"Oh, G-d. Oh G-d, oh G-d, oh G-d. I don't think he's breathing. Enjolras, I don't think he's breathing! Oh, G-d, what do I do? What do I do?? I'm so sorry. I'm so, so sorry. Please don't die. Please, please, please."
Enjolras jerked upright in bed, shared panic throwing him into full wakefulness in ways that nothing else ever could. He'd answered the phone still mostly asleep, not even taking note of the number before lifting it to his ear and yawning hello. But now? Enjolras was awake. Swallowing hard, endless scenarios spinning through his head, each more gruesome than the last, he said, "Feuilly. I need you to tell me what happened. Small words. Small sentences. Breathe. Can you do that?"
On the other end of the line, Feuilly was breathing hard, the endless flow of words reduced to sniffles and an occasional small whimper of "Please," but at Enjolras' question, he began to speak. "I was driving home from work. It was dark. I was tired. I didn't see him. There was ice. I think he's dead." At that, Feuilly's breathing started to quicken again, coming in harsh, shallow pants as the pitch of his voice began to rise. "Oh, G-d, Enjolras, I think I killed him! What do I do?"
All the while that Feuilly had been speaking, Enjolras had been moving, throwing on shoes and a sweatshirt over his pajamas and heading out into the hallway to bang on Combeferre's door to wake him. Combeferre didn't need much prompting. All it took was one look at Enjolras' face and he was climbing out of bed, himself, and throwing on clothes. Enjolras did what he could to keep Feuilly talking.
"Feuilly. Can you tell me where you are?"
There was the sound of someone fumbling with their phone, the rustle of clothing, and some soft crunching that was probably snow; maybe Feuilly getting up to look for a sign or house number. Enjolras only hoped that he wasn't on a major road and risking getting hit himself. His grip on the phone tightened until he was white-knuckled, his own breathing harsh as he slid into Combeferre's car from the passenger side. He didn't relax until Feuilly's voice came back. "Near the park? The one on Madison? I think? It's so dark. I don't remember. I think some of the streetlights are out. I… I'm going to go back and check on him. I don't want to leave him alone."
When Feuilly's voice trailed off and those fumbling and crunching noises came back, Enjolras turned to Combeferre and passed along the directions. It wasn't much to go on, but there weren't many parks in town that would have been on Feuilly's way home, no matter what route he took. And if he was right, and it was the one on Madison, then they weren't more than two minutes away. If he was wrong…
Turning to Combeferre, Enjolras mouthed, "Call Joly. Send him over to the park on Barryhill. I don't want to take any chances."
If Feuilly was wrong and he was at the other park, then he was all the way on the other side of town and Joly, Bossuet, and Musichetta would be closer. And Enjolras wanted at least one person with medical training on site when they found Feuilly, because from the disjointed nature of Feuilly's speech, it was sounding more and more like he needed medical attention himself, even if whoever he'd hit was now beyond the necessity.
When Feuilly came back on the line, Enjolras focused on keeping him talking, one ear tuned to Combeferre placing his call. Soon after Combeferre disconnected, they'd reached the park… and it was exactly as Enjolras had feared. Though they circled the park twice, venturing down narrow, icy side streets, there was no sign of Feuilly or his car. Enjolras buried his disappointment and instead started asking Feuilly to describe where he was. The only response he got back was the sound of Feuilly's teeth chattering and more of that broken whimpering. No matter what he said, how hard he begged, that was all.
In a near panic himself, now, Enjolras was about ready to get out of the car and search on foot, even though he knew that the likelihood of Feuilly being here was now close to nil, when a soft buzzing sound stopped him. Combeferre turned his phone towards Enjolras just long enough to display Bossuet's phone number before answering. Nearly simultaneously, Enjolras heard over his own phone line:
"Joly…? What…? I thought… how did you know?"
And Enjolras' relief at hearing those words was so profound that he all but collapsed against the window of Combeferre's car. Combeferre disconnected his own call and leaned over to pull Enjolras into a tight embrace. It took Enjolras precious seconds after that to make sense of what Combeferre was mumbling into his ear.
"He's OK. He's cold and exhausted and bruised, but he's OK. He swerved to avoid hitting a cat and put his car into a tree, but he's OK. He… he did hit the cat, though. The cat isn't dead, but it's going to be close. Musichetta is rushing them to Joly's hospital, but Joly's afraid of having too many people in the car and that he won't have enough room to work. Bossuet is going to stay with Feuilly. Should we--"
Before Combeferre could finish the question, Feuilly's panicked voice was suddenly loud in Enjolras' ear. He seemed to have forgotten he was even still holding his phone. "Wait! Wait! Where are you taking him? What are you doing? Joly! Please! Someone tell me what's happening!"
Enjolras forced his own voice to calm and said, "Feuilly. He's not dead. Joly's trying to help. They're going to the hospital. Combeferre and I are coming to get you. I need you to take a deep breath and stay with me, OK? Can you do that?"
"Enjolras? Enjolras, I…"
"Feuilly. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. I will stay on the phone until we get to you. It's going to be OK."
The next fifteen minutes were the longest of Enjolras' life. Forced to go slowly because the roads really were that bad, Combeferre was white-knuckled by the time they reached the site of the accident. Enjolras was almost hoarse from keeping up a steady stream of calming chatter as they drove. When they got there and Enjolras finally got out of the car and over to where Feuilly was leaning on Bossuet, it took every ounce of willpower he had to convince himself it was all right to hang up the phone and put it away. And he did it not one moment too soon. Immediately upon freeing up his hands, he found them full of a pale and quietly crying Feuilly. Enjolras pulled him in close, started gently stroking a hand down his back as he maneuvered them over to the car and into the backseat, leaving Bossuet to take the front.
Bossuet started filling Combeferre in as they drove, but Enjolras didn't hear a word they said. He was too focused on Feuilly. Feuilly was shaking now, short, hard trembles that seemed to start from his core and radiate outwards. His hands and face were like ice, and his eyes were wide and shocky. Enjolras wasn't convinced that they shouldn't be heading towards a human hospital instead. He turned to tell Combeferre that, but as their eyes met in the rearview mirror, Combeferre shook his head.
That was all Enjolras needed to see. Either Combeferre wasn't worried and there was no need for Enjolras to be, or he felt he could see to Feuilly just as well at the veterinary hospital as he could at a human one. And he might just be right. Of course, there was the question of legality, but who really cared about that at a time like this?
When they pulled into the parking lot, Feuilly proved that he wasn't quite as addled as he'd seemed by being the first out of the car and into the building. Enjolras was fast on his heels, Combeferre and Bossuet bringing up the rear. By the time they got inside, Feuilly was already at the desk, disjointedly trying to ask after the cat he'd hit and only managing to make the receptionist as upset as he was. Enjolras gathered him back up and pulled him away from the desk. Without a word, Combeferre came over to join them and Bossuet moved over to soothe the receptionist and try to get the information they needed. Seeing that, Feuilly finally relaxed in Enjolras' arms. If anyone could get the information they needed, Bossuet could. And it didn't hurt that all the receptionists knew him, since this was Joly's hospital.
Enjolras took that relaxation for the gift it was and ushered Feuilly over to one of the seats. Once there, Combeferre descended upon them, penlight in hand, to check Feuilly over and make sure that he was recovering. Several minutes later, Combeferre pronounced him mildly concussed and a bit bruised up, but nothing that some rest and a decreased stress load for a day or two wouldn't cure. Feuilly had made a face at that, as he always did at the thought of taking days off to care for himself. He ducked his head after that, a light blush staining his cheeks, no doubt embarrassed by his earlier panic now that he was able to reflect on it from a more sober position. But Enjolras knew better. Feuilly's tightly clenched hands, his frantically bouncing leg, his pinched lips -- all gave away the fact that he was still far more affected by this than he was letting on… and he wasn't moving from this spot until he knew the cat was OK. And that was just fine. Because Enjolras wasn't moving from this spot until he knew that Feuilly was OK.
"Enjolras." A soft shake. "Enjolras, wake up."
Enjolras came awake finally, all at once and completely disoriented. And really… waking so twice in one night was more than any one person should ever have to do. Feuilly laid a hand back on Enjolras shoulder -- it had been his lap that Enjolras had fallen asleep in -- and just nodded towards the door. Joly.
Enjolras scrambled up out of his seat, disentangling himself from the coats that had been draped over him as he went. Feuilly rose more sedately, face pale, hands clenched together. He hadn't said a word in all the hours they'd sat there -- that Enjolras had been awake for, anyway. Even now, he couldn't seem to bring himself to open his mouth. It fell to Bossuet eventually to ask the question. Stepping closer to Joly, he said softly, "Did he make it?"
And Joly smiled.
Enjolras, however, missed whatever it was Joly said after that smile, because he was too busy catching Feuilly as he sagged against Enjolras in response. Enjolras got them both seated again and reached for one of the bottles of water that Combeferre had bought earlier, opening it and pushing it in Feuilly's direction. Feuilly tried to wave him off, but Enjolras just kept offering the water until Feuilly finally rolled his eyes at him and took it. "I'm fine, Enjolras. Really, I'm fine. I'm just… I'm relieved. Really… I really thought I killed him." Feuilly's voice choked off, then, and he swallowed hard, wiping quickly at his eyes before taking a drink of the water he'd been given.
Bossuet sat down beside them and patted Feuilly's back. "Well, you didn't. Joly knows what he's about. And since I think you missed what he actually said -- she's going to be fine. Minus a leg, but fine. And so are the kittens."
"Minus a--?" Feuilly's mouth dropped open. "She?" And as the rest of what Bossuet had said finally penetrated, he whispered in dismay, "Kittens??"
Combeferre piped up then. "That was why Joly rushed her back here so quickly. If they were close enough to term, he thought he could deliver the kittens by Caesarian. And in the interest of speedy surgery so she could begin nursing them, an amputation of her damaged paw was deemed the best choice. According to Joly, cats do very well minus one paw, though for obvious reasons, she should no longer stay outside."
"I'll take her," Feuilly said. "It's the least I can do. Her and the kittens." He paused then, eyes widening again. "How many kittens are there?"
"How many kittens did you say you had, again? It looks like a small army from here!"
Feuilly looked up at Jehan from the couch, where his newspaper had just become a kitten toy -- as it so often did. He hadn't really gotten to read a newspaper in over a month and he honestly couldn't say he minded much. He'd been too busy with Gwenllian and her kittens. He smiled and said, "Just the four. But somehow four kittens and their mother take up far more space than should be even remotely possible by the laws of nature."
"I can attest to that!"
That last voice came from somewhere behind the coffee table. Feuilly gently moved Artemisia off of his newspaper so he could peer over the table. Sure enough, Enjolras was buried under the other three kittens who were busily batting at his hair and chewing on the buttons of his shirt. Burying a laugh in his hand, Feuilly reached out and scooped the other three off of him, depositing them and Artemisia by Gwen for some mama time so Enjolras had a chance to get up off the floor. Feuilly had no idea what it was about Enjolras that Gwen's kittens found so appealing, but his arrival at the door was like catnip to the lot of them, and far from minding, Enjolras seemed to adore it. And if it had him coming around more often, Feuilly honestly couldn't say that he minded.
Enjolras dropped down onto the couch next to Feuilly, attempting to finger comb his hair back into place and eventually giving up when he ran into a few too many tangles. That always seemed to be the result of these play sessions. Still, the tangled hair and high color in Enjolras' cheeks was accompanied by a beaming wide smile, and for the first time in weeks, Feuilly began to doubt his plans for today. After all… Enjolras would miss the kittens. And without an apartment full of kittens… what would the draw be for Enjolras to keep coming back?
Still, there really wasn't much choice. Feuilly couldn't afford to keep five cats. He could barely afford to keep one. And he wasn't giving Gwen up for anything. He owed her too much. …he loved her too much. And as though making up for their rocky beginning, she'd taken to being a pampered housecat like a duck to water. Already Feuilly couldn't remember what it was like to live here without her and her kittens. But at least he'd still have her. And if his friends were the ones adopting all the kittens… well. He knew his friends. There would be play dates. Neither he nor Gwen would have much opportunity to miss the kittens if they were always coming back for visits… right?
A gentle hand dropped down onto Feuilly's leg and gave it a soft squeeze. Looking over, Feuilly met Enjolras' gaze with a shrug and a sheepish smile. It was ridiculous, really. To get so sentimental. But still…
Enjolras offered Feuilly a soft smile and leaned in to touch their foreheads together. Quietly, he said, "It's OK to be a little sad. I know you'll miss them. I'll miss them, too. But you'll still see them. And you'll still have Gwen. And--" He stopped then, a light flush overtaking his cheeks.
Feuilly raised an eyebrow, wondering what on earth could have prompted that reaction. Before he had a chance to ask, though, there was a loud knock at the door, and all the rest of their friends arrived en masse. Not everyone was going to take a kitten home, obviously, but it had seemed fair to invite them all and see who best suited each kitten. It was bound to be chaotic… but it was also bound to be fun.
The only one to exempt himself right away was, unsurprisingly, Joly. Then again, he had the most hectic schedule of all of them and between he, Bossuet and Musichetta, they already had three cats, a gerbil, a tank full of fish, two ferrets, and a pair of budgies. That was what happened, Bossuet had said, when one of your partners was a veterinarian. They just seemed to bring their work home with them… and then their work never left again.
So that left Enjolras and Combeferre, Courfeyrac and Marius, Bahorel and Jehan, Cosette, and Eponine. Feuilly felt sure that at least one kitten would end up going home with Enjolras and another with Courfeyrac. Of all of them, they two had visited the most often to play with the kittens, and though no one was as favored as Enjolras, the kittens seemed to like Courfeyrac nearly as much. This was soon proved when the one calico in the bunch -- whom Courfeyrac had once dubbed Aphrodite, much to Feuilly's dismay -- let out a loud mew and immediately began climbing up Courfeyrac's leg to get closer to him. He scooped her up, raising an eyebrow at her affronted hiss and saying, "Well, is that any way to treat your new daddy? We're going to have to talk about this." But Aphrodite simply clawed her way out of Courfeyrac's hands and back onto his shirt to finish her climb. She finally curled up in the crook of Courfeyrac's neck and settled in for a good nap, showing exactly how much respect she had for her "new daddy's" admonishments.
Feuilly laughed at the stunned look on Courfeyrac's face and said, "Well… I did try to warn you about spoiling her, didn't I? I'd say she knows pretty well who's going to be boss in your household, already… and I'm pretty sure it's not going to be you."
As Courfeyrac curled up on the floor near Combeferre's place in the armchair and tried to coax Aphrodite -- it really didn't look like that name was going anywhere, was it? -- down off his shoulder and into his lap, Feuilly clapped his hands. "OK. That's one down and three to go. Gentle beings… start your playing!"
An hour later, Lagertha had pretty firmly affixed herself to Eponine, and Artemisia to Cosette. With Aphrodite firmly entrenched with Courfeyrac, only Maximilien had not settled on any of their friends. He'd chosen instead to stay over by Gwen, eschewing the festivities entirely. He'd been the runt of the litter, and the shyest of all the kittens, but Feuilly had thought that he would at least be comfortable enough with Enjolras… who had yet to claim a kitten, for that matter. It was more than a little odd. Feuilly had always assumed that Maximilien would find a home with Enjolras, since Enjolras was the one who'd named him to begin with. And you didn't do that sort of thing if you didn't have designs on the kitten.
When Feuilly tried picking Max up and bringing him around to everyone, the kitten had hissed and spat until Feuilly had been forced to put him back down again. He'd immediately run back over to Gwen and tucked himself into her side for reassurance. Gwen had turned an entirely unimpressed look on Feuilly and turned to grooming her remaining kitten.
Enjolras caught at Feuilly's hand and pulled him back down to the couch. "Don't worry about it. Maybe he just needs a little more time. They don't all have to go today, you know."
Feuilly did know. And secretly, he wasn't precisely unhappy at the prospect of keeping Max. After all… he was Enjolras' favorite. And if he was still here, then Enjolras would still have excuses to visit more often. And that was a circumstance that Feuilly couldn't say he minded in the slightest.
After a dinner of pizza and garlic bread and one last play session, Feuilly found himself with an abruptly less full apartment. He'd sent his friends on their way with each kitten's favorite toy and food bowl, along with many admonishments to call and let him know how they were getting on.
Only Enjolras remained behind. He sat on the couch, Gwen curled up in his lap and Max tucked into his side, a look of quiet contentment on his face. Eventually, as though sensing Feuilly watching, he looked up, a self-deprecating smile quirking his lips. "It seems so quiet."
Feuilly settled back down on the couch next to Enjolras, smiling when Max let out a sleepy mew and oozed up into his lap. "Very. It's going to take some getting used to."
Enjolras reached out, caught Feuilly's hand in his, and gave it a light squeeze. He said nothing, at first, simply sat there, holding Feuilly's hand and idly playing with his fingers. Feuilly's face flushed at that, but he said nothing, either. Enjolras just… did that, sometimes. He was a very tactile person, as much so as Courfeyrac, in his own way. He liked to be in physical contact with his friends, liked to hold their hands, rub their shoulders, play with their hair. Feuilly tried not to read too much into it, but at times like these, when it was just the two of them… it was harder.
Eventually Enjolras let out a soft sigh and said, "I… if you really want me to, I'll take Maximilien off your hands, but--"
And just as he had earlier, Enjolras cut himself off with a soft blush, just before he'd said what he clearly wanted to say. Only this time, Feuilly wasn't letting him off that easily. He prompted, "But…?"
Enjolras' blush deepened and he muffled his next words in Gwen's fur. Feuilly could barely make them out, but he thought he heard:
"But then I won't have an excuse to come over so often?"
And with those words, Feuilly smiled. Leaning over to pull Gwen out of Enjolras' hands so he could see his face, Feuilly said, "And all this time, I've been worried that if I gave away all the kittens, you wouldn't want to come over so often." When Enjolras' eyes widened at that, his jaw dropping open just slightly, Feuilly laughed. "What a pair we make. Enjolras… there were reasons I called you that night, and not anyone else. I trust you. I respect you. I admire you. And beyond that… I like spending time with you." And then it was Feuilly's turn to blush. "You don't need to use the kittens as an excuse to come visit. You're welcome here whenever you like. In fact…" Feuilly's voice trailed off into an unfortunate squeak, and he cleared his throat to try again. "In fact, I'd like it if you came over more often."
Enjolras slowly smiled, his blush fading. "You really mean that?"
"I really mean that."
And they sat there like that, each with a cat asleep on their laps, grinning at each other like idiots, for far longer than Feuilly was sure was appropriate. Eventually though, Enjolras came back to himself and said, "I… are we…? Is this…? Do you…?" And then he cut himself off with a growl of frustration.
Feuilly, fortunately, had some idea of what it was that Enjolras wasn't quite asking, so he said, "Would you be OK with just leaving it at that? Because… I don't really know what this" -- he gestured back and forth between them -- "is, just yet. And I'd rather not try to put a label on it until I do. Is that… is that OK?"
The deep sigh of relief Enjolras let out was all the answer Feuilly needed, but he nodded, just the same.
"Good. Then if that's settled… it's been a long day and I think these two have the right idea. What do you say we get some sleep?"
Later that night, with Enjolras, one cat, and one kitten curled around him in bed, Feuilly couldn't help but think back to that day two months ago, and wonder at how the worst day of his life had given him the best day of his life. Because this was it, without a doubt… and somehow, he thought that, after tonight, there would be many more "best days" to come.