, "walk with me. You mother is foul today." The little girl happily ran to Bellamy and held his hand. With an indigent huff, Geneva walked forward, and they started their trek to the forest.

The midwife could have been fooled. From how he talked, she thought the priest was eager to get to the house in the woods, but the way he strolled and chatted with Quiterie, it did not appear so.

"Quiterie, look! Did you see the rabbit?" Bellamy pointed to a leafy bush. The girl sadly shook her head. "Don't worry. We'll see more."

"I'm tired of walking," Quiterie howled.

"Child, we are almost there," Geneva said and turned to address her daughter. "I told you when we began I would not carry you." The girl hung her head and did her very best to imitate one of her mother's sighs; the midwife tried to hide the little smile that had crept to her face.

After a short walk, the three finally reached their destination and were happy to see the mysterious man outside. He was standing next to a large tree near the house with his back turned away from the trio. A little black goat sniffed his shoes.

"Claude?" the midwife called. The man quickly turned to acknowledge them.

"Yes?" he asked, visibly surprised by their appearance.

Geneva watched as Bellamy approached the rigid man and greeted him. Claude, although civil, was apparently a little irritated with the priest. After the formalities were out of the way and it had been reestablished who everyone was, Claude took on a completely different countenance when Bellamy began to pry.

"I must say, you have intrigued quite a number of people in our little community," Bellamy casually remarked, trying to incite a response out of the man.

"It is not the first time people have whispered about me," Claude countered indifferently. Clearly not knowing how to respond, Bellamy crossed his arms and smiled.

"Well, sir, how are you and your wife doing today?" the young man asked.

The midwife watched Claude lean against the tree and look down at the slightly shorter man; she was delighted. The scene unfolding was like a master reprimanding an ignorant apprentice. The midwife liked to watch the usually confident Bellamy squirm.

"We are fine, but the rain has put my wife into a dreary mood. I believe she is sleeping," Claude said, offhandedly looking at the goat at his feet. Geneva smirked and examined the two men. Claude was so cryptic and reserved, quite the opposite of Bellamy.

For a moment, there was silence. Claude shifted away from the curious goat, then looked pass Bellamy to the house. "You are new here, no?" Bellamy asked. "Where did you come from?"

"Paris," Claude said, standing a little taller.

"Ah, Paris. I hear the king was in town recently," Bellamy said, obviously happy to find a new topic.

"Yes," Claude replied, offering nothing else.

Bellamy leaned closer and said, "I'm sure you also heard the stories of the possessed Archdeacon. Pilgrims pass through here frequently and tell us stories about the sorcerer." Claude, now clearly vexed, crossed his arms and looked sternly at the priest.

"Surely an educated man such as yourself wouldn't believe such stories," Claude said severely. Geneva thought he had a point. Most pilgrims were in a frenzy of religious paranoia and were hardly worth listening to.

"The man has disappeared. One morning Paris woke up to find the Archdeacon had vanished. They say that late at night, though, his cell in Notre Dame still glows red," Bellamy said.

Claude opened his mouth, no doubt to argue the absurdity of the rumors, but behind them the door to the little house slammed open. Geneva turned around, cocked her head, and watched as the strange girl pranced out of the house and twirled around. Beside her Bellamy had also turned to watch the peculiar display. Soon the girl stopped, suddenly aware of the visitors.