I recently read a number of excellent Les Mis stories by M. the Inspector, and was inspired to try my hand at it. I'm nowhere near as good, but I've tried. So here you go. Javert and Valjean talk on the bridge. Enjoy!
Pride and Respect
Fearful, Valjean hurried through the streets, following the meandering path of the absent Inspector. The streets themselves brought no fear for him, but he feared for the other man. Javert was hardy, and more than capable of taking care of himself, but the street people who'd seen him pass spoke of him as a confused wanderer, a lost man. That did not bode well. Javert had let him go. He'd not waited, as he'd said he would, and Valjean had never yet known him to break his word. It worried him.
Following the garbled directions of a lady of the streets, who'd thought to proposition the Inspector before she'd realised who he was (Javert always made an impression), he came up onto the bridge over the Seine. Pausing to draw breath, he looked around, and witnessed the hapless Inspector's climb onto the parapet. For a moment his intent was not clear, for Valjean could never envision the stubborn man taking such an action, but when Javert raised a foot to step off, he was galvanised into action, leaping forward with a cry to catch the man's coat as he began to fall.
For a long, precarious moment Javert hung from his grasp, surprise and a touch of fear in his usually stoic expression, before the prodigous muscles developed over long years of hardship came once more to Valjean's aid, and he pulled the startled man back once more onto terra firma. Shaking, more from shock than exertion, Valjean set him on the ground, maintaining a careful hold on his coat to ensure that he stayed there. Neither spoke for some moments.
'Release me, Valjean,' Javert commanded quietly, only the barest tremor in his gruff voice. Valjean only shook his head, though as the other was facing away from him, this was not apparent. But when his hand did not fall away, Javert understood that yet again the ex-prisoner had failed to obey him. Carefully, the Inspector shrugged his shoulder, as if to dislodge the heavy hand that held him, but the effort was not strong, and he desisted shortly. Sighing, Javert turned slightly in his grip so as to face him. 'What do you wish of me, Valjean?' he asked softly.
For a moment, Valjean did not know what to say. In truth, he did not know why he had chosen to find the other man. He'd been concerned for him, yes, but why? Why did the sudden absence of his jailer and hunter worry him so? He stared down at the other man, brow creased in thought. Javert said nothing, merely watching him.
'Why did you do that?' Valjean asked finally. He felt he needed to know that, before he could properly answer the Inspector's question.
'I no longer have any purpose,' Javert answered, calmly. 'I have attempted to fulfil the role I saw for myself, and I have failed. There is no more need for me in this world. Men like me are not required in a world shaped by men like you. I am a surplus, an unnecessary extra. Better to go my own way than cause unneeded clutter.'
Valjean stared. 'Are you always so ... tidy minded? You are not unnecessary, and I do not see that you have failed. Did you not capture me? You fulfilled your duty, and persisted far longer in persuit of it than lesser men could have. How have you failed?'
Javert met his gaze, head raised proudly, yet uncertainly, something Valjean had never seen in him before. 'I did not capture you. I merely followed you, something I realise now was never my duty. My duty is to halt evil, to protect others from it, and punish the perpetrators. And in following you, I have failed that duty. There are far worse than you. You have not killed, you have not forced yourself on anyone. These are the criminals on whom I should have focused. Instead, I followed you. I let personal reasons overrule my sense of duty, and so I failed.'
Valjean shook his head in wonder. 'I am not a good man, Inspector. I have commited crimes, and you were right, perhaps, to persue me. I do not know that that persuit should have lasted as long as it has, but that is simply as I never would have imagined any man being so relentless in the persuit of what he thought was right. I never would have thought that you would return, again and again, and know me. You have proven yourself, over and again, to be a man who will not let any evil, however slight, lie. Whether you were right, or I, or either of us, I do not know. But you did as you believed was right, and that is all the Lord can ask.'
Javert's gaze flickered, as if he would look away, but he reigned in that urge and continued to meet Valjean's eyes proudly, determined as always to show no weakness. 'I did not follow you out of duty. At least, not only that. I ... I was fascinated by you. Worried and repulsed, and fascinated all at once. You defied me. Not only me, but the system and truths I believed in. You were a criminal, yet when I found you, as Mayor, as adoptive father, as saviour of a wounded boy, I could not deny that you did good works. You defied all reason, all things I had previously known. You changed all I knew, and I found myself unable to let it go. Unable to let you go. I needed to understand how you could be so wrong, and yet so right. Now I realise that I am the one who is wrong, and so have no purpose or right to be here. You were right to mock me, that time in M sur M. You were right.'
And his answer was now clear to Valjean. What he wanted from this man was simple. He reached up to take the man's other shoulder. Javert did not flinch, even as he had not flinched when Valjean had drawn a knife before him when he was bound and helpless. It was right. It was Javert, and this uncertainty was not. This humility were once there had been such fierce pride was not Javert. It was wrong.
'I did not mean to mock you, then. It was the opposite, in fact. What you did then, that apology, offended me deeply. You were right. You'd known and guessed who I was, and had been right. Even though I was your superior, in a way, even though I was Mayor, and you only an Inspector, you planned to denounce me. You would have risked career and standing in persuit of justice. And when some incident seemed to prove you wrong, rather than cowering, you stood and admitted it to me. You stood before me and told me to my face that you'd thought you'd wronged me, accepted the consequences in a way no lesser man would have. But you'd been right. It affronted me, more than I understood, that your pride and courage should be bowed for a mere beaurocratic detail. It offended me that you should think that anyone, even I, especially I, had the right to punish you for persuing your duty. I did the only thing I could think to do. It was the wrong thing, and I am sorry for it. But I respected you too much, then and now, to leave that be. And I cannot leave it be now. I want you to be proud. I want you to be unbowed. I want you to live, changed or no, as the man you are. And this is not who you are. The Javert who persued me past all reason and limits would not end his life with such indignity. That is what I want.'
To his surprise, and horror, Valjean saw a single tear slip slowly from an unblinking eye. Javert looked at him, a desperate understanding in his face, a curious longing that Valjean had no experience of or way to deal with. He could do nothing but leave it to the Inspector to consider his words. He held the man's shoulders in a gentle yet firm grip, and waited, not turning his head for one second away from the other man's face.
Javert reached up to close his hands around Valjean's arms, gently lowering his captor's grasp. But he did not turn away, or drop his hands. Rather, he clasped Valjean's arms in the ancient symbol of brotherhood, of comradeship. He smiled a strange smile as he met his old adversary's gaze. 'You are never content to ask for what is simple, are you?' he murmured quietly. 'I have resigned. I have left my duty to another to fulfil. I have no purpose here.'
'Then come with me and find a new purpose!' Valjean exclaimed, impulsively and without thought. 'Find some task, some purpose that is new. Don't be content to simply fade away! That is not you! You do not give up! Ever!'
Javert smiled again, thoughtful. 'You would tolerate that? Tolerate me?'
'Of course. I have tolerated you, whether I wished to or not, since our first meeting. You have never left me alone yet. Why should you start now?' Valjean allowed a hint of a smile to grace his own features, to show he did not regret those meetings. Not fully. He truly did respect, and curiously care for, this fierce, stubborn man. He could not contemplate his death.
Javert looked away for a moment, to stare at the river, the night-black deeps that only minutes before had called for him to join them. Then he looked back at Valjean.
'Then show me this world of yours, Jean,' he smiled, a glint of his old spirit, old pride, once more in his features. 'Show me the world you have built from the ruins of mine. I would see what a man such as you has wrought.'
And Valjean understood that Javert respected him too. Enough to face what he had made head on, and adapt with him. Enough to put aside a dark past to find a future with a comrade. Enough, perhaps, to care for him and his. It was enough. It was Javert.
Well? It was my first attempt at a Les Mis fic. Did I get them right, Javert and Valjean? Tell me. Please. R&R?