Three o’ clock in the morning is a time that Enjolras has always endeavoured to avoid being awake at. Nothing good has ever happened to him at three in the morning, whether it was coffee-fuelled essay writing sessions during his uni days, or ill-advised trips to nightclubs courtesy of Courfeyrac, Enjolras has never been grateful to see that time flashing red on his alarm clock.
Tonight is no exception. He heaves into the toilet bowl for the third time in as many minutes, resting his head on the cool surface once he’s sure he’s not going to throw up. There’s sweat on his forehead and an ache behind his temples and a constant repetition of not now not now not now in his head.
Distantly, he hears a shout of ‘Dad!’ from further inside the apartment and groans- if Enjolras had thought getting sick before was bad, it’s nothing compared to how he feels now he has a child.
Although Laurie is approaching seven years old, he can’t recall ever getting ill in her presence before. Small bouts of cold during winter months aside, out of the two of them it’s only ever been Laurie that’s gotten sick.
Laurie shouts again, her voice closer and verging on panic. She must have gone looking for him and found his room empty. Enjolras lifts himself up with a sigh. He has to pause and steady himself multiple times during the short walk between the bathroom and his room.
“Dad!” Laurie cries when she sees him standing in the doorway, running up and locking her arms around his leg in a hug. It’s all Enjolras can do not to stagger backwards, and instead brings a hand down to cup her head.
“Hey, Laurie. Is something wrong? You should be asleep now, sweet.”
Laurie mumbles something into his thigh and Enjolras sighs, wincing against the throbbing in his head as he crouches down to her level. “Say again?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” she mutters.
Enjolras hums. “Why not?”
Laurie just shakes her head and tries to lean further into his arms. Enjolras brings his hands up to steady her quickly, “Hey, hey, sorry Laurie but I can’t hug you at the minute, I’m sick and I don’t want you to get sick too, okay?”
Laurie, who already looked sad when Enjolras entered the room, now looks on the verge of tears. Enjolras settles for rubbing her shoulders instead of pulling her closer like he wants to. “Shhh, it’s alright. Shall we try and go back to sleep now?”
After a terrifying second of lower lip trembling and Enjolras bracing himself for the tears, Laurie nods. Swallowing his sigh of relief, Enjolras takes her by the hand and leads her into her own room, where she promptly runs up and jumps onto the bed, grabbing Honey the toy penguin and cuddling it close to her chest.
Enjolras still feels weak on his feet, so he sits on the floor next to Laurie’s bed, and, after a wave of dizziness, lets his head fall against her bedframe for a second.
“Dad?” Laurie asks, her voice small, and Enjolras musters up all of his strength to lift his head and give her a reassuring smile.
“I’m fine, Laurie, I’m okay. Just tired. How about you? Think you can sleep now?”
To his dismay, Laurie shakes her head.
“Why not, Lo?” The nickname is old, one he hasn’t used in a while, but it feels appropriate with Laurie so reluctant and quiet.
Laurie bites her lip before quietly asking. “Do I have to go to school tomorrow?”
Enjolras tries not to let his surprise at the question show. “School is really important Laurie, why don’t you want to go?” he asks, as gently as he can manage.
Laurie clutches Honey tighter to her chest. Enjolras waits a long time for an answer before realising he’s not going to get one. “Lo?” he prompts.
“It’s silly,” she mumbles.
“It’s not silly if it’s making you upset.”
“It is.” insists Laurie. Enjolras has to try really hard not to sigh.
“Even if it is silly, I promise not to laugh if you tell me. Okay?”
Laurie holds her pinky finger out and Enjolras can’t help but smile as he extends his own in the same manner. Once satisfied, Laurie nods and pulls her hand back. Enjolras waits.
“Everyone else in Ms Shelby’s class is on to green books now so the only one left on blue books is me. I’m stupid.” Laurie says eventually, not looking Enjolras in the eyes.
He knows Laurie’s been struggling with her reading at school lately, but she’s never seemed almost heartbreakingly upset about it as she is now. Enjolras’ headache and the way his stomach still churns are secondary in comparison to the hurt he feels knowing he might somehow have missed a sign to indicate Laurie was upset. He feels his heart break, just a little.
“You are not stupid,” he says firmly because that- that’s important. “Even if you couldn’t read at all, you wouldn’t be stupid.”
Laurie doesn’t look like she believes him, but she nods anyway. Enjolras continues. “Everyone learns things in their own times. You might not be on green books yet, but you can get there and it doesn’t matter if you need a little bit more time. I’ll help you, I’m sure Ms Shelby will help you. Sarah could help you.”
“Sarah’s really good at reading,” says Laurie quietly.
“Maybe you could both read together, then. Is that a good idea?”
Laurie nods. “Will you read with me too?”
“Of course. We can go book shopping at the weekend and find some nice ones to read together. Okay?”
“Okay,” Laurie says, and smiles. Enjolras smiles back.
“You have to go to school tomorrow, though. You’ll be able to practice your reading with Sarah and you can ask Ms Shelby if you need any help. Okay?”
Laurie nods again, taking this as her cue to shuffle under her covers and move herself into bed. Enjolras tucks the covers around her carefully.
“Try and get some sleep now, alright? I’ll see you in the morning.”
“See you in the morning,” Laurie repeats. “Love you.”
“Love you too,” Enjolras says quietly, using the bed to pull himself up off of the floor.
Once back in his own room, Enjolras’ headache returns with full force. He groans as his back hits the pillows, and already he feels too hot. Even after taking two ibuprofen and drinking a glass of water, he still can’t rest, and it’s with a sigh that he condemns himself to a sleepless night.
The morning doesn’t fare much better; with his headache back with a vengeance and no-one available to take Laurie to school for him, Enjolras ends up fighting his way through breakfast and walking Laurie to school himself.
He manages to stay positive whilst getting Laurie ready for school, making her cornflakes and reminding her of his promises last night. Once they arrive at the school, Enjolras is reluctant to go in past the gates, just in case whatever he has can be passed on. As a result, he waits for Grantaire and Sarah to arrive so that the girls can run in together.
Enjolras watches for any sign of reluctance in Laurie’s expression as she says her goodbyes but doesn’t find any. Hopefully, she’s feeling better about the whole reading situation now- it’s something he’ll definitely have to keep an eye on.
Grantaire waits until the two girls have entered the building before he turns to Enjolras. “I hope we’ve come far enough in our friendship that I can be honest with you, Enjolras- you look like shit.”
Caught off guard, Enjolras laughs. “Gee, thanks.”
Grantaire smiles, but that smile is quickly replaced by a frown as soon as he inspects Enjolras closer. “Seriously, are you okay?”
“I’m not feeling too great, to be honest. I was up all night with nausea and a headache and... well. It hasn’t really improved since then- what are you doing?” Enjolras asks, freezing in place as Grantaire lifts a hand up to his face.
“Checking your temperature,” Grantaire replies, his hand cold against Enjolras’ forehead. “Jesus, you’re burning. Should you even be outside?”
“Probably not,” Enjolras admits. “No-one was available to take Laurie though, so I had to.”
Grantaire frowns. “You could’ve asked me.”
Enjolras is silent for a second. The idea had never even occurred to him. “I didn’t think,” he says truthfully.
Grantaire huffs but waves his hand as if to shake it off. “Well, nevermind I guess, you’re here now. Although you really should go back to bed- you’re not going into work today, right?”
“No.” He’d called and cancelled as soon as it became an acceptable time for him to do so.
“I can pick up Laurie for you later, if you want. Hell, she could even come to ours for dinner, heaven knows Sarah’s been bugging me enough about it lately.”
Enjolras considers- it would be really nice to not have to worry about finding someone to pick up Laurie if he’s unable to. Grantaire is as suitable a person as any. And he doubts Laurie would object to an evening at Sarah’s house.
He sighs. “That’d be really great. If you don’t mind, of course.”
“Course not. You need the rest. And it’s my day off, so I can even make you some soup.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Enjolras says automatically, but he’s smiling. Grantaire smiles back at him.
“You need a lift back? I drove here, I don’t mind taking you back- it’s on the way, after all.”
The walk home is only fifteen minutes but Enjolras is so tired and accepting a lift back is a temptation he finds himself unable to resist.
They’re silent for most of the drive, only speaking once Grantaire is pulling up outside their block. “Thanks for the lift,” Enjolras says. “And for picking up Laurie, I really appreciate it.”
Grantaire waves him off and smiles. “Anytime,” he says. “I’ll bring her back around six, okay? I’ll text you beforehand.”
“That’s perfect, thank you so much.”
“No worries, Enjolras. Take care of yourself, okay? Go to bed.”
Enjolras manages not to grimace as he heaves himself up out of the car. “I will,” he assures Grantaire, not even sure he has the energy to do otherwise. “See you soon.”
Grantaire waves as he drives off and Enjolras enters his apartment, where he promptly falls under his covers and goes straight to bed.
It feels like barely any time has passed before Grantaire is texting to say he's bringing Laurie home in fifteen minutes. It's just gone six o' clock and in the time he's been alone Enjolras has successfully managed to keep down two pieces of dry toast and a cup of tea. He also slept through a considerable amount of the day, only waking for brief periods of time to idly check twitter and make trips to the bathroom.
In the fifteen minutes before Grantaire arrives Enjolras endeavours to change out of his pyjamas into actual clothes and brush his teeth. He succeeds, mostly, though the outfit he's changed into is nothing more than soft sweatpants and an old shirt- he doubts Grantaire has ever seen him in something so casual and it leaves him feeling strangely insecure. Distantly, he wonders why he cares.
Enjolras is quick to answer when there's a knock at the door, opening it to find Grantaire stood smiling, Sarah and Laurie at his side. Laurie immediately runs up and throws her arms around Enjolras' middle. Enjolras smiles, placing a hand atop her head.
"Hi Laurie," he says, and then, directing his words towards Grantaire, "everything went okay?"
"Yep. Good as gold."
Laurie beams up at him as if to prove so and Enjolras finds himself laughing.
"Can we come in for a second?" Grantaire asks, and it's only then that Enjolras notices the bags he's carrying.
"Sure, just don't get too close, I don't want you to get ill."
Sarah squeezes past him, and her and Laurie go speeding towards Laurie's room as Grantaire follows Enjolras into the small kitchenette.
"Tea?" Enjolras asks. Grantaire nods.
"Feeling any better?" Grantaire asks as Enjolras pulls out a chair for him and boils the kettle.
"I slept basically the entire day."
"Did it help?"
Enjolras shrugs. Although he doesn't actively feel the need to empty the contents of his stomach anymore, his headache continues to rage, and his temperature is still high.
"I just hope Laurie doesn't catch whatever this is," he says, quietly. That would be a fate worse than anything he himself could experience.
Grantaire makes a noise of sympathy and steps closer to Enjolras, reaching a hand out to his forehead like he'd done earlier outside of the school gates. "Still warm," he mutters, but his hand doesn't retreat. Enjolras doesn't question it; just closes his eyes and leans into Grantaire's cool touch.
At that moment, the kettle sounds, and both of them startle. Grantaire withdraws his hands and they exchange shy smiles before Enjolras turns away to pour the tea. Before he can do so, however, Grantaire's hand is upon his, gently taking the kettle and using his hold on Enjolras wrist to manoeuvre them into reverse positions.
Half of him wants to object- he's ill, not dying- but Grantaire must see his resistance from the corner of his eye, for he quietly says, "I've got this." and motions for Enjolras to take a seat. Enjolras reluctantly pulls his wrist from Grantaire's grasp and goes to sit down as told.
"There's soup for you in the bag, by the way. I'm shit at portioning so there's probably way more than you need there, but it's in tupperware so you can freeze some for the next time you get ill."
Enjolras stares at the bag for far longer than necessary- Grantaire had said that he was going to make soup, but Enjolras hadn't truly expected him to.
"It's carrot and coriander, nothing special, but it was either that or chicken and I know you're vegetarian, so..." Grantaire smiles, placing Enjolras' tea in front of him and sitting down opposite with his own mug.
"You didn't have to." Enjolras says, "thank you, really, but you didn't have to."
Grantaire just shrugs. "I had the time. And I wanted to, I actually really like cooking, I just barely ever have the time. You being ill was a perfect excuse, so really, I should be thanking you."
That coaxes a smile out of Enjolras, and they sit in comfortable silence for a while, sipping their tea.
"Has Laurie mentioned anything to you about reading?" Enjolras asks after a moment has passed, reluctant to disturb the peace but knowing that this is probably his best chance to talk to Grantaire about it. He keeps his voice low, even though the girls are in the other room and stand almost no chance of overhearing. Grantaire follows suit.
Grantaire shakes his head. "Not to me, no. She and Sarah were reading some of Sarah's books earlier, I think- they wanted me to read with them but I was on the phone. Why?"
"She's struggling," Enjolras admits quietly. "Not much, I don't think. She's just not as far along as the rest of her class. Which is fine, obviously," he adds hastily, "but I think she's worried the other kids will tease her about it."
"She seemed to be reading fine with Sarah earlier. Or at least, it didn't look like she was struggling."
Enjolras hums in thought. "She didn't want to come to school today."
Quiet follows his statement and Enjolras looks up to see Grantaire frowning ever so slightly. When he notices Enjolras staring he flashes a quick smile, almost as if in apology. "You should speak to Ms Shelby when you're feeling better. I'm sure she could help."
Enjolras nods. "Yeah. I've told her I'll read with her and we can practice words and phonetics and things, I just... I'm probably worrying over nothing." he admits, sighing.
To his surprise, Grantaire laughs. He only shrugs when he notices Enjolras' bemused expression. "Well, that's sort of our job as parents, isn't it? In my experience anyway."
"I suppose you're right," says Enjolras. He meets Grantaire's eyes and smiles.
The pounding in Enjolras' head hasn't gotten any better and as he finishes his tea, he signals to Grantaire that he'll only be a minute and then leaves the table in search of another dose of ibuprofen. There's a new pack waiting for him in the bathroom cupboard and Enjolras rips it open it with haste, taking two pills with water. He examines his reflection in the mirror and realises he looks even worse than he'd assumed; there are bags under his eyes and beads of sweat upon his forehead, dampening his hair. Enjolras sighs, running a hand through it to no avail.
He joins Grantaire back in the kitchen to find him washing the mugs in the sink.
"You don't have to do that." Enjolras protests.
Grantaire is already shaking his head, as if he knew the objection was coming. "It's fine, I don't mind," he says.
Enjolras frowns but acquiesces. He starts sorting the soup Grantaire made, putting half of it in the fridge for later and freezing the other half. By the time he's done Grantaire has moved on to drying their mugs and is whistling as he does so. For reasons he can't quite place, Enjolras finds it quite charming.
Grantaire calls Sarah once he's put the mugs back in Enjolras' cupboard and both girls come running out of Laurie's room a second later, laughing and giggling on their way.
"C'mon Sarah, shoes on, it's time for us to go."
Sarah pouts but moves to do as Grantaire says. Laurie walks up to where Enjolras is sat and hands him a piece of folded card. "We made it at school," she says proudly, waiting for him to open it. Behind her, Grantaire is smiling as if there is a secret Enjolras is not in on.
Glancing between the two of them in amusement Enjolras opens the card. Inside, the words 'GET WELL SOON!' are written in the centre of the page, in the wonky script he recognises as his daughter's. There's a lumpy crayon drawing of what he assumes is supposed to be him, a bed, and squeezed into the far corner, another lumpy drawing of a man cooking- Grantaire, Enjolras guesses, as the drawing is labelled 'soup'. At the bottom of the page, Laurie and Sarah have scribbled their names, and next to them Grantaire has added his name in small, tidy script.
"Thank you, Laurie," Enjolras says, trying to keep his voice steady. "And you, Sarah. And Mr. R, of course."
Grantaire smiles at him, wide and genuine, as if he can tell how touched Enjolras is by the gesture. Enjolras smiles back, and reaches down to half-hug Laurie, still worried about getting too close.
Once she has her shoes on, Sarah comes running back and grins up at Enjolras. "Did you like the soup my dad made?" she asks brightly.
Enjolras laughs. "I haven't tried it yet but I'm sure it's lovely," he says, glancing up at Grantaire as he does so. Grantaire blushes but waves off the compliment with a huff.
"He spent all day making it!"
Grantaire rolls his eyes. "It wasn't all day," he assures Enjolras, beginning to guide Sarah towards the door. Sarah waves bye to Laurie one last time as Grantaire turns towards him almost sheepishly. "I hope you feel better soon," he says earnestly. "If you don't, call me, I'm happy to do the school run tomorrow."
"Thanks for the offer," Enjolras says, meaning it. "And thank you for the soup. It was really kind of you."
Grantaire shrugs. "It's okay- like I said, I really like cooking. Although, I mean, it is just soup- I'm not sure if soup really counts."
"I count it."
"Of course you do." he pauses. "Tell you what, when you're feeling better I'll make you a proper meal sometime."
Enjolras blinks, unsure if Grantaire is joking or not. Then again, Enjolras thought he'd been joking about the soup, too, but he has a freezer full of carrot and coriander that speaks otherwise. "Sure," he hears himself say, "I'd like that."
Grantaire smiles at him, and Enjolras smiles back. Sarah is tugging on her dad's hand, bored of their conversation and Enjolras takes that as his cue to say a hasty goodbye, with a promise to text Grantaire whether or not he's feeling up to taking Laurie to school tomorrow.
Once Grantaire and Sarah are out of the door, Enjolras closes it and sighs. His head still hurts, but it's lessened considerably since earlier, and he feels almost up to eating. Laurie is in her room playing so Enjolras heats up some of Grantaire's soup in the microwave. It's good soup, and Enjolras savours it, almost wishing he'd taken out more once he's done. After some deliberation, he sends a text to Grantaire, just a simple thank you.
You [7:01 pm]: Thank you for the soup!
Grantaire [7:01 pm]: Glad you liked it lol
Grantaire [7:02 pm]: Hope ur feeling better x
Enjolras stares at the small 'x' at the end of Grantaire's message for a considerable amount of time. If he didn't know better he would think the nausea is back- but it's a different type of twisting feeling in his stomach that Grantaire's message inspires, and he's not sure what to do with that.
You [7:09 pm]: A bit, think I'll be fine to take Laurie tomorrow :)
Grantaire [7:10 pm]: Awesome see u tomorrow then!!!
You [7:10 pm]: See you then!
You [7:10 pm]: x