"You've come a long way, my girl! Just look at that; your first finished piece!"
Madame Lewis chirped, gesturing to the shirt she'd just finished off for me. I
couldn't help it; I swelled with pride. I'd just overcome something that had always
given me trouble! And it didn't look that bad… or, not as bad as it could be. "Thank
you, Madame. I owe it all to you." I nodded to her, smiling genuinely.
"No problem at all, it was my pleasure! And here is that larger shirt I
promised you; I do hope your husband finds it to his liking." the woman winked. I
looked over the specialty article she'd made me with a sigh, thinking over my luck in
her feeling so generous. "It's perfect. Thank you, Madame Lewis. I will repay you for
your kindness as soon as I possibly can." I smiled at her, knowing what her next
answer would be in result of my words;
"Nonsense! Seeing that lovely smile of yours is enough for me."
"Much obliged, Madame. Good day to you!" I called to her as I walked out the
As I stepped back onto the bustling street, I looked at the list in my hand; reviewing
the things I had to purchase before returning to my "family". Bread, soap, fruit, fresh
vegetables, and a pair of shoes for Erik, who had none. If anything had been
forgotten, it would be purchased last-minute in the week right before we made our
illicit flight. I went around from stand to stand, shop to shop, purchasing the
essentials, then began walking back towards the inn. My arms were full; but this
time I was especially careful not to drop anything—lest a gentleman appear out of
thin air once more. That was truly the last thing I needed right now. Quentin was
right; we could not have strangers poking around in our business while we were
staying here. And yet; the more I thought about it, the stranger Quentin's reaction
seemed. Sure, he had a right to be paranoid and surprised, but irate? Possessive? I
couldn't fathom his reasoning for it. Perhaps he'd just been acting the part of my
husband, but it still left me bemused as to why he would go to such extremes.
And… I couldn't fathom why a part of me was content with his rejoinders. Why I
felt… safe, warm, and proud of his strength in situations such as these. Was it simply
because I knew as long as he was on guard, Erik and I would be safe? That we would
never have to worry about our welfare as long as he was their, shielding us?
Yes. That must be it. What else could it be, for God's sake?
As soon as I was finished shopping, I returned to the room to find Erik and Quentin
sitting on the floor; Erik perched on Quentin's left knee, and a book on the other.
Quentin was reading to the toddler; his voice inflecting to each character or mood he
came across. I'd never heard him speak in such a way, or a plot so witty. The
storyline consisted of two men; one of who had tricked the other, and in response
the other retorted right back with something equally mortifying; convincing a
woman the target found rather irritating that he was in love with her! I stayed
in the doorway and hardly breathed; afraid I would make a sound and disrupt the
jovial mood. Erik was laughing incessantly, and I myself had to bite back a snicker;
some of Quentin's clever impersonations were so out of his normal disposition, it
was hard to believe it was still him speaking. I just listened in silence for a while,
heart swelling at the sound of Erik's adorable giggles and admiring Quentin's
wonderful reading, until a dramatic twist in the plot of the irritating woman falling
in love with the other man caused me to burst out laughing. Both of the room's other
occupants looked up, seeing me standing there. "Mamán! How was your trip
outside?" Erik exclaimed, jumping up and running into my open arms.
"Wonderful, bien-aimée! And look what I have for you!" I effused, pulling out
"Another clothes?" Erik asked, taking the shirt from my hands and holding it
"Yes. And this one Mamán made herself so it should fit you a bit better." I
explained, perhaps a bit too triumphant for my own good.
"Oh Mamán… it's so soft! Thank you!" Erik smiled, wrapping his arms around
"My pleasure, dear." I said quietly, leaning my face over to rest against his for
a moment. Then I put him down, handing Quentin his. "And this one's yours." I
began, grinning impishly at him, "But don't worry; I didn't work on this one at all. So
my unskilled hands have yet to ruin it."
"I'll admit it; Erik's turned out rather well. I have to hand it to you, Éponine."
Quentin laughed, taking the shirt and walking towards the bathroom to put it on.
"Be sure to change with haste; I want to give Erik a bath when you're
finished." I called after him.
"Bath?" Erik asked, eyes shining with confusion and curiosity.
"It's when you get into a tub full of water and wash all of the dirt off of you." I
Less than a minute later, Quentin exited and went down to get water, and I began
readying Erik; both in ensuring that we had all of the needed material, and on a
more mental level.
"What does it feel like?"
"Just like water on your skin. It feels refreshing, cher, I promise."
"Does it hurt?"
"No, not at all."
"Is it cold?"
"Yes, unfortunately so."
"Because we have not a hearth to heat it with."
"You can heat water with fire?"
"Yes. You put the water over the fire in a pot and it warms right up!"
"Fire can heat everything."
Before long I was explaining the concept of heat and fire and conductors to Erik, but
was thankfully interrupted by Quentin's return before I ran out of information for
him. And yet, as usual, he was perfectly mystified with what little I'd given him, and
immediately went to add a hearth to his miniature house. I helped Quentin carry the
buckets into the washroom, then called Erik in. "Why don't you rest while I get him
all washed up? You've been playing with him all day."
"Alright, much obliged. Let me know when you need to empty the tub." he
"I will. Thank you." I smiled at him before turning back to Erik. "Alright, little
one. Let's get you into the tub, now."
I helped him undress, which he was rather hesitant about, but after some coaxing
managed to let me. I was surprised at how much lighter the skin beneath his
clothing appeared; the layer of grime on his arms and other perceptible skin
extremely thick in comparison. After we had completed this part of the process, I
picked him up and brought him over to the tub. I was about to plop him down into it
when he tightened his grip on my dress and stopped me. I looked at him, and the
fearful expression on his face told me everything in one, silent glance. "It's alright,
Erik," I muttered, smoothing his sparse black hair, "I wouldn't make you do anything
that could hurt you. This is completely safe. In fact, it feels nice to get all the dirt off
"Promise?" Erik whispered, glancing down skittishly at the water.
"Cross my heart." I replied, hugging him to my chest once in encouragement.
He loosened his grip on my arm, then let me slowly lower him into the water. The
second he touched it, he let out a shriek and tried to scramble his way back up into
my arms. "It's cold!" he squealed, looking wide-eyed up at me.
"Everything alright?" I heard Quentin call from behind the door.
"Yes, we're fine. He's just getting used to the cold." I responded back, then
turned back to the little boy hanging halfway off my arms. "I know, and I'm sorry.
But we can't heat it, dearest. You'll get used to the temperature the longer you're in
there." I told him with a sigh. He mirrored my exploit, then nodded, loosening his
grip once more. I put him in the tub—all the way, this time—and braced myself as
he gasped and flailed about in shock; splashing me quite thoroughly in the process.
After a minute or so of letting him continue with this so that he might more easily
adjust, I grabbed one of his arms and began rubbing it with the freshly bought soap;
surprised at the immense amount of brown suds that quickly coated my hands. It
was coming off, but I could already tell that this was going to take quite some time.
Unfortunately, Erik didn't seem to have the attention span for that kind of time.
"Mamán; I'm boooored!" he groaned about six or seven minutes in. I held back an
exasperated sigh; I was hardly done with the first arm yet. "Well, dear…" I trailed off,
trying to think of something to hold his interest.
"Navy!" a muffled vestige of Quentin's voice suddenly reminded me from the
"Oh yes!" I stated happily. 'Thank God for you, Quentin!' "Erik; why don't you
pretend to be a Navy officer? Remember? The water military!"
"Oh, oui! Captain Erik on deck; about face! Alright, at ease!" he barked,
jumping right into his game. I breathed a sigh of relief them resumed my hygienic
task; only stopping a few time to shake water off of my face where Erik had splashed
it accidentally. And as soon as the temperature was forgotten and the boredom was
resolved, the child was having the time of his life. He sloshed about and slapped the
surface of the water with his palms and even mustered up the courage to stick his
nose in to blow bubbles. He was like a little fish; and I immediately made a mental
note to ask Quentin about the safest places to teach a child to swim around here.
From the glee he was taking out of a simple bath, I could only imagine what fun he'd
have in the sea.
After I'd finished scrubbing the coat of dirt off the majority of his body, I picked up a
neatly folded washcloth from the floor next to me and wet it, tilting Erik's chin up so
that his eyes met mine. "Alright; I'm going to do your face now. Just… tell me if
anything… hurts." I stuttered, trying to find the right words. In the little time that I'd
known him, there was still much I didn't know about his deformity; such as whether
it was an injury or something he'd been born with. I strongly suspected the latter,
considering the mien of a corpse was not simply acquired through something like a
fire or rash, but could never be sure.
The boy was surprisingly accepting of this announced action; simply nodding once
before returning to his aquatic game. My heart swelled in his trust, and I brought my
shaking hand forward and ever-so-gently pressed the cloth to his face. He looked so
fragile… skin so breakable…
I softly began rubbing the rag around as a test; and when no negative reaction was
given, increased pressure slightly with a sigh of relief. At least I now knew that it
wasn't terribly sensitive; even though from where my fingers brushed over it, it felt
as though I were washing paper—the only thing obviously distinguishing it being
the bulging blue veins running through it. Unpleasant as they made the overall look
of the skin, they gave me a strange sort of consolation. For reasons unknown, they
reminded me that this little child sitting in front of me was real; a human like any
other. That he was alive.
As I concluded the finishing scrubs of his face (taking extra care on his withered,
sunken cheeks; for they felt as if I could tear right through them), I hung up the
washcloth on a hook to dry and held out the towel I'd set out for him. I was soaked
to the skin and positively exhausted, but he was wholly clean. "Come on, Erik. Time
to get out." I told him, tugging gently at his hand.
"Aw, no mamán! I want to keep playing in the water!" he whined, staring at
"I'm sorry, my little fish; it's time to dump the water out." I teased, grinning at
"Fish? Why do you call me 'fish'?" he questioned.
"Remember when Quentin spoke to you of fishing, and when in my nature
books we came across the pages where there were scaly animals with no neck and
strange tails?" I asked him, trying to describe the pictures the best I could. When he
nodded, I continued. "Well, those are fish. They are creatures that live under the
water all the time, because they breathe water instead of air like we do." I justified.
Erik looked positively awe-struck. "Underwater forever? Oh mamán; may we go see
the fish?" he asked, practically bouncing.
"Well perhaps if you got out of the bath, we could go ask Quentin." I coaxed
cleverly. He took the bait, scrambling out of the tub. I'd barely gotten the towel
around him when he made a break for the door. For a moment, I simply sat there
chuckling; watching him go with amusement. But then it suddenly popped into my
head the one vital thing he was missing. "Erik, wait!" I cried out, picking his mask up
off the floor and jumping to my feet.
But I was too late. Just as I'd uttered my cautionary holler, Erik had run out into the
main room calling Quentin's name.
And let me just put it this way; I have never in this life heard a man yell with such
terror in his voice.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! Heh heh… Remember me?
*dodges tomatoes thrown at her screaming, "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorryI'msorrryyyyyyy!"* Please, just hear me out!
*tomatoes halt for the time being* Thank you. You won't regret it.
Ok… so I know it's been MONTHS since I last updated this story… but I've been indescribably busy. :( Not to mention the fact that I got no feedback on my last chapter, so I kept forgetting about it until it faded into the back of my cluttered mind! That is, until I received a StoryWatch over the weekend; and realized what a terrible author I've been! Forgive me, I hope you're all still reading! And thank you to Lizze the Wolf373 for being my "aide-mémoire"! :D
So Quentin's seen Erik's face now… how will he handle it? Dun dun duuunn! R&R!