A/N: R.A.T.S. It's seen on TV a lot, mostly soap operas. Rapid Aging Teen Syndrome. Gavroche 25, Nico 23 and the girls 21 or so.
Also, some weird time-warpy shit goes on when Grantaire and Peep are talking in the park. When 'Taire is talking... It DOES take place in the park but it's to be assumed that he repeated it in sign later on that night. If there's an easier way to write it or if it's too confusing, let me know. As ever, give a review...I love hearing.
Peep was nervous. Obviously, she had never been asked to speak anywhere before and especially to a room of mixed/hearing people. Her two year university course in education and public relations was finished, her graduation was soon but before that, she was asked to speak as an advocate for a new school for deaf children. The first in the area. Fleur and Minette helped her get dressed, fix her hair and put just a bit of blush on her cheeks - much to Grantaire's dismay.
She looked over the upstairs railing down to the crowd below, seated in rows of seats. There was no auditorium, the chairs were just set up and the panel area would be on a raised platform. She could only see the tops of heads but she could make out a few of them. She smiled when she noticed someone else joining her upstairs, as he had a role to play aswell. She ran to Enjolras and threw her arms around him. "Good to see you." she kissed the cheek of the (by now) well experienced lawyer and he held her in a hug until an interpreter came over. "How was your trip?" she asked as he had come all the way up from Toulon for this.
"Tiring." he said. "If it weren't for the promise of seeing all of you, I don't know that I would have made it." he stepped over to peer over the railing. "Everyone here?" he asked.
"Courfeyracs may not make it. Nobody has heard if they're back from the west coast." Peep said and she smiled to see Combeferre come in. Tall and slim, yellow hair and as classy a doctor as anyone could hope for. Fleur floated down from upstairs to sit next to him. She really moved like a high class lady. So much grace and beauty and here she was destined to be a doctor in a clinic in the slums. She could work at Combeferre's clinic as well but she would never qualify be a doctor as there wasn't enough money for university after establishing the clinic and renting the small property in the slums. She knew almost as much as the Combeferres but there would be no letters after her name. It didn't matter, the slum people she served were more important than the rich people anyway. Amusingly, she had to dress down and rough herself up before GOING to the slums and never go there alone. The men would not leave her alone and Combeferre seriously contemplated for awhile on forbidding her to go down there. That ended in a huge fight, a lot of tears, a lot of 'I worry' and 'I just love you so much' and Fleur wondering just what the hell she was going to do if and when any man came calling. "She looks beautiful." she whispered to Combeferre as she took her seat.
Combeferre was lost in thought when he saw his little sister, now a woman coming down the stairs and making her way over to him. When did this happen? It was just yesterday that she was kicking footballs around in spite of any pretty dress Danielle put her in. No matter how may ribbons and curls were in her lush black hair, Fleur was always ready to kick the ass of any boy around. He was proud of Peep, too and it was her day but he could never keep from being proud of Fleur. "You look beautiful, too." he whispered back then held his arms out for his son to run to him. "You found Mama?" he asked three year old Tomas Combeferre. He had left the seat beside himself free for his wife Mathilde who joined them after a double shift at the hospital. She sat heavily, glad that they had a carriage so she could just collapse into there after this was done.
Peep got one more kiss from Enjolras and took a deep breath, blowing out slowly, The MC introduced the panel and they were applauded as they took their seats at the long conference table.
From her spot at the table, she looked and saw Grantaire. She knew he'd been into the wine, she also knew he drank too much of it. As with Grantaire's own childhood, it was just the ordinary way things functioned in the house. She accepted his drinking the same way Grantaire accepted his father's. The difference, Grantaire also accepted the way his father treated him. He hated it but accepted it as normal, now knowing it wasn't right. He couldn't go back, he had to go forward and he would never treat his children like that. And by loving his children, it gave them no need to perpetuate the habit. Peep occasionally had a glass of wine with company and maybe a brandy but not often and rarely more than one.
"Mesdames et Misseurs." Peep nodded to the crowd and acknowledged the founding board members, which included Enjolras. She had sat up all night trying to think of what to say. The job she was given was the illustrate the importance in getting children out of hospitals and institutions and into schools and social situations like the one they were opening. With that as her only guideline, she took it to the direction of making people realise that deaf children were regular children, it just so happened that they couldn't hear. She nodded to the interpreter that she was ready to start and the woman spoke for her.
"I started school later in life and one of my first assignments was to describe the best feeling in the world. Most of the others used 'happiness', 'excitement', 'comfort' and things like that. I liked all those but there is a feeling that fills me with more joy than any of those things and I can't find a word for it as a 'feeling'. It will take a lot more words.
When you are deaf, sounds become physical feelings through percussion or sometimes, if you're not totally deaf just the right pitch that it's clear and sweet."
Had she been using her voice, her mouth would have gone dry but at least she didn't have to do any speaking, someone else was doing that for her.
"I can only describe my Papa's voice as the best feeling in the world. Not only the obvious, feeling a person's chest or back but in the air. I can tell when he's near even though I hear very little. It can be as early as when he is just coming through the door or even if he is in the parlour talking to someone else...I can feel it." She felt herself getting nervous...if she looked at Grantaire she would start crying so she looked at the Combeferre family, smiling at her. One of the things they were smiling at was, while Peep used the sign for 'father' and when she was talking ABOUT him, she used the sign for 'father' but when she spoke, she still called him "Tsaih."
"How do you sing a lullabye to settle a deaf child? What do you do if she's frightened or upset and can't tell you what's wrong? You can't reason with her. Obviously you want to hold any upset or frightened child but I never thought of it as just being held, more of sharing feelings. Feeling the warmth if I was cold, the strength of his heart if mine was weak or broken. The heart that says 'I am here'. Smells become the same, of his clothes, of his day's work, of what he has eaten..." ("drank" everyone said in their minds.) Grantaire didn't even hear the woman speaking, his eyes were wide and staring as he watched his daughter's hands move. He was oblivious to his friends leaning over and leaning forward to pat him on the back.
"Without proper words, my Papa's voice asked me how my day was, told me how his day was. His voice told me that if I was lost..." she had to stop for second, remembering the terror when she got lost in the crowd at the fireworks "...that if I was lost he would never stop looking. If it took until the last person was gone from the earth, he would wait until he was holding me again."
"Yes." Grantaire whispered...or said in his head, he wasn't sure but he was glad she knew that. He would still be there looking for her if they hadn't found her that night. He would never have left her.
"As I fell asleep in his arms some nights, the last thing I was aware of was the feeling of his voice in his chest and throat as he talked to friends. Sometimes he would fall asleep, too and drop me on the floor but I wouldn't fall far from him. Even the sound of his snoring..." she looked at the other Musain alumni who had never realised that she had heard it all these years "...gave me the feeling of 'sleep tight, I am here and I will take care of you.' Deaf children are first and foremost children. They need to hear you. They may not hear you clearly but it will be their version of normal. They will hear and whatever they hear will become a feeling of comfort. A feeling of 'I love you', 'I will never give up' and 'I will take care of you'. He doesn't have to say a single word for me to know that's true anyway but his voice makes me know he means it. Tsaih..." the sound came through as she signed. She paused while those in the know smiled in secret knowledge "...this school would be so much longer in coming if it weren't for you...and I'll not forget to acknowledge La familie Enjolras who gave us the building to hold the school in." She looked at the parents of the future students. "Your children will grow. They will stay out of hospitals and institutions, they will be part of your family as my Papa made sure I was. Thank you." she nodded to the crowd who clapped for her.
Whatever else happened at the inaugural speeches, Grantaire didn't know, he was just dying for it to be over. He took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. "Don't...embarrass her." he said to himself. He hadn't wanted to go at all until he heard that Margurite was going to be speaking. They called M. Sylvain Enjolras up to dedicate the school and he stopped as he walked along the panel. "I love you." he stroked her face and kissed her forehead before declaring the school open.
"I have known M. Grantaire and Mme Grantaire for a very long time. I have watched their hard work and, while they never talked about this being a big dream of theirs, I am not surprised. I declare the school open and I...think it's foolish to not acknowledge the first teacher installed." he looked at Peep. Mme Margurite Victoire Grantaire."
The school was urban there was nowhere for a garden reception but there was plenty of room at Courfeyrac's so after the formal social the 'famile de Musain' would head there. The Enjolras' Paris house didn't need renovations, other than desks brought in. The main sitting room was auditorium and foyer, the kitchen and dining room were for just that and the bedrooms upstairs were dorms. Downstairs, the other sitting rooms and salons were turned into classrooms.
Grantaire didn't want to stay there. In his business, he had learned to act interested ... and sober but not being able to hold and kiss his daughter was unbearable. "I am very proud, yes, than you." he smiled at people and shook their hands. "Yes, she's beautiful, than you." he nodded. Finally, he had made the rounds with all the bigwigs. The crowd thinned, parents were settling their children into the dorms and it was time to go to Courfeyrac's. He took Peep's hand. "Let's go" he said to her. He had left Laurette and Alain in the capable albeit flea-bitten hands of Combeferre and family and Grantaire would hire a public carriage to Courfeyrac's after they took a bit of a walk through one of the city parks.
"Tsaih..." she said and for the first time he let some tears fall. They couldn't talk if they were walking arm in arm so they stopped on a bench. "Tsaih...what is it?" she asked, worried that there was bad news coming. "Is something wrong?"
"WRONG?" Grantaire wanted to shout but it would have to be loud enough for her to hear and it would attract attention. "No." he shook his head. "No no no..." he took her head in his hands and gave her forehead a million little kisses. "That's the assignment you wouldn't let me read' wasn't it?"
"It's the assignment that wasn't completed." she reached into her handbag and pulled out the piece of paper that said "Papa's voice." she looked at the way the sun refracted his tears, making his bright blue eyes almost electric blue. It was the main thing that kept it obvious they weren't blood relatives. Her eyes were like chocolate that had melted in the sun and his were so blue that, in the few photographs of him, they looked white. "Don't cry, it's supposed to be happy." she said and dabbed his eyes with her hankie.
"I am happy, Chere..." he promised. "I just can't explain..." he held up his hands, some things just couldn't be captured by waving one's hands around.
Peep hugged hum. Putting her head to his chest. She could feel his heart, it was going a mile a minute, she could smell the wine. "Talk, Tsaih..." she voiced and closed her eyes after he started. She didn't hear clearly but she felt the love, it was, indeed the best feeling in the world.
Grantaire practised in voice what he would tell her with his hands later that night. "You always asked about my Papa and I just shrugged and said 'some day'. Henri Grantaire was a bastard. A good lawyer and great provider - for which we can both be thankful for. It was only natural I should study law and it has done me well. But as far as caring about anyone but himself, he failed. He was never happy. I don't recall ever seeing him happy. Even his children couldn't make him happy. I think that's what hurts most. I didn't know until you and then the others came along that even if you don't start out loving a child, they love and trust you unconditionally and the best way to honour them is to give them the same. I have spent hours and hours for as long as I can remember, trying to figure out what it was that made my father so disdainful of me. What could I possibly have done? Yes, while we all lived in the cafe, every one of us...we thought had our fathers' disdain but one by one, they found out their fathers didn't hate them at all..."
(Okay, time for time warpy thing)
"Except you?" she asked him as he was explaining later at their home that night.
"It wasn't hate. I think it was indifference. He didn't do things to me because he hated me, it was because I meant nothing to him. Anyway...he drank too much..." he shrugged.
"You see? He did teach you something." She joked.
"I'm sorry, Peep, I've tried to quit. My father started getting me drunk very young so I wouldn't feel it..." he paused
"He wasn't good to me." he shook his head.
"Tell..." she said. "I want to know where all of your pain comes from. And then for the last time I want you to be rid of it." She hadn't been oblivious to the fact that he was not used to the happy households that his friends were. Even Enjolras - though his house had been strict and quiet - there was a sense of family. Not as fun as Courfeyrac's or Combeferre's but something.
"He hit me with anything he could get his hands on, he made me kneel on broom handles and rocks over there." he pointed to the marble where the dog now slept, stand on the fire poker..." he listed a few others.
"How did you learn?" she asked him "Not to do those kinds of things?"
"I just...took everything he did and did the opposite." he shrugged. "But mostly I wonder just how rotten he was inside to not love his kids to death to begin with."
(Okay, time warpy stuff done.)
"Don't be mad, okay?" she asked, also having something to confess as they sat in the park. "I went to the hospital and asked for my records."
Grantaire felt his face drain. "What are you planning to do if you meet them?"
"I did." she said. "I was torn between taking you with me or not, obviously I chose the 'not'. They're rich, too." she said.
"We are not 'rich', we are 'fortunate." he repeated what he often told his children.
"I told them about you and the others. About how close I came to losing you, how sick you got" she had to stop for a bit to cry. "How I had to wait to find out how you were and it took forever until I saw you again. She asked if I had a mother and I said yes."
"Because I did. I do. And she left me as a child to fend for myself. If that was an example of what a mother is then it's no wonder nobody ever tried to find me another." She said. "I told her about how I got lost in the crowd and you looked and looked and didn't give up...the total opposite of them leaving me alone in a garden."
"Always..." Grantaire promised her as they got up off of the park bench to head to the hired carriage. "I would always look for you."
"You made it home!" Enjolras said to Courfeyrac. He had come in at the very last moment at the ceremony so hadn't had time to talk. Courfeyrac bounced five year old Gervais on his hip while Jean Pontmercy, and Jean Michel raced after a football and Tomas Combeferre tried to catch up. "Ayisha?" Enjolras asked.
"She excuses herself for awhile, we're both pretty tired, it was an exhausting trip." Courfeyrac said.
"Mother and child?" Combeferre asked. "Both well, Ayisha will be down shortly." Courfeyrac explained again.
"You're not going to say?" Fleur said, nobody knew if the newest Courfeyrac was a boy or girl, only that the baby came after a succession of still births and miscarriages.
"Not this close to debut!" Courfeyrac gasped. It had been an exhausting trip. As the anxiety and excitement began to overwhelm them, hoping it wouldn't end in heartache, they took a weekend trip to the seaside. Just the two...and came back two weeks later as a party of three. "Even Mama doesn't know." he said as the carriage stopped by the door and Marcelle was helped down as she returned from the school opening. She didn't know they would be home that day and smiled to see her son. She remembered well her own relief and joy to have a healthy baby after so much bad news and she kissed him. "Come upstairs." he led her to the bedroom and they stole in there quietly. Ayisha was sleeping but the baby was staring up at the two who approached the cradle. "Grandmere..." he picked the baby up and lay it in his mother's arms. "Meet Marie Marcelle de Courfeyrac." Marcelle took the baby and kissed her. Mon Dieu! "Yes, you got your girl." Courfeyrac said. "I did good, didn't I? He joked. He hadn't been able to stop looking at his daughter since the anxiety about the birth subsided. Like the others, she had a little beige face, soft black curly hair and her mother's long eyelashes.
"Francois." she said and put the baby back down, hugging her son. "Oh my God, my darling, you have done nothing but good since the day you were born. You gave me my girl years ago." she looked at the baby's mother asleep peacefully. She stroked his black curls. "I'm just so glad you have children so you understand just how fiercely your parents love you. You have sons so you know how proud your father was of his son."
"Oui Mama." he said. It was something he had thought about from the moment he laid eyes on Jean Michel. It simply was not possible that his own father hadn't been proud of him. "Are you ready to present her to her Godfather?" he asked.
"I'm going to get Ayisha ready. I think the Papa should present his princess. Look how proudly Georges and Yvan escort their girls everywhere."
"And...Minette." Courfeyrac said about the fairy girl. "Now that she has graduated and is back from university, with Josette gone, what of her?"
"I was going to ask you...being the man of the house..."
"Of course." Courfeyrac smiled.
"...BUT... she is going to be working up north and Enjolras will see to her lodgings."
"Now, go, Papa." she said and gave him another kiss, handing his daughter to him.
He stepped down into the parlour with the baby and went over to Gavroche, handing him the little girl who would become his goddaughter. "I figured it was a girl, with everything being hush hush." Gavroche said and kissed the baby, very used to holding babies by now. After he had his fill, it was time to play pass the baby. "Watch this..." Gravroche grinned and went over to where Enjolras was engaged in conversation with someone. "Syl, can you hold this for a sec." he said to Enjolras who wasn't paying attention and absently held out his hands.
"Ohh. Gav, what are you doing?" he asked, clumsily holding the baby girl. He was always afraid he was going to drop any baby he held. He did, however smile down at the sister of his Godson with her little brown face surrounded by a white bonnet. "Okay, take her now before I drop this baby...NOW Gavroche!" he started to get anxious.
"You won't drop her, you're sitting down." Gavroche said but took the little girl back until her mother got there and took over.
Each of the students looked around, mostly at their children. Minette, Fleur (fleabitten hands and all), Peep and Laurette in their long dresses and bonnets. Where did the pigtails go? However, if given the chance, Fleur would definitely kick the football around with Jean Michel and Gervais. Gavroche, so tall and savvy with some flea bites of his own. He stayed pretty close to the slums too. He wasn't the leader of les Nouvelles Amis but he was their tie to what needed to be done. He was what the Amis didn't have. The one who kept them from setting dreams too high too soon. The voice of experience, thus able to connect with the paupers and get them more active than before, not to mention supplying the stream of orphans to the 'Baby Shipping" racket.
Nico was in the thick of things at the seminary. It surprised a few but mostly they joked that they better count the days that they'll see him in trousers. Soon, he'll be trading his clothes in for robes.
And who was this new gentleman? He, too had fleabitten hands and looked a bit awkward in the good clothes. Well, he was the young man who had been taken with more than Fleur's beauty. The one who had come to the clinic in the slums to 'help' and met the doctor's sister who was filthy and sweat laden, covered with bodily fluids and street filth. He was the one so surprised when he happened to see her outside the gates of the slums with her kerchief off and her bonnet on, led on the protective arm of her big brother. He was taken by the fact that, like the others, she waited until she was out of there before putting on her rich girl clothes so that nobody thought she felt she was better than them. He was the one who broke through the big brother and was allowed in the courting room. He was the one who, by that Christmas time would have a very serious conversation with Dr. Yvan Combeferre and eventually sire the first of the next generation.