A/N: A gift for megSUPERFAN - I am so sorry for how long this took to post. The end product will be around 3-4 chapters, I think. Hope you enjoy! :)
When Feuilly woke up, he knew immediately that something was wrong.
Very, very wrong.
Lying curled up on his side (a position in which he never slept), a sharp, stabbing pain cramping in his ribs flooded Feuilly's senses, and he inadvertently let a tired moan of pain escape his mouth. He tried to open his eyes, but in vain; they were heavy, so heavy, and more pain burned at his eyelids. It burned everywhere.
When Feuilly woke up, he was afraid.
Enjolras didn't frequently make it a habit to call on Feuilly in between classes, but the hardworking fanmaker had a rare half-day off and it was only right that he should have some company in the afternoon. Reaching the dingier and shabbier apartment buildings of the lower ends of Paris, Enjolras knocked on the door.
Seconds passed, then a full minute before Enjolras tried several more times. Looking around, Enjolras noticed an open window in one of Feuilly's rooms and frowned. Feuilly was exceptionally careful to protect his precious few possessions from thieves.
Enjolras rummaged through his pockets for the spare key he had convinced Feuilly to give him in case of emergencies and opened the door.
"Feuilly?" He called, shutting the door behind him as he entered, sweeping his gaze over the room, of which there were two in Feuilly's bare lodgings.
There was no answer.
Enjolras allowed his worry to take over, and immediately his pulse quickened and he had to swallow back a lump in his throat. "Feuilly?" He called again, only to be met with silence once again.
You're always worrying, Enjolras remembered Feuilly saying to him more than once. And he was. Feuilly was alone in so many ways apart from the rest of their group - as a leader and friend Enjolras couldn't help feeling responsible for him. Feuilly worked harder, suffered harder than everyone - it was for him Les Amis fought. He stood for a moment debating whether or not to leave. If Feuilly were here, he wouldn't be pleased that Enjolras had come into his room without permission. If he wasn't, then - then Enjolras would truly start to worry.
Enjolras burst through the door of Feuilly's bedroom and froze.
Feuilly was lying on the floor on his stomach, his arm cradling his head, and a chamber pot reeking of vomit beside him. Enjolras had felt the briefest flicker of relief on the knowledge of Feuilly's presence, but it was immediately replaced with a strong sense of panic. He rushed over to Feuilly and crouched down, shaking his shoulder gently.
"Feuilly, mon ami, what's happened?"
Feuilly moaned painfully at Enjolras' touch. As Feuilly rolled onto his back a few inches, Enjolras saw he was completely drenched in sweat, and his cheeks were flushed with heat. Enjolras pressed the back of his hand to Feuilly's forehead, trying not to flinch back at the heat emanating from him.
"Oh, Feuilly, you're not well," Enjolras murmured, rubbing Feuilly's back soothingly. Combeferre will know what to do, or Joly. Enjolras almost groaned aloud. To fetch either of them he would have to leave Feuilly alone again, and he was too afraid of what might happen if he did.
"Help me," Feuilly whispered, and that was when Enjolras finally cracked.
Never, in all the years he had known him, had Enjolras ever heard Feuilly ask for help in this way. His pride and independence had simply never allowed it. To see strong, hard-working, caring Feuilly stripped of that dignity was somehow worse than anything. Enjolras inhaled deeply to steady himself.
"Of course, Feuilly," Enjolras said, "Let's get you back in bed first. Everything will be alright."
Would it? Enjolras suddenly felt a pit in his stomach at the thought of what it was that Feuilly might have. He was no doctor, but Feuilly's illness seemed severe, even for a regular fever. Feuilly needed a doctor.
Enjolras slid his arms around Feuilly's shoulders, grunting under his weight as he pushed him up onto his feet. Feuilly must have been completely unconscious by then, however, and was nothing but dead weight. Before Feuilly could fall over and crush him, Enjolras managed to scoop him up into his arms. With the utmost gentleness and care, he set Feuilly down on his bed, tucking the blankets around him. Feuilly shook like a leaf, and his teeth started chattering against each other.
Enjolras swallowed, telling himself to remain calm, reminding himself that everything would be alright. With one quick glance at Feuilly, Enjolras stepped out of the apartment and searched wildly for any passerby who happened to be walking.
"Excuse me, monsieur!" Enjolras cried out, relief slamming into his chest as he caught sight of a man pushing a wheelbarrow of produce. The man stopped and turned to meet him with an irritated stare. "Please - I need you to take a message. It'll be well worth your time, I promise you."
That was all it took. Enjolras scribbled a note for Combeferre, his hands trembling slightly as he passed the note to the produce man. "Get this to him within a quarter of an hour," Enjolras ordered, dropping several francs into the man's hand.
"I came as soon as I could," Combeferre said as he entered the room. Enjolras rose from the floor where he'd been sitting to be near Feuilly.
"Thank god - I don't - I didn't know what to do, 'Ferre," Enjolas said, too exhausted to be ashamed of the break in his composure.
Combeferre nodded briskly as he passed, giving Enjolras' shoulder a quick squeeze as he made his way over to Feuilly. Enjolras watched as Combeferre started to examine Feuilly, touching his fingertips to his neck to check for a pulse and pressing his hand against his forehead.
"I've sent a message to Joly, and he should be on his way by now. Come here, Enjolras, and help me undress him. We have to bring his temperature down."
Enjolras was frozen in place, his mind too confused to respond. Combeferre was serious - more serious than he'd seen him in ages. He struggled to react properly.
"Enjolras," Combeferre ordered sharply, "Move. Now."
Enjolras snapped back to attention, glad beyond belief that someone competent in such things was finally in charge. He helped Combeferre first remove Feuilly's trousers, then the waistcoat which had been hastily buttoned, till finally Feuilly was reduced to his chemise.
Combeferre was cool and calm next to Enjolras' frazzled senses, and his commands were a balm to Enjolras' confused mind. "Fill a tub with water - there's a pump outside. Fetch something for Feuilly to drink. He's extremely dehydrated and he's already lost a lot of fluids."
When Enjolras was finished, he returned to see Combeferre holding Feuilly as Feuilly emptied the contents of his stomach into the chamber pot. Combeferre smoothed Feuilly's hair back, which was now soaked through with sweat.
Combeferre took the glass of water from Enjolras' hands and lifted it to Feuilly's lips to drink.
"What do you need?" Enjolras asked.
Combeferre didn't look up as he helped settle Feuilly back in bed. "Fetch me some towels - wet and dry."
Enjolras returned with the towels, watching helplessly as Combeferre lay a damp towel across Feuilly's forehead. Feuilly jerked away from the cold cloth, but Combeferre held him back from flinging it off his forehead, murmuring something in comfort. Again Enjolras asked Combeferre what he could do. This time, Combeferre looked up, his eyes shadowed with something grave.
Combeferre shook his head slowly and said, "There's nothing you can do. I don't think there's anything anyone can do."
When Joly came, Combeferre took him aside for a brief word, the result of which caused Joly to grow pale. Enjolras strained to hear what they were saying and failed.
"I need to see for myself," Joly said, his voice shaky but determined. He went into Feuilly's room and shut the door behind him, leaving Combeferre and Enjolras alone in the main room.
As the minutes slowly wore on, Enjolras finally turned to Combeferre and said quietly, "Please, Combeferre. I need to know. What is it?"
Combeferre opened his mouth and immediately shut it again. He shook his head, silencing Enjolras' future protest with a look. "Let's wait for Joly to come out and form his opinion. These things do matter in medicine. Let us hope that I am wrong," he said, the last statement quieter than the others.
When Joly finally emerged from Feuilly's room, his eyes immediately fell upon Combeferre and he nodded. The look between them was so terribly full of secret understanding that Enjolras feared he might be sick himself with the anxiety of not knowing.
"Well?" Enjolras found himself demanding, rather unfairly, he thought, considering how hard Combeferre and Joly were working. But his impatience to hear of Feuilly overrode everything else at that moment. "Tell me, one of you. What's wrong with him?"
Joly raised his head and seemed to struggle to meet Enjolras' eyes. "Enjolras...it's cholera."
Enjolras' heart thudded heavily in his chest. He didn't fully know what this entailed, except for the fact that it seemed to be a rapidly spreading disease as of late. "It's curable, though, isn't it?"
Joly and Combeferre exchanged sad looks.
"Isn't it?" Enjolras repeated.
Combeferre shook his head. "Not usually, Enjolras. There's nothing we can do for him beyond keeping him hydrated and his fever down." He paused, allowing the information to sink in. "It's up to Feuilly to come through this."