Authoress' Note: The dialogue in the beginning of the story are taken from the Charles E. Wilbour translation of Les Miserables.
"Take your revenge."
Jean Valjean ignored him, and instead pulled a small knife from his pocket. Taking a step towards Javert, he opened without pretension.
Javert's heart skipped a beat. As a man who had long been in the business of law enforcement, Javert had always lived closer to death than most; over the years, he had learned to press this fear to the back of his mind, where it would not interfere with his work. But as the noonday sun glinted off of the tiny blade in Jean Valjean's hand, that fear came rushing to the forefront of Javert's mind, and he inwardly staggered under its weight. All men, no matter how they try to convince themselves otherwise, pale in the face of eternity, and Javert was no different. But he sought to hide his fear from his longtime rival, and said with a sneer, "A surin! You are right. That suits you better."
Again, Jean Valjean acted as if Javert had not spoke, and noiselessly advanced upon him.
The anticipation of the impending agony was almost too much to bear. Knowing that it would all be over soon, Javert gently shut his eyes and waited for the pain. But none came. Annoyed at the delay, Javert snapped his eyes open. He found himself faced with Jean Valjean's forehead as he readied to cut the rope around Javert's neck. Too astonished to say anything, he watched in wonder, slack jawed, as Jean Valjean methodically cut the ropes that bound Javert's neck, wrists and ankles. Once he had finished, Jean Valjean rose and said, "You are free."
Javert heard these words, but did not comprehend their meaning. He just stood there rigidly, as if he were still bound. No feeling but utter shock registered in his mind. Sensing this, Jean Valjean said to Javert the one thing that was sure to get his attention, "I don't expect to leave this place. Still, if by chance I should, I live, under the name of Fauchelevent, in the rue de l'Homme Arme, number seven."
As Jean Valjean had predicted, Javert reacted strongly to this, and his stiffness melted like a candle in the sun. Suddenly brought back to himself, and thoroughly aggravated, Javert growled, "Take care."
"Go," Jean Valjean answered placidly.
Further angered by Jean Valjean's unshakable calm, he barked, "You said Fauchelevent, Rue de l'Homme Arme?"
"Number seven," Jean Valjean assented.
"Number seven," Javert repeated mindlessly. He began to readjust his clothing, automatically, his mind reeling from what had just transpired. He started to walk away. Then finally his emotion got the better of him, and he cried back to Jean Valjean, "You annoy me. Kill me rather."
Jean Valjean looked Javert straight in the eye and said, "Honestly, Inspector, you've known me for thirty years. Do you really think that I would ever choose to end your life?"
Javert knew that Jean Valjean was right, but could not bring himself to admit that. Instead, he snarled, "You are a convict, are you not?"
"But not a killer, Javert," Jean Valjean quietly replied.
Now incensed, Javert advanced on the older man until he was but six inches from his face. Shaking with irrational fury, he demanded, "Why are you damning yourself like this, Valjean?"
"I am not damning myself."
"But what do you expect to accomplish by this. What gain can you possibly receive from this? What in Hell's name do you want? You know that I would never trade my life for yours!"
"I know that full well. And I neither want nor expect anything from you."
"Goddamnit, Valjean! You confound me! If you want nothing, then just kill me! Get it over with instead of carrying on with your mad riddles!"
"Inspector Javert, I've already told you that I do not intend to kill you. My intent was to save you. Bless that man Enjolras for giving me the chance to do just that. You do not deserve to die, Javert; you are one of God's finest creations."
For the second time that afternoon, Javert was rendered speechless. His mouth worked soundlessly, opening and closing like that of a fish out of water. There were no words with which he could express himself. When finally Javert got a hold of himself, he hissed, "What do you mean, Valjean?"
Jean Valjean smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. "I mean what you think I mean, Javert. Look at yourself, for a moment, through the eyes of another. You are unbending, chaste, honest, hardworking and pure. You are all that one should aspire to be. I should think that all men would admire you above all others.
"Admire me? Ha!" Javert spat out. "No one in this goddamned city admires me, Valjean! Do you know what my colleagues think of me? I do, though they think that I don't. Everyone in the entire Paris prefecture despises me! 'That unfeeling bastard,' they call me. 'He has a heart of coal,' they say. They fear and hate me more than they hate the Devil in Hell himself! No, Valjean, no one admires me, and you're a fool to think otherwise."
"I admire you," Jean Valjean said softly.
"What does that matter? Your life is forfeit," Javert answered coldly.
"And I am not ashamed to finally be undone by you. I've lost to the better man."
"Jean Valjean, listen to me!" Javert grabbed Jean Valjean by the shoulders and wrenched him still closer, until their noses nearly touched. "I am not the better man! I've done nothing with my life!"
"Javert, look at the work you've done-"
"Work!" Javert exclaimed. "Yes, I almost forgot about my work. My damned work! Yes, I have my work, but that's all I have! No friends, no family, no happiness! What little joy I derive from my work is all I have. Oh, sometimes I wish that I could have lived your life, Valjean. Seeing what you have done…with Montrieul sur Mer, with that whore Fantine and her child, with yourself! I only wish that my life had the meaning that yours does. In the end, I have helped no one but myself, while you-" Javert faltered, and then continued in a whisper "You, monsieur, are a saint."
The two men stood there together for quite some time, staring at each other. Then finally, Jean Valjean leaned forward slightly, and delicately kissed Javert's lips. "May God be with you," he whispered.
After a short pause, Javert replied, "And with you as well." He turned to leave, but then seemed to think better of it, and faced Jean Valjean again. "This doesn't change, anything, Valjean. I will still come for you."
"The rue de l'Homme Arme, number seven," Jean Valjean answered sadly. "I know. I wouldn't expect anything less of you. Now go."
Javert's gaze lingered on Jean Valjean for a moment, and then he turned to leave again. This time, he did not look back.
Jean Valjean gravely watched him go. When the Inspector was out of sight, Jean Valjean fired one shot into the air, and then set himself to return to the insurgents.