Disclaimer: The world of the hunchback belongs primarily to Victor Hugo and his novel, published in 1831. Other rights go to Disney, who created some of the scenes I used in this piece.
Author's Note: The final chapter, which is really just an epilogue. This part is pure fluff – the hearts-and-flowers, happily-ever-after cheesy epilogue that I have never written. I wasn't sure if I would include it here, but it was part of the video, and it ended up being fun to construct beyond the world that Disney and Hugo can offer. I hope you have enjoyed my little tale. Happy reading!
1483, One Year Later
The midwife ducked under the low mantle of the door to their bedroom. Frollo, pacing nervously outside, started forward. "Not yet, Doctor," she chided him, holding up a hand. "We need more hot water."
He grabbed the bucket from the window and hurried to the town well, earnestly entreating God to ensure Esmeralda's safety. He had only ever seen healthy babies – usually with their joyous mothers – at christenings. Even Quasimodo had arrived at the church already somewhere between six and nine months old – ugly, but sturdy. Had he known what actually giving birth would entail, he never would have risked her life on it.
In his hurry back to the cottage, he held the bucket very level, preparing to pour it into the cauldron over the fire outside—
As he approached his small house, he heard fresh cries. He dropped the bucket, water flooding the earth and swiftly cutting a tiny stream back down towards the well as he tore into the bedroom. Merciful Father, let her be all right…
"Claude!" She was smiling radiantly, the smile that always made his heart pound in anticipation, ignoring the midwife's scolding as the young assistant expertly swathed a bundle.
"You are well," he sighed in visible relief, taking the midwife's stool at his wife's bed without a second thought and seizing the hand that lay on the coverlet.
"I am. Tired – but – Claude…look!" The young woman was leaning over Esmeralda, and she reached eagerly for the cloth.
Swaddled inside the cloth was a tiny person, hair black as pitch, squinting eyes blue like the morning sky.
"Your son," she said, and her grin broadened as she took in the enchanted look on her husband's face.
"So small," he breathed, hesitantly sticking a finger over the red cheek to stroke his son's skin. "So soft."
"Congratulations, Doctor. Madame Frollo," the midwife said, giving up on her attempts to push Frollo away from the bed.
"Thank you. What should we name him?" Esmeralda asked.
"Shall we name him for your father?" Frollo returned thoughtfully.
"I never knew my father," she admitted, her mouth twisting wryly. He blinked at her in faint astonishment. She hadn't? They had been married for a year, and still he felt as if sometimes he knew nothing about her.
"I have a brother, Jehan. He will probably never meet our son…" he suggested slowly. As far as he knew, Jehan was pursuing his course of study at the university. His younger brother had made it clear years ago that he had no interest in the priesthood, and Frollo had encouraged him in his own path. He had not spoken to his brother since long before his exile – since before he met Esmeralda.
"Jehan," she rolled the word around in her mouth, and nodded. "Jehan."
As if in response to his name, little Jehan opened his mouth and began to wail. Frollo snatched his fingers away from the petal-soft cheek. "I have hurt him. He doesn't like me," the new father said nervously.
"Claude," she stilled his frantic worries with a look, "he's hungry." And she freed a breast to feed him, his suckling mouth eagerly burrowing into her as Frollo hovered over them both.
1487, Five Years Later
"Can't catch me!"
The low stool bowled over as Jehan launched himself through the house, upsetting the chickens that had clustered around the hearth in their ever-questing search for food. They scattered in a whirlwind of "bk-awks!" and feathers, settling just in time for pudgy Clopin, age two, to toddle through them and send them careening again.
"Jehan Frollo!" His mother's sharp voice reached his ears, and the four-year-old screeched to a halt as his father appeared in the door, tall, gaunt frame blocking his son's exit.
"You let the chickens in again by leaving the door open," Esmeralda reprimanded. "Now who's going to get them back—"
"Got'cha!" Stalled by his father's legs, Jehan was stationary long enough for his brother to seize him round the middle.
"—out?" Esmeralda finished dryly.
"Clopin came in last," Jehan announced, shoving his younger sibling off him. "It's his fault."
"Who's the elder?" Frollo asked in his deep voice. "Who is more responsible?"
"Papaaaaaaa!" Jehan wailed.
"Come! I will help you take out the chickens, and then we can go fishing."
Esmeralda could not help the smile that blossomed on her face as their son accepted this proposal with enthusiasm, chasing after the chickens to hurry them out the door, never noticing that his father's 'help' consisted of stepping aside to allow the fowl out.
"Fishing?" she asked. Theirs was an ocean-side village – not the first place of his exile, but a town of their own choosing – and ocean fishing was its primary industry. "Claude…that's a bit risky."
"Not in the ocean, my love. I'll take him to the river," he told her, wrapping a long arm around her waist and pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I don't dare try the ocean. The best fishermen here are half-fish themselves."
The former priest had learned a number of tricks and trades after their exile, fishing amongst them, to blend them in. Esmeralda's skills of cooking, spinning and stitching had proven a great deal more useful here than Frollo's ability to read and script French and Latin, or the in-depth knowledge of the sciences he had gained in his studies as a young man.
"Be careful. He doesn't swim yet," she cautioned.
"Always. Jehan! Are the chickens gone?"
"Yes, Papa!" the four-year-old reappeared, the blue eyes he had inherited from his sire sparkling in the tanned face that got darker with every passing year, evidence of his mother's ethnicity.
"Then we will be home with supper at the end of the afternoon." He made to kiss her forehead again but allowed her to catch his head and bring it down farther for a proper kiss. A lifetime of repression had permanently branded shyness on his soul, and he seldom kissed her with passion outside their bedroom. Sometimes, he had to admit it was more satisfying to let her win.
"Ewwww," Jehan pronounced his opinion, nose screwed up in the time-honored disgust children bestow on their parents. "Can we go?"
"Go on, you rascal," his mother said, her mouth curving delightedly. "Back by sundown!" she called.
1492, Ten Years Later
The hunchback made his way sideways into the house, the breadth of his hunched shoulders a hair too wide for their door.
He shook the snow off his cloak as Jehan took it from him and hung it. "My thanks."
"It's good of you to come, Uncle!"
Quasimodo grinned. His adoptive father had given him many gifts in his life, but none could compare with this: the love of two boys and a little girl who had grown up with his deformity, and so saw the caretaker, their uncle, a man they loved, not the monster others gave wide berth.
"Not come on Christmas? I was raised in a church, you know," he lowered his voice impressively. "The Archdeacon was a very strict man who made sure we kept all the holy days."
"Really?" Clopin asked, all wide eyes and attentive ears.
"Papa was the Archdeacon, bête," Jehan rolled his eyes.
"Don't call me 'bête', imbécile!" Clopin snapped immediately.
"No one here is bête or an imbécile," Frollo's voice interrupted. "You should have better language in front of guests. What nonsense are you telling them now, my son?" he asked as he strode in to shake his fosterling's hand.
"Just that the Archdeacon of my youth was always very…firm…about our holy days."
"Hmmm. He should have been. Esmeralda! Quasimodo has arrived!"
"I heard! But if I don't watch this milk, it'll curdle—"
"Quasi!" Little Rosa flung herself at the deformed man, large green eyes adoring. "Horsie please?"
"He just got here, Rosa—" Frollo tried to prize his daughter off, but Quasimodo lifted a hand.
"It's fine, Father. I believe I have enough energy to give one very small four-year-old a ride."
"Me, me!" Rosa clapped eagerly.
When Christmas dinner was over and pudding eaten, Esmeralda passed the children's bedroom while Quasimodo was telling them a story. His gift with words had proven as versatile as his talent for carving, and she paused to listen, noting how all three of her children sat upright and attentive in their bed as he spoke.
"…the middle of the night, there was a terrible pounding on his door." Quasimodo beat his fist against the wooden bedstead, making Clopin jump and Rosa cuddle closer to Jehan. "So the Archdeacon hurried and threw it open to find a messenger there, bearing terrible news. The gypsy he loved was to be burned as a witch!" On cue, her children gasped, and she felt long fingers steal around her waist.
"What tale has he chosen tonight?" her husband's voice murmured low in her ear. She relaxed against his chest. Even after all these years, she could still melt into that sound.
"Listen," she whispered.
"What did he do?" the impatient Clopin asked.
"He rescued her, of course," Jehan answered quickly. "Right? He went to save her from the evil Captain Phoebus?"
"'Evil Captain Phoebus'?" Frollo murmured.
"He has to be the evil one. You're the good guy," she replied sotto-voce.
"Yes," Quasimodo continued dramatically. "He jumped on his horse and raced away to Paris, which was a five-day ride from his village, but God and love helped him, so he made it in one."
"I seem to recall three, and two terrifying nights," Frollo edited from behind her.
"Shhh. A little myth never hurt a story."
"And when they got there, to the cavern of the Cour des Miracles, they found the gypsies ready to storm the Palace of Justice. So they marched through Paris, with the Archdeacon right at the front!"
"He remembers this very differently than I do," Frollo muttered with an indulgent smile, drawing her away from the door. "Let him finish making us into heroes for our children without us."
"What would you rather do?" she asked flirtatiously as he guided her into their room and closed the door.
"As if you didn't know," he breathed, lowering his mouth to her neck.
Later, when she had moved to climax atop him and they were curled together, her dark arm splayed across his pale chest, he brushed her temple with his mouth, mentally replaying Quasimodo's sensationalized family history.
"Do you ever wish it could have been different? That we might have stayed in Paris, for instance?" he asked her.
"Never," she replied quietly, lifting her head to study his face in the moonlight. "In Paris, you were the Archdeacon and I the gypsy of Quasimodo's tale. Now we have three beautiful children, and if I no longer dance for my living, I have traded that for the only thing I ever wanted from the instant I laid eyes on you."
"Oh?" he raised his eyebrows. "And that was…?"
She laughed. "Your love, you impossible man."
"Ah." He ran a hand down her side and rolled her onto her back, leaning over her, the intensity of worship glittering in his blue eyes.
He lowered his head to murmur into her mouth. "You have that, my beloved."
A/N: And that's the end. I hope this proved an enjoyable read to everyone who made it this far. Thank you and please let me know what you thought!