Title : All The Little Children
Genre: Warm fuzzies and kitten bellies
Synopsis - Every urchin has to attach him/herself to someone and the students are very convenient someones for them. Now, seriously...the relationship between the students and the children is 100% totally innocently honest. There will be no suggestive things in here...and if I get any kind of smutty feedback, I will not only report you (to who...I don't know but I'll tell someone) but I'll never talk to you again.
I don't own the Les Mis characters, I own all the urchins except for Gavroche.
It had been a shock to the students, all of whom had been used to the finer side of life. Their homes were plush and they'd been to good schools. Some had grown up in Paris and continued their university there, others had come in from other towns and cities to attend school but they had boarded in presentable lodgings. They had been fairly young during the revolution but as their political hunger grew and they began to see that nothing had exactly been taken care of, plans were made to change the world. The first words that were taken seriously were the ones of a law student, Sylvain Enjolras. Only ever called by his last name, he became more and more passionate about the cause as the days went on and eventually, nobody could talk to him about anything else. It wasn't like his heart was hardened to stone, there were still many human qualities to him but the charm he could turn on and off was used to get people, not win a lady. People wondered about him but the men on campus vouched that he didn't run in either circle.
When it was no longer safe to meet on campus, it was Bahorel who found the cafe for them to meet at. The other students weren't very enthusiastic to go there but everyone agreed that it is the last place anyone would think to look for a bunch of conspiring rich boys. The owner of the cafe paid little attention to what went on upstairs. He just served his patrons downstairs and 'knew nothing' when anyone asked. To keep the traffic to and from the upstairs at a minimum, he offered the rooms upstairs from when the place had once been a rooming house. The rooms had fallen into disrepair and he wasn't going to keep them up. They looked more like cement cells. No glamour or paint and along one wall was a trough that drained to the outside so that you could just "slop" the floor clean every now and again but the students moved a few beds in there, assigned the dirtiest, coldest most un-useable room for washing themselves and their clothes. A few of them had managed to earn banishment from their families based upon their views and mission and then there was people like Grantaire, who embarrassed his family to no end just in the way he behaved and those ones often didn't go home.
While the students went there to emphasize their point and live in amongst the abaisses, they hadn't experienced the life in the slums of Sainte Michel and the main thing they noticed was the number of children everywhere. Seemingly parentless, they spent their days stealing to eat or charming people out of their money. The students got to know a few of them by name and sometimes played with them when they got bored. As the students would approach the cafe, the children would come running. At first they were asking for money but the students learned, one by one to not give out money. A few brought sweets, some brought fruit but mostly the kids just wanted acknowledgment. A kind word, ruffle of hair, someone to show interest in them for just a few moments of their day.
As it happens with waifs, they pick favourites. Combeferre's 'child' was a little girl who had a flower for him every day. First he would take the flower and put it in his button hole and give her a coin. One day his hands were very full of books so he got down on one knee in his rich-boy trousers on the filthy sidewalk so she could put the flower in and then she gave him a kiss on the cheek. That became the standard after that and he just called her Fleur.
Feuilly had a set of twin boys, both, for some reason named Rene, so Feuilly just called them 'Un' and 'Deux'. But if they were dressed the same he couldn't tell them apart. They always ran to him, one carried his books up the sidewalk to the cafe and the other sat him on a pile of stones outside the cafe door and brush the dust off of the man's boots before he went inside.
Conspicuous by his absence, Courfeyrac didn't see his waif - Gavroche for a few days. The little boy had captured his heart with his sheer innocent beauty. He begged and stole...he had to in order to survive but he didn't have to work hard at it. He had a beautiful face and people handed things over to him. On the third day, Courfeyrac grew a bit worried. Children vanished and died there often. Sometimes they returned, they had been ill, other times they were actually on jobs honest or dishonest, it was all the same. As long as it brought in cash. Coming to the cafe on the fourth day, hoping to see Gavroche, he was disturbed that he was still nowhere to be found. "Combeferre." he said to his colleague. "Has your friend seen Gavroche?"
"Oui." She said. "He's still in the elephant, he's very sick."
"Sick?" Combeferre asked. "What's wrong with him?" he continued.
"Are you a doctor?" the little girl asked.
"Not yet...but maybe I can help, bring him here." he sent her on her errand. Awhile later she came back with the news that he wouldn't come. He couldn't get up.
"Well, we sure as hell can't climb into the elephant!" Courfeyrac said.
"Sure you can, it's easy." the little girl said. "He's just right inside..." she held her hand out and Courfeyrac followed her.
"I thought he said he lived at the top."
"He couldn't climb." she explained and while he had to duck, Courfeyrac was surprised to see that he could fit.
"Gavroche?" he said, shaking the little heap of blue fabric on the blanket, getting a bit of a whimper for an answer. "Gav, it's me."
"I'm sick." he whined.
"Come on, Souris." he said, using his nickname of 'Mouse' for him. "Just come out a bit and I'll carry you to the cafe." he tugged on Gavroche's leg, jumping when the little boy cried out. "I'm sorry, Bebe..." Courfeyrac jumped. "...that hurts you there?" he asked and Gavroche cried and nodded. "I have a friend who can look at it. Combeferre...you know who he is, right?" he pulled Gavroche's pant leg up and saw the red streaks of infection starting beneath his boot and running up his leg. "Oooh, we gotta' get you over there, did you step on something?" he asked him, trying to distract him with talk while he got him moving out of the elephant until he could stand up properly and carry him.
Combeferre had already gone inside and sat at one of the scabby tables upstairs, his book open in front of him while Enjolras harangued them all once again about what was to come. He was halfways paying attention to Enjolras, studying his texts - but when Courfeyrac came in carrying Gavroche, all stopped. Enjolras stopped preaching, Combeferre stopped studying and Grantaire ALMOST stopped drinking.
"His foot." Courfeyrac said. "It's poisoning him." he said.
"Go heat water and bring it in a bowl." Combeferre told him.
"Here." Enjolras said, holding his arms out, taking Gavroche, abandoning his evening project. The kids were everything to those guys and while they didn't often come into the cafe, when one was sick or scared, it was the first place they headed. Gavroche's head dropped back into the crook of Enjolras' elbow and he groaned out a whine. "You feel sick too?" he asked him, rubbing his tummy and resting his cheek on Gavroche's forehead to feel his temperature while Combeferre took his filthy boot off. Gavroche nodded. He opened his eyes slightly, they were glassy and his face was red. Someone handed Enjolras a cool towel.
Combeferre swore under his breath when he looked at the state of Gavroche's bare foot. "How long ago did you do this?" he asked and Gavroche just shrugged. "We haven't seen you for three days, was it before that?" he asked, waiting for an answer but all Gavroche could do was whimper and whisper things that didn't make sense.
Finally Courfeyrac came back in with a wooden bowl of hot water. "You let it boil..." Combeferre said. "I said heat, not boil." he spooned a bit into a cup then grabbed the bottle out of Grantaire's hands and dumped some wine into the hot water, setting it aside to cool, then blowing on the rest of the water to try to cool it a bit. Every now and again he felt it with his hand as they tried to talk to Gavroche.
"Just give us a bit more time." Enjolras said to the group of children who had gathered at the top of the stairway, peeking into the cafe. "You can come visit him later." he promised.
"Okay..." Combeferre said, handing the cup of warmed wine over to Courfeyrac. "...give him some of this and keep talking to him." he told him. "Enjolras..." he said.
"Huh?" Enjolras asked.
"He's not a prisoner, you don't need to hold him that tightly." Combeferre said and held the bowl up to Gavroche's foot, asking some of the other guys to hold Gavroche's legs so that he didn't kick.
While the streets made Gavroche wise, he was still a little boy. A sick little boy with an infected leg and a lot of pain. "Sh-sh-sh..." Enjolras whispered and held him as he protested the hot water on his foot. He knew it had to be done but it still hurt. Combeferre worked on his foot for as long as he could, trying to squeeze infection out and others held cold towels to Gavroche's face. "He's so hot." Enjolras said.
"He can't go back there for awhile, he needs to be watched." Combeferre said. "I'll stay with him the night and bring some more medicine tomorrow."
"No." Courfeyrac said quickly. "I'll sit with him." he waited until Combeferre wrapped Gavroche's foot and then he picked him up out of Enjolras' arms. He had to study a lot and he may as well sit up at the table nursing a sick child than go back to his apartment. It wasn't late anyway but Gavroche was not going to be going anywhere until the next day at the earliest.
"'Ferre..." Enjolras said when he got up and turned to face the stairs coming up from the street. Peeking around the corner was Combeferre's flower girl. "Gavroche is staying here for the night." he explained.
"I'm sick too." she said. "My leg is sore too." They could see all the way down the stairwell was a line of waifs all lined up to see 'the doctor' with imaginary illnesses. In all honesty, none of them probably felt great but a lot of the things they may have had were things they'd learned to live with. It was to be sure they all had infections and bad stomachs at some point but the severity of Gavroche's infection was a different story.
"Mon Fleur." Combeferre smiled and went over to her. "Let me see, where do you hurt?" he asked. "Ah..." he looked at a splinter in her finger. He had another year to go before he could even begin to apprentice but he was better than nothing and definitely better than anyone else down there. The splinter was easily picked out just with his fingernails. "Gavroche is really sick...no, he's not going to die." he told them all...though he'd look pretty foolish if worse came to worst. "But we need you to stay away okay? He needs rest."
The cafe was more quiet than usual that afternoon and evening. Generally, any of the students who DO go back to their apartments head out at dusk so they're not walking home in the dark. If they were there after dark, that meant they were going to be staying the night. With the exception of the patrons on the main floor, the only ones in the cafe were Enjolras, Grantaire and Courfeyrac with Gavroche in his arms. Combeferre didn't want to leave but he would have to pick up some rinses and bandages.
"I think there is a bed that's empty..." Enjolras told Courfeyrac "...after I get rid of this one." he bent to pick Grantaire's head off the table and slapped his cheeks a bit. He took one of the towels out of the bowl of water and slopped Grantaire's face and chest with it...that woke him up. Enjolras slid his hands under Grantaire's armpits and pulled him to his feet. He walked Grantaire to one of the rooms. He was awake just enough to walk on his own power and fall face first on the bed. On his way back to the common room, Enjolras stopped and took off his shirt, filling a basin and grabbing some soap, washing his shirt and hanging it on a rope hung from wall to wall so at least it was clean for school the next day.
When he went back out in the common room, Courfeyrac sat, rocking Gavroche, both of them had their eyes closed. "You're not going to sit up with him all night are you?" he asked.
"Is there an empty bed?" Courfeyrac asked.
"A couple, I think, I don't think anyone stayed. If you want to go home, I'm staying." he pointed out the fact that he had to wait for his shirt to dry. He went over and took Gavroche out of his arms.
"I don't want to go home." Gavroche murmured into Enjolras' shoulder.
"That's the most life he has shown since he got in here." Courfeyrac said, standing up and rubbing Gavroche's head. "You can't go home anyway, Gav." he promised. "I'm just going to go make him up a bed." he disappeared into the side rooms. The snoring Grantaire was doing made it obvious which room he was in so Courfeyrac rounded some blankets off of the other beds and rolled one up for a pillow being as Grantaire had all of them under his head. "Okay, in here." he said and Enjolras carried Gavroche in and laid him on the bed while Courfeyrac brought in the basin of cold water and towel. "I'm going to wash his clothes out." he said and took Gavroche's clothes off. "Probably the first time that has happened." he grinned and while he went to the wash room, swirling the clothes in soapy water then rinsing them and hanging them on the rope next to Enjolras' shirt, Enjolras gave him a cool sponge bath then tucked him in for the night.
After they let him settle for a bit in the dark, Courfeyrac, who had settled back at the table to study a bit more began to fall asleep. He lay his head on the table - Grantaire style for awhile but his shoulders and neck got sore...as he wasn't as relaxed as Grantaire was when he fell asleep. He picked up his chair and carried it to Gavroche's room. Enjolras was in a chair with his feet up on the bed, sleeping restlessly so Courfeyrac roused him and sent him to another bed then took his shift.
"I feel sick." Gavroche whined and Courfeyrac brought a basin over for him. The fever was going down but he would still be a bit more at ease when Combeferre came back the next morning. He sat awhile on the bed with Gavroche in his arms, carried him around the cafe for awhile, even took him outside in the cool air so he would feel better. He dozed off awhile more once Gav went to bed but he was glad when he heard Grantaire start to stagger around, moaning a bit about his head.
"Still sick?" he asked.
"He has an infection, 'Taire, it won't go away in a night." Courfeyrac yawned. "Can you take care of him for awhile?" he asked and Grantaire nodded. It was early enough in the morning that he could trust Grantaire wouldn't be too drunk by the time Combeferre got back with the medicine. Courfeyrac stumbled down the hall, so tired he was dizzy and went into the room Grantaire had slept in, falling onto the bed, resting his arm across his eyes and falling fast asleep.
Combeferre came in very early that morning. He didn't bother with his school books, he wouldn't be going to school that day. He was actually very taken with the sight of Grantaire sitting at the table, holding Gavroche in his arms, spooning a bit of warmed wine into his mouth. "It just felt like the thing to do." he said, looking up and seeing the medical student come into the room.
"Sure." Combeferre went over there and felt Gavroche's forehead then unwrapping his foot and warming up some more water. He had brought one of his own shirts and put it on Gavroche. Without trousers on, it was easier access to look up his leg and see the infection streaks and it was easier to sponge him down. He sighed as he sat down at the table. "You know, it probably wouldn't hurt to just wash these kids' hands and feet every day. Let them take their boots off for a bit..." he thought about it.
Combeferre's parents had visions of him setting up a clinic. His name on a shingle above the door. Dr. Combeferre. There would be time for that...but there was no harm in getting some practical in while he was studying.
In three days, Gavroche was walking around, dressed and radiant again. In spite of him protesting leaving the cafe all the time, he was anxious to get out in the daylight with his friends.
"Okay but I come here every day." Combeferre said. "I want you to bring the other kids here every evening." he pointed to one of the empty rooms where he had brought more soap. "Before you go to bed, we're going to look at your hands and feet, you see how easy it is to get very sick." he pointed out and Gavroche nodded.
From that day on, for an hour in the evening, the staircase was lined with children all waiting at the doctor's door.