A/N: Sorry for the long wait for this update, but thanks for being patient! :)
Bossuet was worried when Joly didn't come home. Their shared apartment was dark and quiet upon his return, casting a cloud of disappointment on Bossuet's cheery mood. Joly had said he'd make a brew for Bossuet's sore muscles from the other day's tumble down the stairs, and though Bossuet had by no means been looking forward to one of those dreadful concoctions that tasted of sewer water and lavender, the absence of Joly's warm and excitable presence was a painful discovery.
So he'd waited.
Bossuet was quite efficient in the occupation of being idle; after all, he had almost surpassed Bahorel in the sense that he'd made it into something rather of an art. He knew how to make the seconds and minutes and hours slip away, to watch the hands of the clock swirl and spin and make time fly as if on the wings of the eagle for which Bossuet was often called.
But he'd been waiting too long when the knock at the door finally came.
"Joly, what have you been doing? It's been six hours -"
Bossuet was cut off as Joly threw his arms around Bossuet, clutching at him with a despair Bossuet rarely saw from him. He returned the embrace, smoothing Joly's hair in reassurance for whatever it was that troubled him. Bossuet knew better than to ask. Joly was sensitive and hated to be pressured, and always caved in his own time anyway.
Joly pulled away, his eyes rimmed with red as he gave Bossuet an unconvincing smile. "Apologies, dear friend, only I can't stay for very long. I need you to do something for me."
"Feuilly is ill, and he's upset about his duties at the shop being abandoned. Would you go to his workplace and inform his supervisor?"
"Feuilly is ill?" Bossuet asked, startled. In all the years he'd known the quiet fanmaker, Feuilly had never so much as caught a cold. Fear crept into Bossuet's heart at Joly's serious expression. "Is it serious?"
"It's cholera." Joly finally met Bossuet's eyes, and Bossuet might have thought Joly would burst into tears then until Joly continued matter-of-factly, taking that confident and calculating tone he always did when assessing any other patient's condition. "Combeferre and Enjolras are with him now, though someone really must get Enjolras away. He's not doing Feuilly any good by lying on the floor and making himself sick with worry. I'm going to the hospital to fetch supplies. Can you make sure everyone else knows of Feuilly's condition?" Joly was already beginning to collect himself, and Bossuet took the chance to ask about Feuilly.
"Can I come see him?"
Joly hesitated. "Not yet."
"Why not? Is it because I'm unlucky?" Bossuet couldn't resent Joly for thinking it; if he were in charge of Feuilly's care, he would take every measure possible to secure his safety, regardless of superstitious belief.
Joly's face fell a little and he put a hand on Bossuet's shoulder. "Don't say that, mon ami. You know that is not the reason. Feuilly is in a critical condition - an hour before I left him he almost - he almost died. Perhaps it is lucky Enjolras was there after all - his shouting must have reached England. Besides, there are enough people in Feuilly's small abode as it is - we cannot spare room for visitors now. I promise I will send news of any changes in Feuilly's condition."
Bossuet nodded, mustering a breezy smile for Joly's sake. "I'd best get to it, then." Joly still watched him, his eyes careful and prodding, and Bossuet knew he was trying to read his thoughts. "Go," Bossuet urged gently, "save Feuilly for us." Joly nodded, and with a quick squeeze of Bossuet's hand, swept out the door.
Bossuet sighed, tugging on his coat and shoes as quickly as he could, and only once outside did he realize he'd forgotten his hat. To hell with it, Bossuet decided, the absence of his hat would only prove the extent of the distress he was feeling for his indisposed friend to any passersby who happened to notice.
As he made his way along the streets, Bossuet felt a pang in his chest as he saw a trio of university students walking arm in arm in the chilly winter night, laughing loudly and probably very much drunk. For a moment he wished again that he were beside Feuilly, that he could hold his hand and assure him all would be well.
Bossuet straightened and quickened his pace. If he could not be with Feuilly, he would do the next best thing and ensure that everything was in order for him when he got better.
Because Feuilly would get better.
"Enjolras, how long have you been here?"
As Enjolras stirred, Courfeyrac frowned, crouching down next to him, where he was curled up against Feuilly's bed. It seemed that only when Feuilly had finally fallen asleep, Enjolras had allowed himself to doze off.
"Enjolras?" Courfeyrac repeated.
Enjolras opened his eyes. "I'm staying with Feuilly."
Courfeyrac shook his head. "Come, Enjolras. Bossuet says you haven't slept for too long, and you're only adding to Combeferre and Joly's worries. Go home. You're not doing Feuilly any good sleeping on his floor, taking up Combeferre and Joly's space."
Enjolras was about to argue until he glanced at Feuilly, and hesitated. "Courfeyrac," he said, turning his gaze, both intense and pleading, back on Courfeyrac. Courfeyrac nodded, waiting for Enjolras to continue. "Courfeyrac, will you take the watch? I know he has Combeferre and Joly taking care of him, but if he wakes up and needs someone -"
"It's done," Courfeyrac declared, helping Enjolras to his feet and brushing off the dust from Enjolras' shoulders a little. "Now go home, wash yourself up, and sleep. Forgive my bluntness, but you look like the result of a hurricane. You smell it, too."
Courfeyrac ushered Enjolras away with a smile, and when the door was finally shut and he was alone with Feuilly, he sank to the ground where Enjolras had been but a moment before and let the smile fall. Courfeyrac passed a hand over his face, calming the waves of nausea and lightheadedness he felt in Feuilly's room, where the sights and smells of illness were overpowering. He tried to distract himself from his own squeamishness and looked at Feuilly sleeping on the thin cot he used for a bed, curled up in a ball in the little space the bed could allow. Feuilly's breathing was slow and shallow, and his lips, though cracked and dry, shone with a coat of moisture as though he'd just had a drink.
"Enjolras finally left?"
Courfeyrac turned to see Combeferre approaching, holding a steaming mug of tea. Courfeyrac nodded and replied, "Bossuet told me, so I've come to help."
Combeferre gave him a dubious look. "He's very sick, Courfeyrac - will you be alright with all that sickness entails?"
Courfeyrac fought down the blush creeping to his cheeks. Yes, the sight of illness and injury did no good for Courfeyrac's own stomach - but he couldn't see how it should matter when Feuilly was involved. "I will be perfectly fine. Is he any better?"
"Too soon to say. He almost...he came close to death, Courfeyrac, just over an hour ago. We thought he wouldn't get through it." The silence that followed these words was heavy and Courfeyrac thought for a moment that he could see an unfamiliar terror in Combeferre's eyes before he continued talking. "Joly's out fetching some more liniment for Feuilly's cramps, and you can help him apply it." Combeferre gestured for Courfeyrac to move out of the way. "He needs to keep drinking water. Can you…?"
Courfeyrac took the mug and earned a tired smile from Combeferre. "Do you need anything else?"
"No, we only have to wait for Joly and keep an eye on Feuilly."
"Then go rest," Courfeyrac urged, "even for just a few minutes. I'll wake you if Feuilly needs something."
Combeferre nodded, rubbing his hand along his jaw tiredly. "I'll be in the next room over."
Courfeyrac turned his attention back on Feuilly, who looked too peaceful to wake just then. Courfeyrac tried not to let the guilt weigh too heavily at the thought that Feuilly probably had hardly slept peacefully in far too long. He woke Feuilly as gently as he could, and when Feuilly began to stir, letting out a little cry of surprise and pain, Courfeyrac raked gentle fingers through Feuilly's thick shaggy hair and said, "It's Courfeyrac - Combeferre made you some tea."
Feuilly's eyes were only half-open as with Courfeyrac's help, he sat up and obligingly drank the from the mug Courfeyrac held up to his lips. It must have been too much and too quickly, however, because Feuilly suddenly turned dangerously pale and on instinct, Courfeyrac thrust the chamber pot in his direction in time for Feuilly to retch the fluids he'd just taken in. The mug of hot tea Courfeyrac had been holding splashed down over Courfeyrac's trousers, burning his thighs and legs as Courfeyrac let the mug fall, clenching his teeth to keep himself from reacting at the pain. Courfeyrac forced himself into action, blinking back tears and holding Feuilly and sweeping his hair out of the way. Courfeyrac could feel Feuillly shaking with pain and fatigue in his arms, and the hacking cough that reverberated throughout his thin frame. Courfeyrac massaged slow circles on the shaking muscles of Feuilly's back, feeling utterly useless.
Feuilly leaned back a little, finished, his eyes closed and his cheeks flushed red. Courfeyrac helped him lie back down, and wiped at the edges of Feuilly's mouth with his handkerchief.
"I'm sorry," Feuilly whispered, his eyes still closed and the words slow and clumsy, "I know how - how you feel about illness -"
"Sshhh," Courfeyrac hushed him, "Don't you dare apologize, Feuilly. What kind of friend would I be if I didn't stand by you now? You would do the same and more for any of us."
Feuilly murmured something incoherent to Courfeyrac, and was beginning to drift off to sleep again. But Courfeyrac was worried. Feuilly was so lethargic, and it was such a stark contrast to his usual self that Courfeyrac decided to wake Combeferre.
Courfeyrac looked over his shoulder multiple times as he crossed the short distance from Feuilly's room to the kitchen, putting his mind to some ease with the knowledge that at least Feuilly was still breathing.
Courfeyrac heard the whispers floating from the room before he drew in upon Joly and Combeferre in the kitchen,their heads deep in consultation. Joly must have heard Courfeyrac's footsteps and spun around, revealing small glass bowls in each hand coming dangerously close to crashing down on the floor. Joly relaxed on seeing Courfeyrac, but his brow furrowed into a line of confusion and he frowned.
"You're here now too?" Joly glanced at Combeferre, and Courfeyrac hardly even had the energy to cast more than a half-hearted glare in Joly's direction for the irritating remark.
"He helped get Enjolras out of the way," Combeferre said, "and he's been staying with Feuilly for a while." Combeferre noticed the state of Courfeyrac's trousers. "Do I want to know why your trousers are soaked?"
"It's the tea," Courfeyrac said, the words feeling dry on his tongue as he looked between Combeferre and Joly for some sign of what they were thinking, some signal that meant Feuilly would be alright and that he was already on the mend. He didn't want to have to ask the question aloud, and Combeferre must have sensed this.
"We have to wait it out," he said to Courfeyrac, gesturing for Courfeyrac and Joly to follow him back to Feuilly's room. "For now we must ease his pain and keep some water on hand at all times. Come, if you wish to help. If not -"
"I came here to help," Courfeyrac snapped, but was immediately sorry for his quick temper. "Sorry - it's only -"
"I know, Courfeyrac." Combeferre stepped aside, waving him into Feuilly's room. "Come. Let us get Feuilly through this night."
Grateful for Combeferre's unfailing understanding, Courfeyrac felt overwhelming relief that Combeferre was taking charge. He'd never seen him as dedicated to a task as he was now, and it put his mind a little at ease to know that if anything, Combeferre would not give up on Feuilly.
Combeferre and Joly were already positioning themselves around Feuilly's bed, Joly casting aside his jacket and rolling up his sleeves as he took out the liniments and began rubbing them onto Feuilly's aching legs. There was no room for Courfeyrac to help, so as Combeferre and Joly set about their task, Courfeyrac sat by the other end of the bed and took Feuilly's hand, which was hanging from the mattress, in his own, and gave it a gentle squeeze of reassurance.
After what seemed like an eternity, Courfeyrac felt a press on his hand in return.