Summary: In the dark of the night, Quasimodo finds a friend.
Disclaimer: This version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and its characters are property of the Walt Disney Company.
Background: I've had a few comments on my last two fics asking to write more short stories with Quasimodo (and I find it both amusing and ironic that the last one was more of a Frollo story, yet this was the response I got. XD Not complaining; Quasimodo is my favorite Disney character, period). So this story is partially a response to those comments, but more because the idea intrigued me.
It is actually a bit difficult to come up with ideas for these one-shots, as the actual canon generally does a good job of tying up loose ends, and for things we don't necessarily need to know (like a complete backstory), we have enough information to not question it. I have to thank a friend for this one; this came about due to discussing how tragic and lonely Quasimodo's childhood must have been.
A warm summer wind rustled through the tower, making the rafters creak and the supports groan as the cathedral settled down for the night. In a small area sectioned off with a curtain, a small, deformed child curled up on a soft bedroll, shuddering not from the wind, but from the nightmarish visions dancing around in his mind.
Visions of the cruelties of the outside world. Visions of his own twisted body trying to escape an equally twisted world. Visions of being left alone and unloved to die in this empty tower.
Quasimodo startled himself awake. To his left, he saw a clawed hand with too many fingers reaching towards the heavens. He yelped and buried himself under his blanket, shuddering as he waited for the monster beside him to either go on its way, or grab for him and pull him down into the depths of Hell.
When no clawed fingers came for him, and he heard no monster slinking away, Quasimodo dared to peer out from under the blanket, poking his one good eye out to the dark shapes and shadows surrounding him. Moonlight illuminated some of the figures, allowing the child to pick out the familiar forms of broken statues. The hand beside him was still there. A second glance showed some of the fingers come from its palm, white against the gray stone, with beads of wax raining down in long streams.
Candles, he reminded himself.
Candles upon a broken statue hand, serving as their holder.
The nightmare still fresh in his mind, Quasimodo pushed himself up, looking for a familiar form in the dark.
"...M-Master?" he whispered, hardly daring to say the word aloud.
He received no answer. Around him, the statues loomed over him, and the shadows stretched into every corner of the tower, creating several places for monsters and demons to hide. Quasimodo swallowed hard and made his way to another part of the room, where his only other companion normally slept.
He forced himself forward, reaching out to shake the old man awake.
His small hands only found floorboards, and not even a bedroll in the empty space. Quasimodo desperately felt around for a hint of warmth, a scrap of companionship.
As he knelt there, trembling and trying not to cry, he vaguely recalled what he had been told at supper.
You are six now, Master Frollo had said, and almost old enough to learn a trade. With it, you must learn to look after yourself in my absence. But never you mind, Quasimodo. Even without my presence, this is your sanctuary. You are safe here.
Looking around the tower, he didn't feel safe. Not with the shadows curling in around him, and the large forms in the dark that could either be saint or monster. A surge of panic went through him, a desperate need to get out, to find someone, anyone.
Quasimodo ran, stumbling down the tower steps to get to the doorway. Upon trying to pull it open, he found it locked from the outside.
Trapped, he realized.
Trapped in this tower with the monsters.
With tears streaming down his face, he banged on the door.
"P-please let me o-out!" he begged, trying once more to pull it open. "M-Master! Master, please!"
But no one answered him. Quasimodo wiped his eyes on his sleeve, then jostled the handle, banging on the door with his other hand. His grip on the handle loosened as he slipped to his knees, the bangs on the door weakening into pitiful knocks.
All alone up here, with no one to hear his pleas, or come to the door.
Oh, little one, came an aged, husky old voice. You're afraid, aren't you?
Quasimodo perked, wondering if he heard the voice at all.
"Wh-who...who's there?" he asked, struggling to speak.
The voice held a gentle warmth as it spoke again, calling down from the loft.
I'm up here, sweetie. Come on up; I won't hurt you.
Quasimodo hobbled over to the stairs, and carefully pulled himself back up to the loft, listening for the voice again.
The moon lit up the bare floorboards. Several shelves and statues created dark shapes among the shadows. Quasimodo trembled as he crawled onto the loft, crouching down to avoid being seen.
"Wh-where are you?" he whispered.
Over here, the voice said.
Quasimodo reached up to wipe his eyes, trying to brush away more stray tears as he looked for the source of the voice.
Shh, came the voice. I'm right here, little one. Come sit by me, and I'll drive the monsters away.
He didn't need to be told twice. Quasimodo listened for the voice and followed it, picking out the forms in the dark. Some, he recognized as bits of broken statues and piles of junk from the daylight, but others...just their dark shapes kept him moving.
"B-b-but...I-I am a...am-am a m-monster," he sobbed, still looking for the voice.
We're all monsters here, Quasimodo, the voice said, closer now. Some of us are simply less frightening than others.
It softened a little more, and he heard a smile to accompany the gentle tone.
Look down, and see for yourself.
Quasimodo obeyed. He saw the horns first, thick and sharp, with a small crown circling them. Large, round ears, and from the body sprouted feathery stone wings. Long, thin arms reached the floor, the hands curled in, the knuckles supporting the body weight. The shadows hid the face, but as his eyes adjusted, he noticed the bulbous nose, the sunken-in eyes, and the soft carved frown.
Didn't I tell you? she said with a small laugh. I'm a monster too. And I'm not as scary as the others, am I?
Quasimodo hesitantly shook his head. Perhaps it was the moonlight playing a trick, but he swore he saw a hand move and gently pat at the floor before her.
Sit with me, Quasimodo. Let ol' Laverne protect you from the scary ones. It's my job to frighten them away.
He hesitated, but obeyed, taking a seat in front of Laverne. He curled in, reaching up to wipe his eyes again. Whether it was the moonlight, the summer breeze, or even just his imagination, the stone felt...warm, almost alive. Quasimodo rested his head against her shoulder, his feet gently tucked in the space under one of her arms, his hunch fitted almost perfectly in the curve of her wing.
Like he was meant to be here.
Almost immediately, he calmed down, comforted enough by her presence.
"...H-how do you know my...my name?" he whispered.
I've watched over you from the moment you came to this tower, Quasimodo, Laverne answered. Why wouldn't I know your name?
She seemed to rest her head against his. Quasimodo closed his eyes, already feeling one of her thin arms protectively wrapped around him.
But you've never needed me until now. And I will stay with you as long as you need me, my little one.
His breathing eased. The tears ceased. Right here, in Laverne's arms, the entire tower seemed less frightening. Quasimodo opened one eye, glancing at the forms around him. In the moonlight, he better picked out the stone saints, the jars and buckets on the shelves, the wooden supports holding up the tower.
Even the shadows seemed less dark, almost welcoming now, instead of foreboding.
Didn't I promise to scare the other monsters away?
Quasimodo nodded, closing his eye again as he curled more tightly against Laverne. He heard her soft voice speak quietly in his ear.
This is your sanctuary, Quasimodo. Your home. You never have to be afraid here, because I will always protect you.
She smiled a little as the deformed little boy settled against her.
Rest now, little one. The scary monsters won't come for you any longer.
The child groggily nodded, already returning to the realm of dreams.
And as Laverne promised, no more monsters came for him. He remained in her arms, safe from the shadows until the first rays of morning light.