no matter the change or the age - combeauferre - Les Misérables (2024)

Jehan wakes first, as usual. Beside it, Grantaire snores, as good as dead to the world. This is what Jehan always hopes for.

Gently slipping out of bed, it pulls on some pyjama shorts and Grantaire’s hoodie, always smelling of him no matter how many times Jehan wears it, and it opens the door as gently as it can manage.

The door creaks gently but doesn’t wake Grantaire; he doesn’t so much as flinch, and Jehan is able to sneak out unnoticed. On most days, Grantaire’s ability to sleep through anything makes for a challenge, Jehan’s once light sleeping now adjusted to match. But today, Grantaire’s birthday, it’s a blessing.

They’ve been together long enough now that Jehan has the routine down. Chocolate chip pancakes and fresh fruit juice, berries and maple syrup, and plenty of leftovers for breakfast the next day. Then come presents, and Jehan always showers him in gifts and kisses and love, as he deserves. They both take the day off work, and the day is planned around whatever Grantaire is feeling that year. A quiet, lazy f*ck where Jehan indulges Grantaire in whatever he wants, then off to the museum, the aquarium, the zoo, wherever he wants.


Or so it used to be.

In the next doorway, teddy bear in hand, sleep in eyes, stands Calliope, yawning and watching up at him with curious eyes.

“Hey, little one,” Jehan smiles, kneeling down to her and opening its arms. “You’re up early, hm?”

“Heard you,” she says, leaning into it. The bear bumps gently against its back as she wraps her arms around it and it takes the hint, lifting her up.

“Oh, not being nearly quiet enough, am I?” it says sympathetically, bouncing her gently in its arms and kissing her forehead.

“Where goin’, Daddy?”

“Going to make Papa breakfast,” it tells her, carrying her towards the stairs, “You wanna help make pancakes?”

She nods fast, giggling.

“You remember it’s Papa’s birthday, right?”

She thinks about it, frowning.

“We got him a present and a card, do you remember?”

This, she can recall. There’s a card upstairs, tucked away in Jehan’s bedside table signed with a messy scribble that, by anyone else’s standards, could not be considered words. But Calliope had tried her best, and no one could appreciate that as much as Grantaire will.

His gift from Calliope is a bath bomb Jehan had helped her pick out by smell (not that she would have gone for anything other than the unicorn-shaped bath bomb, regardless of what it smelt like), and a cat plushie she insisted he should have, that has a remarkable resemblance to their own tortie cat, Shelley. Jehan already knows Grantaire is going to love them.

At three years old, Callie has never been old enough to participate in birthdays before now, and she is eager to get her hands stuck in. She pulls her little stool over to the counter to watch Jehan make the pancake batter – from scratch, Grantaire deserves nothing but the best on his birthday – and tries to help measure. Little fingers on scales are not very helpful at first, but she gets the hang of it, and Jehan even holds her hands over the eggshell to help her feel very grown up and able to bake.

If more eggshell than it ever thought possible goes in the batter, no one has to know.

With a finger to the lips, Jehan shares with her a couple of chocolate chips before the bag gets poured in, and she giggles and happily shoves them into her mouth. She proves herself a good little baker when it comes to the mixing, holding the wooden spoon with two hands and putting all her effort into mixing as well as she can.

Before long the batter is ready, and Jehan surveys the situation, trying to decide if there’s a child-safe way to heat oil in a frying pan. Possibly not.

“You want a really important job, Callie Bear?” it asks instead, dropping to her height and smiling. She nods, eyes wide. “Will you go and get some fruit out the fridge for me? We need lots of berries and apples, you think you can manage that?”

Without another acknowledgement, she bounds off to the fridge, pulling the door open and taking out a box of blueberries. As Jehan readies the pan with oil, it watches her take a punnet, carry it to the counter, climb up on her stool, put it down, and head right back over. Four trips later, she has gathered all the punnets of fruit out the fridge and stands watching it expectantly.

“Wow, that was quick,” it says proudly, “You’re a great little helper, Callie.” He lets the pancake sizzle a moment while he leans down to ruffle her hair. “Think you can get some apples from the table too?”

Off she goes again, taking her stool with her to reach up on to the kitchen table and grab the bag of apples from on top. Leaving the pan again, Jehan goes over to pick up her stool for her.

“No, Daddy!” she pouts, stomping her foot lightly, “I do it.”

It laughs fondly and places the stool back down.

“Okay, okay, you do it, I’m sorry.”

Apples in one hand and stool in the other, she makes her way slowly across the kitchen, never stopping, never flagging, and makes it back to where she left the rest of the fruit. Climbing back up on the stool, she triumphantly puts the bag of apples on the side, looking back at him proudly.

“Wow, look at you!” it says, smiling, “You’re so big and strong, Cal!”

“Big girl!” she laughs, jumping off her stool and bumping into Jehan’s legs. The pancakes are nearly done now, a mighty stack big enough for the three of them on one plate and leftovers for tomorrow on another.

Juicing apples, Callie can help with. Hands far away from anything sharp, Jehan helps her push the slices through the juicer and out comes fresh juice. Before long, they have enough pancakes, berries and juice to split between three plates and carry upstairs slowly and carefully to the master bedroom.

Pre-emptively, Grantaire had gone to bed in pyjama shorts the night before, and Jehan has no concerns letting Callie in first.

By the way she bounds across the room and launches herself on to Grantaire’s sleeping body, perhaps it should have had some concerns.

The volume of Grantaire’s oof! tells Jehan he was unfortunately still sound asleep before Callie inflicted herself on him, and it puts the tray down on the bed so it can gently pry her off of him.

“Good morning, love,” it murmurs, kissing his cheek when Callie has backed off a little. “Sorry about the rude awakening.”

Grantaire lets out a string of muffled noises in return, rolling on to his back gently and smiling toothily up at Jehan and Callie.

“G’morning,” he says back eventually, opening an arm for Callie to snuggle into.

Smiling fondly, Jehan readies the three plates of pancakes and berries and maple syrup, making sure Callie is extra careful with her own plastic, bear-covered plate.

While they graze on the pancakes and fruit, Jehan recalls to Grantaire what an amazing sous chef Callie has been all morning, much to her pride.

“I made th’ eggs, Papa!” she tells him excitedly, miming cracking the eggs in front of her.

“You did, did you?” Grantaire laughs, “You made them, are you a chicken?” he ruffles her hair and she giggles.

“No, silly!”

She mimes egg cracking again with more gusto, and Grantaire smiles.

“I see, that’s a big girl job, isn’t it? You’re gonna be a baker in no time.”

Giggling, she puts down her empty plate and shuffles across the bed to nestle back into his side. Fondly, he pets her hair, looking up at Jehan adoringly.

“She doesn’t get it from me,” it smiles, leaning over to kiss Grantaire’s sticky maple lips, nipping gently. He hums his approval, reaching up to tangle his hand in Jehan’s hair, keeping their kisses chaste, lest they get carried away in front of Callie.

“Daddy,” she whines after a moment, taking Jehan’s hand and pulling. It pulls away reluctantly from Grantaire, smiling down at her expectantly.

“Yes, little bear?”


She jumps up from Grantaire’s side and off the bed, running out of their room and returning moments later with her two slightly haphazardly wrapped gifts. Despite going to Jehan for help, she was desperate to do as much as she could herself, and from the look on Grantaire’s face, he appreciates the effort.

“Wow,” he smiles genuinely, “all this for me?”

Jehan reaches down to the bedside drawer and pulls out Callie’s card.

“Would you like to give this to Papa first?”

She nods, giggling, and takes the card, passing it right to Grantaire.

“Happy birthday, Papa!” she snuggles right back into his side and wraps her arms around him, watching intently as he carefully opens the envelope.

It is a painting of two bears, a father and child, the father in a party hat, Happy Birthday Papa Bear written across the bottom.

“Wow, is that us, Callie Bear?”

She nods excitedly and he kisses her forehead.

Her presents are handed over, and when Grantaire unwraps the cat, he delicately holds it and makes it trot over and give Callie a boop on the cheek.

“What should we name him, hm?”

He boops her cheek again and she giggles.

“Maybe we’ll wait for his personality to come out, huh?”

Callie nods, reaching over for a cuddle. Passing the cat over, he boops her nose and her forehead and she catches him and cuddles him close to her chest.

“Aww, he likes you,” Grantaire smiles, ruffling her hair.

After a second, Callie passes the cat back over, booping Grantaire’s arm with his nose.

“Your kitty,” she tells him, placing the cat gently in his arms.

Leaning down, Jehan picks up a gift bag and passes it over to Grantaire.

“Happy birthday, love,” it says, kissing him softly.

Gently opening the bag and lifting out the tissue paper on top, he finds, framed, photos of the two of them on their wedding day. Laughing together, holding each other. The final photo is of them, foreheads touching, eyes closed.

He remembers the moment vividly; the busyness of the day, the fun but exhausting schedule and barely any time for themselves. The photo shows blue light against the back of Jehan’s white shirt, the party going on inside while they shared a private moment together – clearly not as private as they thought, but something in Grantaire’s heart pulls warmly at the thought that this special breather was recorded, by some unseen third party, just for a second.

“Bahorel found these,” Jehan says, as if reading his mind, “we were looking through some photos a few weeks ago, and these were taken on a different camera, I guess. He lost the SD card until then.”

“They’re…” he starts, his throat closing up, “this is perfect, love…”

There are tears forming in his eyes, and Jehan, smiling fondly, leans over to kiss them away before they can fall.

“I love you,” he says against its lips, before kissing again and again, softly, chastely.

“I love you too.”

no matter the change or the age - combeauferre - Les Misérables (2024)
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