"Gavroche!" Courfeyrac shouted, staring unblinking at the shadow dithering in the window, fretting over the flames. "Gavroche can you hear me?"
The boy had been through a lot in his short life, being abandoned by his family, being left to rot on the streets, being beaten until he was black and blue. But he had never been as afraid as he was now. Before he had always been able to see a way out, a way to keep moving forwards in his life, but now he felt completely alone and completely trapped. The flames had yet to reach the room he was in, but he could hear the splintering of wood beneath him and feel the heat building through the house. Gavroche knew that if he opened the door, he would be met with the flames. His breath caught in his throat, he felt as if he was shaking all over, he could not think.
He had always tried to be so brave, so independent and he was suddenly regretting pushing his friends away. If only he had told them what was happening, if only he had stayed at the meeting instead of running away. He found himself gripping the window's edge, desperately trying to hold onto something solid, something normal. He gripped so hard he felt as if his thin knuckles were about to pop through his skin. He stood frozen to the spot, trying not to think about the heat building up around him. A slight cool breeze seeped through the thin gap in the window that the brothers had pushed him through, a voice drifting in.
Multiple voices, multiple shouts, twisting and merging together in the darkness of the night and the twists of the flames. They pulled Gavroche from his prolonged stillness, he felt as if he was finally able to take a breath and he realised that he was not alone. He turned to face the window, the drop below suddenly looking so much further then when the brothers had lifted him to the ledge. His vision was somewhat blurred with tears of fear, but he could see the students standing below him. Enjolras and Combeferre were shouting to him, Grantaire stood further back, the slight and shadowy figure of Camille stood cowering behind him. It was Courfeyrac who stood closest to the burning building, shouting and shouting over and over again.
"Courf" Gavroche choked. "Courf, I… I am stuck, please, Courf… I'm scared"
Courfeyrac had never been able to describe quite why he and Gavroche had become so close over the years, it had just happened, like it was meant to be. Ever since they had first met, he had been protective of the boy, and these past few weeks had been hard. Gavroche had changed, something had forced him too but Courfeyrac had not been able to see what it was. He had wanted to know the whole story, but now the story did not matter. What mattered was getting Gavroche out of that building. "Gavroche, it is going to be alright" He said "You need to be brave; I know you can do it. If you climbed in through that window, then you can climb back out of it"
Gavroche hesitated, jumping when he heard another crack of wood splitting. He could see the flames licking at the floor below him, feel the heat of it. The safety of the ground seemed to be miles away. He leant over the ledge, feeling the cool breeze touch his skin as he stretched to see Courfeyrac below. "They lifted me up, they pushed me through here. Courf, it is far!" He pleaded.
"It is not that high, mon petit, I promise" Courfeyrac said reassuringly, raising his voice to be heard above the crackling of the flames. "And I will catch you. All you need to do is climb over that ledge and let go. I will catch you"
If there was anyone that Gavroche would trust to catch him, it would be Courfeyrac. Ever since they had met, Courfeyrac would always be there to look after him, make sure he had food when he needed it, made sure that he was cared for, as much as he wanted to be. Courfeyrac was his best friend, his companion, and he had been so horrible to him. If only he had given in when Courfeyrac had asked him what was wrong. He could have stayed at the meeting, away from the brothers, away from danger. He looked down at Courfeyrac, standing arms outstretched. Maybe it was not that far, maybe he could jump.
"Come on Gavroche, please, trust me" Courfeyrac called "Just climb over, and let go. It will be over in seconds"
Gavroche nodded nervously, turning his back to the window and preparing himself to back out the way that he had come in. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, the blood running through his veins, the fear pounding around his head. Slowly he allowed himself to step back. His slight body fit through the gap easily, his thin knees scrapping on the woodwork as he slipped back, his legs stood stepping into nothing as the window ledge gave way to the open night.
"That's it, mon petit, just lower yourself back" Courfeyrac said, stepping forward. He felt dangerously close to the flames now, but he did not care. He looked up at Gavroche, reaching his arms upwards. He knew that it was not a huge distance, but he knew that for Gavroche, it was going to feel like a very long one. How he wished he was taller, how he wished that he could just reach up and pull his boy down to safety.
"You are so brave 'Roche!" Camille whimpered, watching everything unfold from her hiding place behind Grantaire.
Gavroche kept his eyes tightly closed, only listening to the reassurances from Courfeyrac. He felt his legs dangling below him as he slid from the window ledge, gripping to the window ledge with all his might. He did not know how far it was, but he trusted Courfeyrac to catch him. "Courf" He whimpered
"Let go Gav, I am right here" Courfeyrac said.
With his eyes still tightly shut, Gavroche allowed his shaking hands to let go of the hard window ledge. Anything solid and anything normal was suddenly gone and he was falling through nothingness. He did not dare to open his eyes, he did not want to see the distance he was falling, he did not want to see how close he was to the flames. He could feel the heat, burning through the coolness of the night. It felt like forever, but he finally felt two strong arms swing out and grab him. He didn't touch the floor, instead he was swept up into Courfeyrac's strong and loving hold, all with a gentle "I have got you"
Courfeyrac let out a huge sigh of relief, bundling Gavroche up in his arms and turning him so that he was facing him. "It is alright, petit, I have got you"
The small boy suddenly felt that he could let go of all of the secrets, all of the pain of the past weeks. His little arms wrapped around Courfeyrac's neck as he threw himself into his hold, tears pouring down his cheeks. "I am sorry, I should not have yelled at you" he sobbed
"That does not matter Gav, all is forgiven. You can tell me the story of what has been happening another time" Courfeyrac said softly, running his hand through the boy's hair as Combeferre rushed forwards to drape his coat around the shivering child. Courfeyrac took one last look at the burning building and tightened his protective grip on Gavroche. He wanted to know the story but was not going to push for that now. He needed to get the frightened boy home, take him to safety and care for him until he was ready to talk. He run a gentle hand up Gavroche's back, holding him close as he nestled his head against his shoulder, sobbing softly into his neck. "Hush now, little one, all is well" he said softly beginning to walk away from the fire, Combeferre, Enjolras, Grantaire and little Camille following up behind.
Camille quickened her pace to catch up with Courfeyrac "Gavroche" she said quietly "are you alright Gavroche?"
Grantaire placed a hand on her shoulder, gently pulling her back to walk alongside him. "Not now, young one. I know that you are concerned for Gavroche, but what he really needs now is some time with Courfeyrac, just the two of them. Courfeyrac will make him feel better, so just leave them be for now"
The little girl nodded reluctantly, slipping her little hand into Grantaire's much larger one. "Alright, if I must"