Joy
By: Manna



xOx…

The Microfic/Drabble Meme!
Christmas Edition!
Requested By:
Loulou.K
Prompt: Oscar's niece is sick, and staying with Oscar and André while her family is at a Christmas party in Versailles.
Spice: Cinnamon
Pairing/Characters: Oscar, André, Loulou
Fandom: Rose of Versailles



xOx…

Christmas Eve, 1783

It was a cold afternoon in France, and miraculously, the de Jarjayes house was quiet despite the fact that they had a little visitor.

"They're gone, aren't they?" Oscar asked her longtime friend André, falling backward onto the couch in the drawing room. She had been up since early that morning when Hortense and her husband had come calling. It was a little unusual for a daughter to stay in contact with her family after marriage, but Hortense's husband was a very understanding man, from what Oscar knew, and his own family had died several years earlier.

Normally, Oscar went to the parties in Versailles, especially the important ones. In fact, she had never missed a single holiday party since she had joined the royal guard. The Colonel of the Royal Guard was usually required to attend, or at least…that was the unofficial order. Technically she didn't have to go, but it made her look good if she did.

At any rate, she wasn't going. No, not this year.

She leaned back and sighed.

"They're gone now," her friend replied. "They just went through the gates."

"Oh, thank God." She closed her eyes slightly and sighed again. "I'm going to my room. I think I have work to do." With that, she slowly got to her feet and gave André the most pathetic attempt at a smile that he had seen all day. "Call me if something comes up."

"As long as the little monster—I mean, child—stays asleep, there should be nothing to call you about."

Hortense and her husband had left with Madame and Monsieur de Jarjayes for the party—rather upset that Oscar was not attending—and that left their daughter, Loulou, in the care of Oscar and André. Nanny was resting in her room; she had been given the entire day off.

André wondered why he had insisted that he and Oscar would do fine in taking care of Loulou alone. The child was absolutely impossible to keep still for even one second! Except, of course when she was asleep. And luckily for both André and Oscar, she was. Fast asleep, as a matter of fact.

And sick. Very sick. The longer the child slept, the less time either one of them would have to spend in her presence, and that meant less of a chance that either one of them would get sick. André had horses to take care of and carriages to drive, and Oscar had work to attend to. (And the colonel never took time off for being sick if she could help it.)

He watched Oscar disappear up the stairs and shrugged slightly to himself. Hm…now what could he do for a few hours?

xOx…

Oscar was nothing short of relieved when she made it to her foyer without the sound of her name being shouted. She was infinitely tired, and she had a ton of work to do. Work, work, work… Well, it took her mind off of other things. It was much better than watching Marie Antoinette and Fersen exchange doe-eyed, star-struck gazes all afternoon while she leaned against a wall out of the way of the crowds and sipped a glass of wine.

Oh, wine…

She grabbed a bottle and a glass and took the liberty of pouring some for herself. She would need it, she thought. If not to finish her work, to deal with her niece, who, once awakened, would be bouncing off of the walls, sick or not.

Loulou wasn't such a bad kid, really… Just full of energy. She wondered where the little girl had gotten it from. Certainly not from her mother. Hortense had always been quiet and very, very ladylike. Well, maybe not. She was almost sad to realize that she hadn't known Hortense very well growing up.

Well, with Hortense being the eldest, and Oscar the youngest, they had only seen one another on the rarest of occasions.

Shaking her head to clear it a little, the blonde commander took a seat at the table by the window in her foyer and started on the mountain of paperwork that she had to finish. Maybe, she thought sourly, she should have just gone to Versailles. But then the paperwork would have been waiting for her on Christmas Day, and honestly, she didn't want to deal with it then.

She blinked out of the window at the light snowfall and turned back to her quill and ink and paper. She had a lot of good memories of the snow, but she was too old and too tired to go out in it. She wished she had the energy, though. Maybe throwing a big wet wad of snow at André's face would make her feel better.

She gave a slight smile and took a long drink of wine. She needed it. Her father and mother, not to mention Hortense and her husband, would be at the party until the midnight mass, and then they would return home afterward. She had a long evening ahead of her, and she wasn't exactly looking forward to it.

All she really wanted to do was sleep. And sleep.

She had felt that way all day long, and possibly even the night before—it was amazing what one too many glasses of wine could make you forget—but she wasn't certain.

But no… Sleep was something she wasn't going to do for a good long while. It was still early in the afternoon, and…

Another drink of wine and she had to refill her glass. The very next day…she would be twenty-eight years old.

Twenty-eight, and as tired as someone in their fifties, she thought, struggling to keep her eyes open. She really needed to concentrate on her work.

The quill was in her hand. She dipped it carefully into the ink and started to write, but stared in disbelief when her elegant handwriting turned into a long, dark line. So much for getting work done. She crumpled her ruined report up and tossed it into the trash before starting over.

She had to get this done. It was important to get it done, because when Loulou woke up, she would be demanding attention and probably entertainment. Only God knew how long the little spitfire would be awake before falling asleep again… She'd never get any paperwork done after her niece woke up.

And she wasn't sure that she would be able to stay awake long enough afterward to accomplish anything, either.

She sighed, her thoughts completely jumbled.

What was she doing, again?

With a shake of her head and another long drink of wine, she was ready. She'd get all of her paperwork done, and then… Then she would check on Loulou.

xOx…

Three hours, a cramped hand, a migraine, and one too many glasses of wine later, she was finished. She stretched her arms over her head and arched her back in an attempt to work out her exhaustion, but the motion really just made her want to fall over onto her makeshift desk and sleep for the rest of the evening.

It was too bad that she couldn't do that.

Reluctantly leaving her not-quite finished bottle of wine, she made her way down the hall to one of the guest bedrooms. It had, at one time, belonged to one of her sisters—Catherine, perhaps—but now it sat vacant. Oscar had wondered many times why André hadn't taken Catherine's room for his own when she married and left home. Instead, Josephine had taken it, and he had taken that room instead. At least his room was relatively close to hers, still. As children, it had actually worked out perfectly.

Josephine's old room was at the corner of the house, and the sill outside of her window was easy to access if one bothered to climb out of Oscar's window and carefully—very carefully—make their way across the roof and down one of the side gutters.

She almost smiled as she opened the door to the room Loulou was staying in when she remembered scaling that roof what had seemed like a million times.

Briefly, she wondered if she could still do it, but she shook the thought away. Twenty-eight-year-olds did not scale roofs. The only way she would ever try that again would be if she had to. Like, she thought, if that Black Knight bastard bothered to show his face at the de Jarjayes estate. She wouldn't hesitate to risk climbing across the roof if it meant unmasking the thief.

She peered inside of the darkened room and saw a tiny little lump under the blankets. Well, her niece appeared to still be sleeping, but the little girl definitely didn't take after her mother's side of the family. No, most of the people in the de Jarjayes family slept heavily and were hard to wake up. (Oscar was the worst of them all though she'd never admit it.)

Well, even if Loulou woke up, now, it wouldn't matter too much. She had finished her paperwork for the next day or so, and it wasn't like she got the chance to see the little girl very often, anyway.

With an "I'll regret this" look on her face, the Colonel of the Royal Guard crept forward silently and peered down at the usually rambunctious, sometimes slightly devious daughter of her eldest sister. She looked relatively harmless at the moment. Pulling a chair from against the wall, she set it down next to Loulou's bed. Normally she would have just taken a seat on the edge of the bed, but with the way her eyelids kept drooping, she was afraid that she would fall asleep.

Sighing a little, she leaned on one of her elbows on the edge of the bed and reached her free hand out to smooth away a few unruly strands of hair that were in Loulou's face. The girl had such curly hair, and Oscar really had no idea where she had gotten it from. She pulled some of her own hair forward and stared at it. It was blonde, and slightly curly; only the ends of her hair chose to curl. But Loulou's brown hair was a mess of curls. When she grew up, if someone could manage to tame her hair, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that she would steal some lucky fellow's heart.

Before she could contemplate further on the subject, André's voice broke into her thoughts, startling her.

"Well, well, well," he said smugly. "And I thought you had work to do."

"I've only been here for five minutes," she practically snapped as she turned around. He was carrying a glass of juice and a couple of slices of toasted bread. "Why in the world would you want to eat in here, André? That's a little unsanitary, isn't it?"

He rolled his eyes and set the tray on Loulou's nightstand. "It's not for me," he told her, resisting the urge to add some kind of insult to the end of that sentence. "It's for when she wakes up."

Which, apparently, was that very moment. Oscar had a feeling it was André's fault that her niece awoke. The little girl absolutely adored the dark-haired stableman, and she blinked at him with wide eyes before she sat bolt upright.

"André!" Her hands reached out for him, and with a lot of hesitation, he leaned over and let her attempt to squeeze the life out of him. "You look very handsome today," she said in a sleepy, but very matter-of-fact voice.

Now that, Oscar knew she had gotten from her mother. Or at least, her mother's side of the family.

André flushed in embarrassment and pulled away. "Are you hungry?"

She nodded excitedly and eagerly grabbed up the little tray he had prepared for her.

"I think you taught her your bad eating habits," Oscar observed.

Loulou looked up and managed to say Oscar's name around a mouthful of toasted breadcrumbs and a gulp of juice before she looked back at André. "Tell me a story!" she demanded.

Well, her cheeks were flushed with fever and…well, who could tell her no? Certainly not André! Especially when Oscar nudged him firmly in the side.

"Yes, André, tell her a story."

That…gr. That woman. She was enjoying this, was she? Well…fine. Two could play at that game.

"Well, since it's Christmas Eve," he said, settling down on the edge of Loulou's bed to make himself more comfortable, "how about I tell you all about good ol' Saint Nicholas?"

The little girl nodded in excitement, practically bouncing in her bed. She sneezed loudly and reached for the handkerchief placed carefully next to her. "Yes, please, André," she said.

"Well, at the North Pole…"

Oscar sighed. Not that story…not again… She didn't really care for it at all, but…oh well. Little kids seemed to like it. Loulou seemed to like it. So she would endure it for her sake.

Half an hour later, André was still rambling on about fat guys in red suits with beards who slid down chimneys and…ugh. She was hardly able to keep her eyes open. She almost wanted to shake André and demand that he stop, but her niece was soaking up all that he said like a sponge.

When the story was finally over, André grinned wickedly at Oscar—her bored expression was his revenge for having to tell a story—and gave Loulou an exaggerated bow. "If you ladies," he said, making quotation marks with his hands around ladies, "will excuse me…"

The blonde colonel stuck her boot out in an attempt to trip her friend, but her efforts failed, and he escaped the room, leaving her alone.

"Oscar," Loulou said, her eyes still wide as she snuggled down under her blankets. "If I sleep, an' I'm good, then Santa will bring me gifts, really?"

"Only if you're good," she replied. Well, she hated lying, and she hated lying to kids, but…Loulou believed anyway, and…heck, if it would make her behave herself…

"I'll be good," the little girl insisted. "I'll be real—" Another sneeze interrupted her words and Oscar passed her a clean handkerchief. "I wish André would come back," she muttered. "Maybe he could tell me more about Santa."

Oscar wasn't really paying much attention. The snow outside was far more fascinating than anything inside the house, at the moment. Well, to her sleepy, wine-induced brain, anyway. She didn't even realize that Loulou was saying anything until the little girl spoke again, her voice quiet and thoughtful.

"I'm going to marry André someday, okay Oscar?"

The colonel blinked and whipped her head around to see her niece grinning tiredly, her cheeks flushed from fever, the tip of her little nose all red from blowing it. "You look like Rudolph," she murmured.

"Rudolph? Who is that?"

"It's just a story," Oscar told her. "About one of Santa's reindeer. He had a red nose, you see, and none of the other reindeer liked him because he was different. But on one Christmas Eve night, the sky was so foggy that none of the regular reindeer could see the rooftops that they had to land on so that Santa could deliver presents."

"But Rudolph could?" Her eyes were wide.

"His red nose glowed brighter than a candle," Oscar told her, tweaking Loulou's nose. "So of course he could."

Suddenly, a noise in the doorway made her turn her head. There, standing in the doorway, was Santa Claus.

Oscar's first reaction was to reach for her sword—which, of course, she did not have—to skewer the intruder. But then she realized, duh, it was André.

Loulou's squeal of excitement made her wish that she had more wine in her system. She glared at her childhood friend and his quickly put together costume, but all he could do was grin sheepishly.

xOx…

André couldn't help himself. Really, it was too funny seeing Oscar reach for a sword that wasn't there. Later he would have to chide her for making a half-hearted attempt to kill Santa Claus. His costume consisted of a few pillows, a quickly thrown together outfit, a white wig and a white beard. It all kind of itched.

But Loulou was happy, and Oscar looked like she wanted to kill herself. It was all worth it.

"Ho ho ho," he managed to say in a voice that hardly sounded like his at all. Oscar rolled her eyes, but Loulou's grew wide with anticipation.

"Santa!" she shouted out.

"Why, yes, little Loulou!" he answered, taking a spot on the edge of her bed. "I heard that you were sick and I thought that I would come to visit one of my favorite children! And when I get here, what do I see?" He picked up a breadcrumb off of the bed and tossed it onto the floor before he patted her on the head. "Breadcrumbs in her sheets and her hair's all tangled up!"

"What about Oscar?" the little girl whined good-naturedly. "Her hair is tangled more!"

"Ah, yes," he said, turning slightly to grin deviously at his blonde friend.

She glared at him.

"Oscar's been a naughty girl this year—" That got him a swift kick in the shin from Oscar. "And if she doesn't straighten up, Santa won't be able to leave her any presents." He pretended to look very, very sad, and Loulou looked pleadingly at her aunt.

"You have to be good," she insisted.

Oscar reached out a hand discreetly and pinched André's leg, hard. "Oh, I'll be good," she answered innocently.

He flinched, but covered it nicely so that Loulou didn't notice. "Now let's see what we can do about your hair," he chuckled, pulling out a beautiful, brand-new hair ribbon.

Loulou gasped excitedly, "For me?"

"Only if you sit still while I brush out all of these knots!" he told her, and she nodded seriously, reminding André of Oscar when he had first met her.

He took out a brush—which, Oscar would remind him later, was hers, and dammit, why had he been in her room anyway?—and began to work his way through the little girl's hair.

She whined a little bit, which…Oscar was actually impressed by. She remembered when she was younger and Nanny would insist on untangling her hair. She shuddered to remember how the older woman had pulled at it. It always felt like her scalp was being ripped from her head! She would always shove and push and shout and run away if at all possible, much to Nanny's dismay and her father's annoyance.

Well, Loulou was doing rather nicely, she thought. Fifteen minutes later, and the little girl's hair was tied back in a lovely pink ribbon.

"That looks much, much better," André—er, Santa—said.

"Thank you! Now, do her." She pointed right at Oscar.

Dammit, she was tired and…ugh. She didn't want to put up with this. André could tell just by looking at her.

He grinned as he took the hairbrush and slid off of the bed to stand behind her.

"I hate you," she whispered under her breath when he leaned forward to pull all of her hair behind her shoulders.

"No you don't," he whispered back cheerfully, happy for an excuse to run his hands through her hair, even though the excuse was terribly innocent. At least Oscar wouldn't attempt to break his arm in front of her niece.

He grinned and started to whistle Adeste Fideles absently as he ran the brush through Oscar's blonde hair. It was rather tangled, too. Loulou wasn't kidding!

Though she stood up straight and stiff in her chair at first, after five minutes or so, she started to relax, and there was absolutely no way that he was going to stop. She looked about ready to fall asleep…and hey, he had never known she might like the feeling of someone else brushing her hair.

He grinned and, after ten more minutes, stopped.

She blinked confusedly, almost like she had fallen asleep—though she hadn't—and twisted her neck around to stare at him. "Are you done, yet?"

"Oscar!" Loulou admonished. "You should be nice to Santa or you won't get any presents!"

"Yeah," André said, bending over slightly to whisper in her ear. "Be nice to Santa." Then, louder, as he straightened up, "Sorry, Oscar dear, I don't have a ribbon for your hair."

She bit her tongue to keep from saying something terribly rude, and in front of her little niece, no less!

"Now, Loulou," he continued, "are you going to behave yourself tonight?"

She nodded enthusiastically, but her eyelids were starting to droop slightly. For that matter, Oscar's were, too. "I promise," she said.

"That's a good girl." He turned to Oscar, "What about you?"

She contemplated strangling him, or at least punching him in the face—preferably right in the mouth—because that big grin of his was annoying her, but she only sighed and agreed with a barely audible, "Yes."

He winked at her, and she had to tell herself that she couldn't kill him. Well, not in front of Loulou, anyway.

"Merry Christmas, girls," he said cheerfully, and with that, he was gone.

Oscar wanted to stab herself.

Loulou grinned. "Oscar," she said. "Would you lay down with me? Just 'til I fall asleep…"

Honestly, the colonel wanted to retire to her room to sleep for the next twenty-four hours, but her niece looked so sweet and…ugh, she just couldn't say no.

So she climbed into her niece's bed and leaned against the pillows. She wouldn't be there long, she told herself, so she didn't bother to take off her shoes.

Not even five minutes later, though, she was fast asleep.

André eventually came back, and he smiled at Loulou, who was still half-awake and sitting up in bed watching her aunt sleep. "What did I miss?" he asked her, touching the little girl's neatly brushed hair. "Your hair looks nice."

She only giggled at him and blinked before her gaze hardened. She had to have gotten that from her mother's side of the family, André thought. "Thank you, André Claus," she said, giggling again.

His eyes opened wide. "Aww, you knew it was me?" he asked, crinkling his nose slightly and scratching at his chin.

"I saw your ponytail," she grinned, climbing half out of bed to pull on it. "It was sticking out of all of your white hair!"

"Now, now," he teased, pushing her back to settle under the blankets. "You had fun, didn't you?"

She nodded. "Yes."

"But you never told Santa what you wanted for Christmas."

She crinkled her nose and looked over at her sleeping aunt and then back to him. "I want to marry André," she said seriously, but he could tell that she was trying not to laugh.

"Isn't André too old for little Loulou?" he asked.

"Well, I don't care. He's very handsome." She batted her eyelashes at him, and he wondered where in the world she had learned that. Definitely not from Oscar, that was for certain!

He chuckled a little and looked down at his childhood friend who was fast asleep. Her cheeks were flushed and he noticed her shiver a little bit. "I think you got your aunt sick," he told the little girl who was working on wriggling under her blankets.

"Aww," she said sadly, hugging Oscar's arm to her.

Oscar didn't move.

André grinned and went to find a blanket from the shelf in the closet. He returned with one and draped it over the blonde. She still didn't move. Well, it was no wonder, he thought. Ever since the bar fight a few weeks back, she had been very busy catching up on paperwork and other things, and she had worked herself almost to the point of exhaustion…

And, he thought as he tucked the blanket around her shoulders, she had also been drinking.

So she was tired, had a fever, and was a bit tipsy. That explained everything.

He sighed lightly and touched her cheek. It was burning hot, as expected.

Loulou's sleepy voice floated to him, and he turned to see her blinking at him with concern in her eyes, "Will she be okay?"

"She'll be fine," he answered, but he really didn't know. After all, he thought, gazing back at her, life had not been kind to her. But, he surmised, it could be a lot worse. She wasn't doing too bad, all things considered. "You'd best get some sleep," he said after a moment, but when he turned back to Loulou, she was already asleep.

He smiled slightly and took a seat in the chair next to the bed, noticing that Oscar still wore her shoes. With an almost devious smirk, he carefully worked them off of her feet, avoiding being kicked in the chest when he accidentally tickled the bottom of her right foot.

However, when he tickled the bottom of her other foot, it was no accident. Sleeping Oscar didn't know that though, and she tried in vain to kick at him again, twitching slightly as she attempted to turn onto her side and away from whatever it was that was invading her personal space.

He set her shoes on the floor and leaned over her to look at her face. She really was pretty, he thought, smoothing back her bangs before he could help himself. It was too bad she didn't realize it.

He looked at Oscar's sleeping niece and grinned at the way the little girl was curled into Oscar's side, her face pressed partially against her aunt's chest, her hand fisted into her silk shirt.

If it wasn't for Loulou's hair and eyes, he might have thought the two were mother and daughter. He sighed a little. Oscar would make a great mother, wouldn't she? Well, if she wasn't so stressed out all of the time… He could almost imagine her holding a little, dark-haired infant. No, wait, maybe one with blonde hair, like hers…

He felt so silly, but he couldn't help himself. He had always wanted children… And he loved Oscar…

It was only natural for him to think along those lines, wasn't it? He smiled sheepishly and reached down for a tiny bag that "Santa Claus" had left earlier. Inside, he found a medium-sized wrapped present and tucked it into Loulou's arms. The only other one inside was a small one, and that was for Oscar. From "Santa", of course. He gently pried her fingers open and wrapped them around the object.

She squeezed it in her sleep, almost experimentally, and finding it acceptable, he supposed, raised it almost to her face.

He chuckled a little, wondering what her reaction would be when she found it. It had taken him a long time to decide what to get her besides the usual piano or violin scores, or even more books. But a few days earlier, he had noticed that she had been using the same old hairbrush that she had had since she was just a kid. So he had found her a nice one that took quite a bit of money to buy.

It was worth it. Definitely.

He leaned back to watch aunt and niece sleep for just a little longer. His mind wandered immediately back to Oscar as a mother as he felt his eyelids droop slightly. No, if they had children, it would probably be best for them to look like her, not like hi—

A powerful sneeze ripped from him, and he sighed, reaching in his pocked for a clean handkerchief. Damn. Now, not only was Loulou sick, but Oscar was sick, and now he was, too.


xOx…

Author Notes:

Oh, man. I'm so disappointed with this. I was hoping it would turn out better. At first I thought it would be easy to write, but Santa Claus annoys me, haha, so it was harder to write than I expected. Adeste Fideles is "O Come All Ye Faithful". That is its Latin name.

This story was impossible. So it was just for fun. "Santa Claus" is really Père Noël (Father Christmas) in France, and he leaves children gifts in their shoes. He also rides a donkey, named Gui (French for "Mistletoe"). Rudolph wasn't invented until 1939, a story written by Robert L. May.

I hope it wasn't too bad, though. I'll have to write something better to make up for it another time. Thanks for reading and please leave feedback if you have the time.

Edited: Thanks for Eternitat for pointing out that "Hortense" is actually Loulou's mother, not Anne Marie. I haven't gotten the chance to read through the entire Gaiden yet.