Hey folkies! Thanks for the feedback in my absence. My family has been literally cut in half by three unrelated deaths. Selling a house, buying a house, working full time etc. Phew! Just a reminder to any guests who give feedback, I love getting it but remember, I can't reply to the comments. Just sayin'. There's not much substance in this one, just a bridge 'til we go on the cruise next week. Where were we?
"I don't want to go see them." Nicolas pouted in the back seat as they drove south down the highway.
"Nico, they're your grandparents and they get to see you a few times a year. I'll be with you, don't worry." Enjolras said, glancing in the mirror to look at his son's face as well as see if the Grantaire-Courfeyrac bunch were still behind them. "Gavroche is going to be there, too...and Peep." he tried to cheer him up. "We only have to visit with them for a little while. There's an amusement park there and a water park and we'll all go there. If they want to visit you, they'll have to come join us there." he pointed out. Enjolras was going to be very serious about this, as the last few times the grandparents were in town, they visited and took the kids with them but they never really did anything with them. Not only were they dull people but they were seemingly newbies when it came to entertaining children. His own father was, too but at least he rolled up his sleeves and dove right in there. He grinned at Minette in the rear view mirror, sleeping with her head back and mouth hanging wide open. They hadn't been in the car for half an hour and she was asleep. "Wanna watch a movie?" he asked and handed a few movies back to him..
They needed something to take their mind off of everything. It had only been a couple of weeks since the crack of thunder woke them all from a dead sleep out at the acreage and the smell of fire drove them all out of the house and into the vehicles in the back yard, ready to leave. The adults were acting out of instinct, the children were barely awake and Courfeyrac ran across the yard to let the small house occupants know that there was a fire next door so they could evacuate if the fire spread. The first thing on their minds was to get the children out of there so they didn't have to watch the first haven in their lives go up in flames. "Just take them to a hotel in town." Grantaire told Eponine as he loaded all the children in a van. They wouldn't sleep but they'd be safe and out of the way. With the kids gone and the pets circulating around the 'forest' in the back, there was nothing to do but watch it burn as the fire engines pulled into the yard. There was nothing in there that needed saving, just possessions. Still, they watched sadly. There, they started as several confirmed bachelors and with time and patience and love, an entire odd-shaped family happened. Enjolras' head flashed with a million pictures, finding the children in the house, drawing Nicolas' envelope, acquiring Minette in something that resembled a football trade, then finally the prize he didn't even realise he was fighting for.
Courfeyrac stood with Grantaire's arms wrapped around him, showing movies of the same type in his head. "It's just things, Darling...everyone's okay." he whispered and Courfeyrac nodded. "It's just that everything was so perfect." he tried to put words into his husband's crying.
"Why don't you guys go to town, too." Ramin said. He was the only owner of the property so he would stick around with the firemen. He opened the van door for Danielle, to get in next to her brother to meet Eponine and the kids at the hotel.
"Let's go." Enjolras said and tapped Courfeyrac on the shoulder and turned him towards the other car. They were sooty and sweaty from getting the kids out and the garage was far enough away that they could keep the pets safely in there.
There wasn't much to do at the hotel, it wasn't like they had to put on brave faces and pretend that everything was okay but it would be wise to call the grandparents.
"Mon dieu!" Josette said when Enjolras phoned.
"Everyone is okay, Mama." he told her but she was already yattering on in French to Lucien. "No, don't come here, we'll come to you tomorrow." he said, seeing his sooty handprint on the phone. Courfeyrac was in the other room getting pretty much the same thing from his mother. "Okay!" Enjolras half ways smiled. "We'll be there in about an hour." he said and hung up. "Looks like we're going to Nanna's." he said to the kids.
"Us too?" Gavroche asked, looking at Courfeyrac.
"Well, we're down to one car that seats only five."
"Take the van." Eponine said. She only had Bonnie and Fleur, she could take Enjolras' car when she found out where they were supposed to go.
"I'm sure you'd be welcome too." Courfeyrac told her.
"No, I'll wait for Yvan...we'll probably just stay here." she waved them on and kissed the sooty little children. "We're all okay, right?" she smiled to all of them and gave them kisses.
She ran bath water for the girls to get the soot and smell of smoke off of them...but their clothes still smelled of smoke. She'd wait 'til Courfeyrac got there then send him to the hotel laundrette with everyone's pyjamas and they'd sit around wrapped in blankets. The girls settled down and played in the tub and Eponine watched TV until Courfeyrac got there.
"We're all fine." he hugged her. "Marius said to stay with them. I told him we'd stay here tonight and go there tomorrow."
"Oh you smokey little boy!" Josette said when she hugged Nicolas. The kids had clothes and night clothes there for when they slept over so she took them right to the bath tub and threw their smokey clothes in the water. Enjolras took a shower and put his dad's thick bath robe on while his clothes washed with the kids'.
"You won't say no to this one tonight, I'm sure." Lucien said, handing him a glass of brandy.
"Tonight!" Enjolras halfways laughed. "It's almost tomorrow morning, you guys need to get to bed." he said and his dad waved it all off. "I'm just so tired." Enjolras said, nodding and taking the brandy. "Not just now, I just can't believe the energy this takes." he chuckled. "Not that I would change a thing but you're just always so...your brain just always has to be 'on'." he stopped himself. "Guess I don't have to tell you that." he realised he was describing his parenting to his parent.
"Well..." Lucien said, drawing on his e-cig. He smoked cigarillos for the longest time but once the kids started staying over, he didn't feel like sitting out in the yard so he switched and quite liked it. He didn't like admitting that not only did he only have one kid, he was quite uninvolved in his upbringing. His son never made him tired because when he got tired, he would go to the study or stay at the office. There wasn't a day in the past two years that went by that he didn't think about the years he wasted, taking his small family for granted. He knew he was lucky, many people didn't get a second chance. "YOU guys..." he said when he saw the kids come into the parlour "...get to bed." he told them. They were tired, just came in for kisses. Enjolras took the glass back that Minette had taken from his hand. "No you may not." he said.
"I just wanted to smell it, it smells so good." she said and dipped her finger in before he took the glass back. "Blech..." she shuddered.
"Stick to sniffing it for ten more years or so." Enjolras said and gave her a kiss. "Mama, why don't you come sit and I'll put them to bed." he said, rising to his feet and following them down the hallway. Sometimes the kids shared a room, sometimes they had their own but he could see that they wanted to be together and they both crawled onto a queen size bed in the many bedrooms in the house and got under the covers. "You guys gonna' be able to sleep?" he asked them and they nodded. "We're all together, right?" he said and they nodded again. "Did the fairies get out?" he asked Minette.
"Of course. They're sad though, they're just watching it burn." she said.
"Well, hopefully they'll come in when they get too sad." Enjolras thought about Minette's beautiful fairy room.
"Dad?" Nicolas asked. "Where are we going to live?"
"Not even going to think about that tonight, Nico." he said. "We WILL have a house and we will be together."
"With Francis and George and..." Minette started.
"I don't know, Nettie." Enjolras held his hands up to stop her. The house in the country was perfect for all of them and for the situation at the time. Now they split into small family groups, would they stay in one house? "Whatever happens, we won't lose touch with them, that's for sure." he pointed out. "Good night you guys." he gave them both one last kiss. "I love you and I'm glad we're safe." It still felt odd telling someone that he loved them. It wasn't like he has never loved anyone before but he never recalled telling them that. "Good night." he whispered again as he closed the door.
Grantaire carried Peep into his inlaws house and straight to bed. She had fallen asleep on the way in and he did his best not to wake her. It would just be best if everyone got as much sleep as they could that night. He undressed her as Marcelle brought a basin of water in to wipe her down with. She still smelled smokey and there would be soot on the pillow case but she continued to sleep. "How are you?" she asked her son in law as he sat on the side of the bed, stroking her hair for a second.
"I'm okay." he said. "We're all okay." he just kept reminding himself. "But the house..." he despaired. He loved that house. It was the first house he lived in that was peaceful. Growing up was wretched and the roommates he had were people...like him so it was a dismal existence. Meeting Enjolras made it a bit brighter but knowing that the love would go unrequited was depressing, until he introduced him to his friend. The house calmed everything and it meant the comfort of family. "...the house..." he repeated and felt Marcelle's hand on his back.
"It's just a house, George." she reminded him, having no idea what that house stood for. "There are plenty of other houses." she pointed out. She and her husband had been talking about giving them money for a down payment for quite some time. They figured the hard part would be getting them to leave the acreage - now it wouldn't be hard. "It's what's IN the house...right?" she asked and kissed the side of his head. "Come get something to eat." she urged.
Gavroche came over to him as he went into the living room and Grantaire picked him up for a cuddle. "Want to go to bed?" he asked him and Gavroche shook his head, feeling his father hug him a little harder. "I think we're going to grab something to eat, you want a bit to eat?" he asked, stroking his blonde hair and Gavroche shook his head again. He didn't want anything but to be in someone's arms. The house was gone and like Grantaire, it was the only house he lived in that held any kind of love and comfort.
"I want the house." he whispered.
"It's gone, Gav." Grantaire said. "But we're not going to let it stop us." he promised. Gavroche still didn't feel like eating but he sat in between his fathers as they had a snack and a talk, trying to keep the conversation light. Finally he couldn't fight it and he felt someone lift him up and carry him to bed.
"Whatcha grinning at, dude?" Courfeyrac smiled, looking in the rear view mirror. Gavroche opened his eyes. The sun shone through the window, it was warm and sunny and they were headed for a holiday, trailing behind the Enjolras trio.
"I didn't know I was." he said. He wasn't sure he had dozed off or just drifted into fantasy. It was a place he went to occasionally and it felt and smelled so good. It was in the arms other either dad. Courfeyrac seemed to be a bit more confident carrying him - he was getting heavy, but Grantaire definitely had softer shoulders. "Can you tell her to stop singing?" he asked, pointing to Peep.
"Peep, stop singing." Courfeyrac said with very little energy. "Doesn't work." he said. "If it's that annoying, put your headphones on but she is still just getting a kick out of hearing her voice - just a bit of patience." he begged of Gavroche. Courfeyrac and Grantaire made a bit of a deal early on. Gavroche was going to be rewarded for the patience and yielding he was having to do for his sister. Later bedtime, maybe an extra movie after she was in bed. "Don't...Gav..." he said when he saw the boy reach out and swat Peep on the arm.
"Ow! Dad!" Gavroche said, holding his hand over his mouth. "I just hit her arm and she hit my mouth." he said.
"Luck of the draw." Courfeyrac shrugged. "You didn't need to hit her in the first place." he reminded Gavroche. "I didn't have anyone to fight with but I knew about girls who have brothers, man, you don't mess with them." he kept from laughing because he was trying to be serious.
Enjolras looked to the side and saw the Grantaire car beside him, motioning for him to pull over so he stopped at the roadside. Without a word, Courfeyrac got out, opened his back door and brought Gavroche by the hand back to Enjolras' car. He opened the back door and unbuckled Minette, exchanging the children, then took Minette back to their car to ride with them.
"Uh-oh." Enjolras said, also trying to keep from laughing. "Push one too many buttons in there?" he asked.
"I guess so." Gavroche nodded. "They said we're going to stop for lunch soon anyway." he said and got ensconced in the last half of the movie.
"Well, they're here already." Enjolras said as they loaded their luggage into the motel and saw the car with Florida license plates on it. He was glad of that. The Norths got tired of the children quite quickly so the sooner they got their time started, the sooner it would be over. "Oh come on...at least ACT like you're glad to see them!" he told the kids and they put on their best fake smiles. They wanted to go out to the playground and play with Peep and Gavroche but they went up the stairs to their grandparents' room.
"What do you think they'll do with us?" Nicolas asked "What is there to do?"
"They've got a nice zoo." Enjolras said. "And waterpark..." he stalled. He couldn't imagine them doing a waterpark with the kids. "There's some new movies, maybe they'll take you to a movie." he said, hopefully. He hoped they didn't do the dinosaur museum. He wanted to save that until after they were done with the grandparents because that would thrill the kids and he wanted to see it.
"There's a mock up of a wild west town, too." Courfeyrac said. "Mum says they make excellent sausage rolls and..."
"...and we're going all this way just to pick sausage rolls up for Marcelle." Grantaire laughed. He adored his inlaws. "We're going to do the waterpark." he said quietly to Enjolras. There was a lot of stuff to do that if the kids didn't get to the waterpark, there would be plenty to do. There wasn't much time to say anything else as the Norths were coming down the stairs and over to the family.
"Hello." Mrs North said politely to Grantaire, which was more than Mr North said. He just shook Enjolras' hand then went over to the kids.
"Hi grampa." Nicolas said and hugged him, then moving on to trade grandparents with Minette.
"What are we going to do?" Minette asked.
"I haven't really looked at anything." Mrs North said. "What do they have here to do?" she asked. "It's very hot, I hope it's not outdoors."
"I was going to say the zoo or the heritage park." Enjolras said. "But..." he shrugged about the grandmother's complaints of it being too hot. "I'm sure there is a Discovery centre or something around." he said. He knew it would only be a few hours max and maybe a meal. It was always absurd that the grandparents would drive all the way up just to see the kids for a few hours but they did have friends to visit all the way up and down the route they took. They were just so colourless and dull.
"Did you want to start with something to eat?" Mrs North asked.
"We just ate." Minette said. "I want to go to the zoo." she said. SOMEONE had to make a decision. "Did you know we had a fire?" she asked her grandmother. She was a child, she was getting used to people fussing over her and the others because of this great tragedy.
"I heard that." she said as they went into the room that the Enjolras' were staying in on the ground level. Gavroche and Nico had discovered the doorway between the two rooms and opened the two rooms into each other. Minette stood, somewhat expecting her grandmother to say a little bit more about it.
"We're doing okay." Enjolras said, rubbing Minette's shoulders and kissing the top of her head. "It was a bit scary but we're looking into other houses."
"I want to rebuild at the acreage." she said.
"We'll talk about it later." Enjolras said. They had been talking amongst themselves. Everyone worked in the city. The acreage location was chosen because it was far away from the city to almost 'deprogram' any of the kids who were moved. It opened them up to things they either never new existed or had forgotten due to the situations they were currently in. They didn't need that anymore. They would consider this experiment a success and move along, like a graft or transplant. "Let's sit here and make a plan." he waved towards the table and chairs in the room while the kids sat on the bed and he took the armchair. The grandparents had done no homework and Enjolras finally booted up his tablet.
"I like the zoo too." Nicolas agreed grinning and giggling with his sister at the rhyme he made. "We can get you an umbrella, Grandma to keep the sun off of you." he offered. Or we can go to the splash park if you want!" he thought about the way he liked to stay cool in the summer.
"How about we do the heritage park and wait 'til we're together with Grantaires tomorrow to go to the zoo?" Enjolras suggested. Inwardly, he knew that the Norths would get tired of the zoo long before anyone else did. The kids may not like the heritage park as much but at least the promise of the zoo the next day might make the day's trip just the right length.
"Ferris wheel!" Minette squealed as she saw the old fashioned midway from the gates of the park. "This place is old fashioned." she looked at the people in period costumes.
"Yes - it's just pretend like in the olden days though." Mrs North said and reached for Minette's hand.
"I know." she said, taking her grandmother's hand and swinging hands with her as she walked. "Pretend is fun though." she pointed out. "Look at the little girls from the school." she pointed to the kids in period costumes.
"Do you want to do that?" one of the workers asked. "We have costumes for anyone to wear for the day." she pointed to one of the shops and welcomed the family in. Only the children wanted to dress up and Enjolras got a kick out of seeing his kids dressed like they were going to be starring in Little House on the Prairie.
"Now you can't drip your food on the front of you." Mrs North told the children.
"I think the clothes are washable." Enjolras pointed out. Why must that woman ruin everything the kids wanted to get into? Her husband, on the other hand was just quietly following along, not really interested in seeing any of it as Enjolras kept trying to make conversation with him, while Nicolas held his hand and wouldn't budge closer to either of his grandparents.
Nicolas wished they were there with either Courfeyracs or his other grandparents. He and Gavroche would have a blast on the midway or running around the town square and his grandparents wouldn't have fussed for him not to get dirty when the whole park was a mock up of a time when life wasn't very clean to begin with. He thought the short pants and cap looked and felt funny but it would be okay for the day. He thought his sister looked like a little sunflower or buttercup. She would get dirty, he knew that! He knew that the shooting gallery would attract his grandfather though.
"They're just targets, Nico." Enjolras nudged him. "Not animals, not even pretend animals, just targets...please." he whispered. He didn't want his son to be pouty and whiny and give the grandfather even more reason to render him a sissy. Even if he could get him into paintballing or laser tag. Nico stepped forward to the care of his grandfather who was thrilled to show him how to hold the gun. Nico squeezed his eyes shut every time the gun let fly - it was amazing he had hit the target at all but to his disappointment, he didn't do that bad.
The good news for the children is that it didn't take long before the grandparents were getting tired of walking and there was still a lot of walking to do. They decided to save the midway for the end so the grandparents could sit for the last part of the day. Enjolras strolled up and down the main street of the mock pioneer town, keeping an eye on the kids as they ducked in and out of various banks, land title owners, mills, hotels, pharmacies and an old fashioned ice cream parlour.
"Dad!" Nicolas waved Enjolras over to where he was. It always made him smile, not only to be called 'dad' but he knew it rubbed the Norths the wrong way. Enjolras walked into the blacksmith shop and saw what the attraction was. "It doesn't hurt them." he said when they watched the horse shoes being fixed to the hooves. "And look..." he took him over to show him a few other horses waiting to be shod. Enjolras helped him stand on the bottom rail so he could reach out and pet the horse. It wasn't long before the whole family was in there, standing at the fence as the kids pet the horses. The stable hand brought them some carrots to feed the horses and talked to them a bit about the animals, giving each kid a chance to brush the mane of a horse. "Can I ride one?" Nicolas asked.
"Not these ones, they're for pulling the wagon." the blacksmith said. "There are some in a corral at the midway." he told them.
"Peep would like it here." Nicolas said, still stroking the horse until Enjolras took him from the bottom rung of the fence and they left the stable. More walking up the street until, this time it was Minette popping out of a house, waving them over.
"I like this house...come here." she said and took Enjolras' hand as she led him up the steep staircase in a100 year old house. "The house looks big on the outside but look..." she said at the top of the stairs. "..this is all close, this is your room, and mine and the bathroom and Nico's." she pointed in a perfect circle around at the top of the stairs.
"Oh, you're building our house are you?" he smiled. They couldn't go into the rooms but the doors were glass so they could look in there.
"What's our new house going to look like?" she asked him.
"We don't know, Net." he said, stroking her hair. "The whole point of us being down here is to maybe not think of it for a day or two but if you like this layout it's something to bear in mind." he said. "This is a very hold house though." he warned her. It was a cute house though.
"And there's a piano downstairs for Nico to play." she said. She had it all figured out and walked him through the kitchen. This is small though."
"Net, we're not getting this house. Look, the kitchen is outside!" he pointed to the lean-to of the old house. "There's no kitchen in the house at all." he said, looking at the annoyance of her grandmother who had climbed up there to see what was so important for anyone to see. He wished his mother was there. He hadn't realised as a child but she had the way of saying 'okay dear' when a child was talking fantasy that didn't let on she knew it was just playing.
"You guys want to do some midway rides so the rest of us can sit in the shade?" Mrs North asked. Minette nodded and led the way back down the stairs. She was ready for the midway rides, she didn't give a shit if the old people wanted to sit in the shade.
"Are we really going to go down to Florida to visit them?" Nico asked when they were at the top of the ferris wheel, out of earshot.
"Who said that?" Enjolras asked as Minette held his upper arm, enjoying the ride but a bit uneasy at the height they were at. "They said that?" he tried to keep the alarm out of his his voice. "If you do go down there, it won't be alone." he told them both. He knew it was normal for their friends to go spend summers and holidays with their grandparents but he didn't quite trust the Norths with them. It was the whole reason he fought for them. He knew if they took them, he would never see them again.
"They said Disneyworld is down where they live...but I don't believe them." Minette said, tightening her grip as they whirled skywards again.
"Oh, it's there." Enjolras said. "We can go there some day." he looked and saw the kids' disappointment. "Maybe we'll all go." he thought about Courfeyracs and how much fun the kids would have there. "I won't be sending you down there by yourselves though." he told them both. "That was the deal on adoption day, they can come see you all they want and we'll go down there if they want but they're not going to take you anywhere without me." He kind of rode the rest of the time hushed while the kids enjoyed and pointed out things they could see from the vantage point of the top of the ferris wheel. He would like the kids to see Disney World - he would check it out with Courfeyracs and maybe his own parents.
The kids took a spin on a few more rides and, for a few reasons, Enjolras dragged it out for as long as he could. It used up the time that the grandparents had with them and it left them sitting in the shade, doing nothing - which seemed to be what they liked doing best.
"I think you should change out of that pretty dress before you eat ice cream." Mrs North said to Minette. It was already a bit too late with all her running, climbing and riding, the white pinafore was very ready for a bleach immersing.
"I wish I could keep it." Minette said, giving her grandmother a heart attack as her mouth and tongue assumed the bright blue of the bubblegum ice cream that Enjolras handed her.
"Thank you, dad." Nicolas said, taking his dark purple grape ice cream cone. He knew how it rubbed his grandparents every time they heard him say 'dad'...so he said it often. "Do you want to have supper with us?" he looked at his grandparents, making Enjolras wonder just what he had in mind. Why would he invite them? He would have to ask him - he would have the opportunity fairly soon because he could see that when Mrs North said 'we'll see', they were already looking for an excuse to not join them.
"Maybe you can come see us, go to Disneyworld." She said as they left the park.
"Well...will we see you tomorrow or something?" Nicolas asked.
"No dear, we have to start heading back tomorrow morning." she said and gave them kisses.
"They can't even stay and see us one more day?" Nicolas asked, in the car.
"Why did you invite them?" Enjolras looked in the rear view mirror.
"I knew they wouldn't come but I thought I would be polite, then nobody can blame me for not trying." Nicolas shrugged.
"That's very good of you." Enjolras smiled. He could see so much change in both kids in the past year. "How 'bout you, Miss?" he asked Minette.
"Can we go to Disneyworld?" she asked quietly.
"Yes." Enjolras said. "We will go there. I will take you, I think you'll have a blast. Is it okay if Courfeyracs come too?" he asked. For some reason, even though the children were Grantaires, they called the family Courfeyrac.
"Can Nana and Papa come this time?" she asked.
"I'll see if they want to come." he promised. His parents weren't the Disney type but they enjoyed the resort life...and they had done a lot of things in the past year that he would never have thought they'd do. "Everyone have a good day?" he asked them. "Ready for the zoo tomorrow?" he asked and they nodded.