Parlours, babies and perfect contentment
Regency au, 1000w, written for Courferre week 2018
A few months before Heaven in Your Arms, Combeferre visits the De Courfeyracs in their house in Town.
(Also on AO3) Can be read without knowing the rest of the series
Combeferre walked up the steps to the house the De Courfeyracs had rented in Town, mind fully occupied in composing a reply to the treatise on archaeology he finished reading late last night.
He got jerked out of his thoughts when the servant opening the door gave him a deferential bow instead of scolding him for forgetting his gloves. The housekeeper, Mrs Jenkins, and her staff, had for many years been warning him that if he would keep forgetting his gloves, he’d catch a frightful cold. It had been years since any of the faithful De Courfeyrac servants had seen him as a guest and not someone to be fussed over. It had also been years since he had been forced to ask after Courfeyrac’s whereabouts instead of immediately being pointed in the right direction. This boy had to be a recent local hire.
After having given his name, he was pointed to the parlour, where he was told he could find Madame entertaining her children. Combeferre left his hat and coat and made his way into the parlour unannounced. He and Enjolras had always been allowed to run wild in Courfeyrac’s house, by virtue of having done so since the time when nothing could contain their childish energies and schoolboy adventures.
In the parlour, instead of Madame de Courfeyrac surrounded by her brood, the company was comprised only of Courfeyrac with a baby in his lap. He was talking quite seriously to his baby sibling, so absorbed in impressing his wisdom that he hasn’t even heard Combeferre come in.
“-and you must know that London is full of adventurers who would seek your favour. And even though that sounds exciting, you must take it from your big brother that while an adventure may be enjoyable, an adventurer will not.”
The baby had got its chubby hands around Courfeyrac’s cravat and was deeply concentrated in undoing the elaborate knot, ignoring this sage advice completely.
Courfeyrac in turn straightened the baby’s gown. It was an elaborately embroidered one. Combeferre remembered Courfeyrac slaving over it when the arrival of his new sibling was announced. He also remembered Madame de Courfeyrac cleverly pleating it so the places where Courfeyrac had lost focus and misplaced stitches were invisible. Courfeyrac really did not have the disposition for the more sedentary arts. Even now, contently sitting with a baby in his lap, he was in constant motion. He was constantly smoothing down the downy curls, or lifting the baby to encouraging the fat little feet to simulate walking over his thighs. The baby was missing one sock, leaving the baby with one pudgy little foot bare. Courfeyrac noticed the missing item and looked about him to find it. He found Combeferre instead, still leaning against the doorpost. A smile instantly overtook his face.
“Combeferre! You’re here! And I am all alone with my favourite sibling and now you are here and it will be the most famous morning!”
His face was glowing with delight and Combeferre found himself brightening to mirror it.
“Guess what little monster,” Courfeyrac lifted the baby, who gurgled in approval, “kept nurse up all night with some truly lamentable wailing?”
Courfeyrac tried to keep a stern face as he gently tapped the culprit on the nose. The expression melted away the instant the baby caught his finger in a chubby little fist. Courfeyrac looked up at Combeferre in delight, pride shining in his features.
“So Mama gave her leave to sleep now and she’s instructing Alexandre and Alice in an impromptu lesson in the art of overmastering French cooks, so I was left to steal away with my favourite baby.”
Courfeyrac pulled some ridiculously besotted faces, which he promptly hid against the baby’s round tummy, making silly noises all the while. Combeferre had still not moved away from the door, too occupied in making certain his insides were all in their proper place. It felt as if they had all melted into one.
“You’ll be nice to Combeferre, won’t you, little lamb? Of course you will, because you are my little Charlotte – or perhaps my little Charles, I suppose you’ll tell us when you’re older – and because you are my little Charlotte you could not possibly fail to love the man your brother loves.”
Combeferre finally regained the command of his limbs, but only insofar as it allowed him to hasten to Courfeyrac’s side. He soon found himself with a gurgling baby on his lap and a delighted Courfeyrac playing with both their fingers. Combeferre thought to himself that this, perhaps, was perfect contentment.
Or perhaps not. There was only one strange thing about the situation, one thing lacking. Combeferre had been alone with Courfeyrac for a full five minutes, with not even a kiss on his cheek to show for it.
Then again, it was a very unusual situation. Courfeyrac did not often get time with the baby alone, without nurse looking over his shoulder eagle-eyed and foreboding, so it was not so very wonderful. And this opportunity had clearly re-ordered Courfeyrac’s priorities in their entirety. Not only had it superseded Courfeyrac’s usual desire to make sure Combeferre did not stay unkissed for long, but the baby had also dribbled over Courfeyrac’s fine coat without being exiled from his lap, another thing Combeferre had not thought possible. He took a moment to re-order his thought and brush his hands through Charlotte’s downy hair, doing the same to Courfeyrac’s more orderly curls for reasons of accurate comparison. At last Combeferre decided it fell to him to remedy the sad lack of kisses they were both enduring.
Courfeyrac, who seemed to know what Combeferre was feeling before Combeferre himself did, obligingly turned his face to bring their smiles closer together. And with the baby attempting to nibble on their fingers and its own foot alike, Combeferre set himself to supplying himself and his love with the necessities for perfect contentment.