The cafe has been sold...but to who? Where will the meetings happen now? This is the formation of the Les Mis 'family'. It helps to read my "All The Little Children" story but if you don't want to, there are some brief re-caps here too.
I can't guarantee how often they'll have new adventures. The other Amis will have cameo appearances but I've just assigned a few of them to be key characters. Some of the first names will look familiar as I'm just using French versions of some of the actors' names who played the characters. Some have no translation so I've picked other names.
Les Petit Amis
Feathering the Nest
Stricken with fever that resulted in a series of strokes, the owner of the Musain was unable to continue to run it. Enjolras felt the blood drain from his face when he heard that it was up for sale. Oh, between all of the Amis, they could afford to meet in any number of places away from Sainte Michel and in the beginning, had it been up to him they would. While Enjolras' fight was FOR the people, he was the one who took longest to adapt to the living conditions down there. He was used to it now but the stench and filth, at first was not something he was used to. For the first little while, it was the people who repulsed him but it wasn't long before his repulsion was turned from those who had nothing to those who had plenty...which of course was his own family. That was then, now he couldn't imagine meeting anywhere else. If they took to a better area of town, it would defeat the purpose, not to mention, they had made a lot of good friends in the locals.
"For sale?" Enjolras said. "Who the hell around here could afford to buy it?"
"We can!" Prouvaire said and everyone sat up and took notice. The man rarely said shit if his mouth was full of it and now he's speaking up to buy property...in Sainte Michel. True, the price wouldn't be high and the students could probably buy it with their pocket change. Best of all was that the land title officer was on the side of the revolution so he wouldn't wonder exactly why a bunch of rich young boys were interested in this property.
Talks and negotiations started right away, each of the students bringing his share of money to the table until they met the asking price and the deal was sealed. Who owned it? Well, they all did but they put Jean Prouvaire's name on the deed because it was his idea. Who was going to run it? The standing joke was that it would be Grantaire but, while he made friends easily and could actually be quite a charming bartender, he was certainly not one to be in charge. No, that wouldn't do so they divvied up the chores and they hired a few of the locals to run it. Grantaire would tend bar when he was sober enough to do so. But when he started handing out wine for free, his shift would be over. They had a test for that. They kept the downstairs as a cafe but now they had something they had always wanted...a private area. Upstairs became the new 'fort' for Les Amis, private lodgings and while the public could sit up there until evening, they had to stay downstairs. Why? Because it became more like a home. As Grantaire worked bar and table service downstairs and started weaving more, someone would send him up the stairs for something. When he got to the point that he couldn't come back down stairs quickly, they knew that he had enough and shouldn't serve any more. Usually he just stayed upstairs after that point in the day but they couldn't keep him up there against his will as the latrines were out back and, needless to say on the ground floor.
The first thing they could do was have an actual private area that Combeferre didn't have to clear out every time he treated one of the children. Before he just had a corner in the cafe and the regular patrons accepted that but any basins, carbolic, salves and medicines had to be taken away and shoved into a back room at evening's end. Without even asking anyone, he moved into one of the back rooms, found a table and immediately began stocking things, mostly stuff he took from the university and a big iron tub for filling with hot water to soak kids in. They started moving more beds and mattresses into the back rooms so they didn't have to take turns or squish three in a bed if the evenings there got too late. They moved their belongings in so that they didn't have to run home and shave or clean up before heading to school the next day and brought more mattresses. They were rolled up and stored in the other rooms, chairs were purchased from locals, broken chairs were repaired by locals, nothing fancy was brought in from outside of Sainte Michel.
Enjolras was in his glory with the set up. He no longer had to cross town after school and then leave Sainte Michel to go back to the richer area, feeling like a hypocrite every time he left those on the streets. He looked in one of the grey cement rooms. There was minimal dampness on the walls, the floor was as clean as could be expected, considering it housed cafe supplies before it was a bedroom. He hung a rope along one side of the wall and slung his clothes over it and stacked some books on a small table.
Courfeyrac looked in the door of another one and grinned at his new room. "Do you live here now?" he heard a voice and turned around to see Gavroche.
"Hello, Souris." he smiled at him. "Yes, this is my room now." he said, wiping spider webs away from the window with his cravat.
"You're not going home anymore?" Gavroche asked. He spent more than his share of nights there, too as long as one of the students stayed there. It was rare that all of the students went home on the same night but now it was looking promising to Gavroche that he wouldn't have to go back to the elephant.
The elephant was good lodgings until he had gotten a taste of a few nights in the cafe. Part of it was the lack of bugs and cold but it was also...when in the cafe, he felt he mattered to someone. When he was sick and being passed from one set of arms to the other, eventually he could tell who was holding him without even opening his eyes. Grantaire was obvious by the smell. Gamin were used to stink, Grantaire didn't stink but the smell of the wine seeped out of his pores. Enjolras' arms were strong and a bit awkward. He had obviously had no cause to interact with children since he had been one himself but he was learning. One of the things Gavroche loved doing with Enjolras was leaning his head against his chest as he fell asleep and Enjolras talked. Gavroche had very little knowledge of what he was talking about but the voice was so confident and Gavroche was also confident that those arms wouldn't relax and let him fall as Grantaire's occasionally did. Combeferre was always the doctor. While holding him, he felt his face and his stomach, sponged him down, feeding him warmed wine and wiping his runny nose and eyes. Prouvaire often made up simple tunes to the poetry and stories he knew and softly sung them as he rocked Gavroche. Courfeyrac was the most obvious in that he rarely held him at all. He was the one who took Gavroche to bed. Occasionally, if he still had some studying to do, he would sit with him in his arms while he worked but more often than not, he would take him to a bed and tuck him in. He would bring a chair in to sit and read, more often than not dozing off but available if he was needed.
"Gav..." Courfeyrac looked at him out of the corner of his eye. "Do you want to stay here?" he asked. "I can bring another bed in here. Would you like that?" he asked and Gavroche broke into a huge smile. "Okay then, go over to Combeferre's room for your check up." he told his new little roommate.
The move-in of the students didn't go unnoticed by the children. Every time someone brought another bag or chair to the cafe, they would go scampering over to look up the stairway. The people in the cafe got a bit annoyed with them and shooed them out like animals but there was nothing they could do about the evening check ups that Combeferre was doing. He left Joly out of it or he would have all the children panicked with various maladies. He meant well but he steered clear of the children, they were germy and didn't care where they put their little hands. He gave them respect but he wasn't going to get too close.
Combeferre's little waif - he called Fleur was a jet haired cutie. She still brought him flowers but he no longer gave her coins. The children ate bread and cheese and drank wine once a day in the cafe. She also pumped and carried a pail of water upstairs for the foot and hand baths and poured the strong smelling carbolic onto the rags Combeferre used to clean the children with. Her own bath was always the last of the evening and after he washed her up, he took the flower out of his buttonhole and tucked it behind her ear. One thing about Fleur, she called the students by their first name, preceding it with 'frere'. Someone taught these children some manners.
"Frere-Yvan." she said to Combeferre at the end of the exams. "Gavroche said that he is going to live here now." she said, sitting on the table, swinging her feet as he checked them. "He's staying with Frere-Francois."
"Oh?" Combeferre asked, digging dirt out from under her toenails.
"What do I have to do to stay here too?" she asked.
"Different story, Mon Fleur" the doctor said. Girls started in the brothels very young and he didn't want anyone to think they were grooming the girls for that. On the other hand... "Tell you what, I'll see what I can do, no promises." he helped her down off the table. "Go get something to eat." he shooed her, then stood a moment and thought.
Feuilly's 'Rene' twins - Un and Deux were at the table already and Gavroche was helping to bring the food. After Combeferre dumped the basin and hung the rags up to dry, he leaned on his hand in the doorway, watching the interaction between the children and the other students. While everyone owned the place, they did leave Jean Proviere's name as the ultimate say. They had to have one 'mayor', they chose the one most docile but still committed to the revolution and Combeferre waved him over with a nod of his head and explained about Gavroche staying with Courfeyrac.
"I guess...if it's just him..." Prouvaire said. "I mean, we can't take them ALL in or this place would just be a full time orphanage."
"Fleur wants to stay." Combeferre said quickly. "Come..." he pulled Prouvaire over the the window. "Look onto the street." he pointed to a dirty man leading around the girls, some as young as eleven years old. "Look at what she's destined for. Can you let that happen knowing that today you can keep just one from this?" he pointed to the street workers.
"No." Prouvaire sighed. "You're right. If we can save just one." he nodded. "Where, pray do you say you're going to keep her?" he asked. "For the next year or two, in your room is fine, she's just a child of...what, six?"
"She doesn't know but it looks and sound about right. In two years, things could change. I'll be able to work at the hospital and probably get a small flat but whatever happens, I don't want to be the one responsible for her thinking that is her only choice." Combeferre explained and stepped aside so Enjolras could look out the window and share their thoughts. "People may misunderstand. They may think it's improper or suspicious that we keep girls in here but..." Combeferre stumbled.
"We can teach them to read." Enjolras said. "If they have nothing else, they will have that luxury when they are ready to work more respectable jobs or raise children of their own." he firmly believed that at the root of poverty was illiteracy and censorship. They stopped talking when they heard the hurried footsteps of two small children racing up the stairs.
Into the upstairs of the cafe came a little boy and a little girl. They had been holding hands but when they got up there, they stopped and looked at all the people. The little girl's eyes darted around, trying to find a place to hide, finally she ran across the room and dove under one of the tables. The little boy looked from one person to the other. "They said we're safe here." he said to nobody in particular.
"You are." Enjolras nodded, then gave a soft grunt as the little boy ran at him and buried his face in his stomach. He stroked the boy's hair. "What's happening out there?" he asked.
"They're taking the girls to...sell flowers." the boy said. "They only sell flowers for a little while, then nobody sees them again." Before he finished, three more little girls came running upstairs, hiding behind people and furniture, trying to make themselves disappear as the students gathered around the top of the staircase.
"You can't come up here." Enjolras said to the men who were at the bottom of the staircase. "We are studying, there's nothing else up here."
"There are children up there!" a man shouted, trying to intimidate Enjolras, who laughed. "Our daughters!"
"Who are your daughters?" Enjolras asked. "Collette?" he looked aroundand a little girl went over to the stairs. "You don't have to go, Cheri." he said but she went down the stairs. "Nicole?" Enjolras said again, looking around. Again,, the girl with the name started across the floor. "Please...stay." he whispered but she shook her head. "Margurite?" he repeated the name after the father said the name and he looked around to where Grantaire was holding a finger to his lips in front of a little girl who was crying and trembling.
"Is there a Margurite up here?" Enjolras asked then looked back down the stairs. "There's no Margurite up here." he said. He stared the man down...very easy to do when you're six steps above him and eventually the man left. It was then he realised that the whole time he had been standing up there, denying there were children, there were some small arms wrapped around his waist. The boy who had grabbed around him now stood behind him, his small hands clasped in front of Enjolras' waist like a belt buckle. "What's your name?" Enjolras looked over his shoulder and down, trying to unlock the kid's hands.
"Nico." the little boy said.
"Is that your sister?" Enjolras pointed under the table.
"Minette" Nico nodded.
"Come around where I can see you." Enjolras said, finally prying Nico's hands from his waist and pulling him in front of him. "Go sit at the table with the others." he told him and Nico's hand had to be twisted open to let go of Enjolras' coat.
The little girl under the table, Minette was still too scared to come out. "Come to the table, little girl." Courfeyrac waved and showed her where the food was. "Come on Belle..." he said to her, trying to win her over. Everyone's efforts were in vain. She would have to come out eventually but at the moment she had no intention of moving.
The afternoon turned to evening. Lamps and candles were lit, the party still went on upstairs, some of the children were nodding off. They were like little soldiers, every time one of them fell asleep and either fall off of a chair or face down on a table (as came to be known as 'Grantaire style'), someone would pick them up and take them to bed. The beds were getting full, the men had nowhere to sleep but they were not sending the children back outside.
"Just a bit of food." Courfeyrac was still trying to coax Minette out from under the table. They had even slid the table away from the wall but the hysteria that it had caused by the little girl made them put it back and vow to never touch it again. Finally, all of the children were asleep. The men had shoved them three and four to a bed so that they had a few beds to lie in but if this was going to keep up, they would have to do something more. "I'll stay up." Courfeyrac said in the common room as it was littered with children sleeping against tables and they would wake up occasionally.
"No, you go to bed, you have Gavroche." Jean Prouvaire said and waved him on. He kept a bit of bread and cheese and weak wine on the table. Eventually the little girl was going to get hungry enough to come out and get it. "You can come and take it if you like." Prouvaire said quietly to her. "You can even take it back under there." he said but continued to read. Often when it was just him, he would read in a whispered sing-song way and he really wasn't aware of it but eventually, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the little girl with filthy yellow hair, very ragged clothing and, when she looked up at him he saw azure eyes. He didn't break stride, he kept reading/singing softly, pretending to not see her and then he started making up words rather than reading the poetry.
"The little girl looks like a fairy who has played too long in the woods.
She slipped and fell into the mud and didn't wash before flying home.
Now she is dirty and nobody believes she is a fairy.
Fairies are pretty, fairies are clean...and not smelly...and their hair isn't matted..."
He stretched the last line out as best he could and kept tacking more and more onto the end.
"It doesn't say that." Minette's soft little voice said as she got near the table.
"Oui! It does!" Prouvaire said. "Right here...see?" he pointed in the book.
"I can't read." Minette reminded him. "What does the word 'fairy' look like?" she looked at the book.
"Oooh...you got me." Prouvaire shrugged. "It's not on here then but I can show you how to write the word." he said. "Tomorrow." he told her. "Tonight I want you to eat some food, I'm going to get some water and wash you a bit and I want you to go to sleep." he told her and went down the hall.
Minette slid into the chair that Prouvaire had been sitting on, still warm from where the poet had sat. She ate the food and looked at the book until she heard someone coming up the hallway. She jumped off of the chair and scurried back under the table in the corner.
"Minette?" Prouvaire sang as he came back into the common area. "I know you ate and I need you to come for a wash." he put the basin of water on the table and she crawled out. "You want your brother here too?" he asked. He was going to have to pull her clothing off and wash it in the basin overnight and he brought one of his own shirts for her to wear. "He's asleep now." he let her know and she shook her head. "Okay, I need to wash your clothes." he said and started to unbutton the top of her dress. She was okay with him pulling it off, it just about crumbled when he put it aside. Maybe he should stop on his way home from school tomorrow and find something new for her. He soaked the cloth in the water and started to wipe her down. "Sorry, no time to heat it." he explained when she jumped a bit at the cold. "Tomorrow, Fairygirl..." he said. "...we will have to wash your hair." he wondered if they would have to cut the crud out of it and he wondered if Nico had been just as filthy and he didn't notice. "Didn't you guys ever wash?" he asked her. "Your mama and papa, where are they?" he asked as he washed her so she would forget she was naked for now.
"I watched you and the others all the time." she said, ignoring the question.
"Your parents, Minette..." Prouvaire said as he held the shirt for her to put on. He sat her on the table so he could clean her feet and legs.
"Where are yours?" she asked him.
"At home...sleeping..." he said "...probably. And it'd be a good idea for you to be the same..." he said and finished up. "...what's wrong?" he asked, seeing tears on her cheeks.
"I don't want to go home and sleep..." she cried. "...it's cold, it's not even a house."
"Oh no no no..." Prouvaire waved off. "...I meant the sleeping part." he clarified. "The beds are just packed..." he sighed, hopelessly. The kids were jammed into some of the beds, the men were even two and three to a bed. "Something'll have to be worked out." he despaired that he was even going to have to tuck in with the snoring machine known as Grantaire. "Hmmm." he thought for a moment then went to the room where the rolled up mattresses were. He brought it into the common room and unrolled it onto the table. "Can you sleep there?" He asked. She shook her head and she pointed to where she had spent most of the day and evening. "UNDER?" he asked. "Minette, I don't know, the floor is pretty dirty here." he thought about the floor of the cafe. Food spills, drink spills, drunks who couldn't hold their water and the floor was only ever mopped, rarely scrubbed. Then he grinned and thought about where she had been sleeping before. "Okay." he gave in and moved the mattress under the table. Happily, she scurried under there and lay down on the mattress while he put a blanket over her. "You want another poem?" he asked.
"About fairies." she said.
"I don't think I know any." he said.
"Make one up then." she told him. She was very gutsy when nobody else was around.
"Fine." he said and cast a look over his shoulder to make sure nobody was watching then he got onto his knees in his rich boy clothes and slid under the table with her. She lay her head on his lap as he improvised the first chapter of 'La Belle Fee" (Beautiful Fairy).
After Minette fell asleep, he crawled out. Could he leave her there? The first person up would scare the hell out of her. He went back down the hall...God he didn't want to share with Grantaire anyway so he grabbed another mattress and put it on the table in the common room. He tested the table against his weight, it was sturdy. At least the first person up in the morning would wake HIM and not her.
If someone picked the roof off of that cafe that night, they would be able to peek into the bedrooms. Gavroche and Nico in the bed across the room from Courfeyrac - who fought the covers from Enjolras. Margurite and Fleur were squished into a bed with the Renes but when Feuilly rounded up more beds for his little flat, he would take the boys with him every night. Joly and Combeferre were fortunate enough to have a bigger bed so they didn't have to fight and eventually one of the Renes would end up with them. Grantaire was on his own that night because he made too much noise. The pretty little fairy girl spent the night under the table and, on the dining room table lay the poet.