This one annoyed me for I don't know how long. I couldn't get it right. So basically I've decided to put it up as is, and accept the criticisms. Javert again.
Javert awoke, feeling feverish and bewildered. A low, steady thrum of pain coursed through him, washing forward and back like the waves of the sea. He ignored it, finding his lack of memory of where he was a more pressing concern. His body had failed him, but his mind would not. He would not allow it.
He took stock of the situation. He was injured and in a bed. Well and good. However, this was no infirmary, but a private room, spare but well appointed, and he had absolutely no idea where it might be. Angrily, he tried to cudgel his memory into cooperation, but only recieved a confused string of images, barricades and mobs and angry fists beating down on him. From all evidence he had run afoul of some angry mob, but if that were so then why should he still be alive? It could not have been the gendarmie who came to his aid, or he would be in hospital. A memory rose unbidden, of a furious giant holding him aloft, shielding him from harm, and he stared aghast at the image. Not his imagination, for he would never willingly contemplate being in such an embarrassing position, so it must be real.
A board creaked outside his door, and he tensed automatically, braced for confrontation. His first instinct was to at least prop himself up on his arms, as the thought of reclining horizontally while facing an unknown potential enemy was untenable, but the attempt sent flares of agony through his chest. He fell back with a gasp which he strove to muffle. Obviously some broken ribs.
The person outside stilled at the sound of the breath, and he blinked away the black spots in his vision so he could focus on them should they enter. But whoever it was did not. Instead, after a moment of stillness, he heard a rapid patter of feet heading away from the door. He waited for a long minute, listening, but heard no further sound, so he subsided back into his pillow, releasing his useless tension. His eyes slid closed again, his body crying out to be allowed to continue its rest, the burst of pain from his ribs only reinforcing its opinion that it should be allowed more time to heal. A lot more.
He was almost thankful when the door creaked quietly open, as it gave him an excuse to disobey the demands of his traitorous body. When he opened his eyes again, however, any burgeoning sense of gratitude fled utterly as he stared into the face of his old nemesis.
Valjean looked at him with compassion and faint worry, and in that moment there was nothing Javert wanted more than to find his truncheon and smash that insulting expression from the man's face. But he couldn't have moved if he tried. Memory chose that fortuitous time to cooperate, and all the events of last (?) night rushed back. He froze, caught immobile between the shock of seeing that face and the inexorable roll of shameful memory, and could only stare incomprehendingly at Valjean.
The ex-convict moved to his bedside cautiously, as if approaching some manner of wild beast. Javert did not allow himself to shrink back, glaring up defiantly. "Cosette told me you were awake," Valjean informed him softly, standing over him in apparent concern. Which explained the retreating feet. If he had been that particular girl, Javert supposed he would be unwilling to face him either. Unfortunately, her reaction had been to fetch this man, and for that Javert could not thank her.
He opened his mouth. "What day is this?" he croaked, shocked by the crack in his voice, appalled by this further evidence of his body's weakness. Valjean looked surprised, as if that had not been what the man had expected him to ask. But it was an important thing to know. He had to know how long he'd been here, in ... in Valjean's hands.
"You've been unconscious for two days, Jave... Monsieur l'Inspector." Javert blinked. Considering that Valjean had seen him at his utter weakest, and that even now he was helpless in the man's care, the sudden switch to the title of respect was wholly unnecessary, even frivolous. Javert did not approve of frivolity.
"Do you have a problem with my name, Valjean?" he asked crisply. At the man's confused headshake, he continued, "Then please do not hesitate to use it. Circumstances could hardly be more informal. Understood?" He glared coldly up at his captor, who nodded bemusedly.
Valjean looked at him for a few moments, then sank down into the bedside chair, a grave expression on his face. Javert tensed again, ready for whatever the ex-convict intended. Valjean cleared his throat.
"Javert ..." he began, "you are, ah, gravely injured. The doctor ... He had some, ah, well ..."
Javert closed his eyes in frustration. Could the man be any more inefficient? "What is it, Valjean?"
The other man squared his broad shoulders, turning to face Javert as if facing a rabid lion, steeled for some unknown reaction. Javert could have snorted. He was hardly in any condition to be a threat to this man, especially since, if his recently reaquired memories were correct, the ex-convict had bowled a swathe through a mob. Injured in the man's house, unable even to prop himself into a sitting position, Javert was hardly someone for Valjean to fear.
"The doctor says that, to prevent a possibly fatal infection of your leg wound, you must remain here, for at least two weeks." Having rushed out this piece, Valjean leaned back, obviously waiting for Javert to explode like a badly-loaded pistol.
"I see," Javert said calmly. So Valjean had an official medical authority to keep him prisoner. "Is this a problem? I understand you and your daughter live here. Am I an inconvinience?"
Valjean blinked. "No! No, of course not. I merely thought ..."
Valjean cleared his throat again. There was something faintly humourous about the sight of this powerfully built man hunched with embarrassment and blushing slightly. If the situation were not so desperate, Javert might have allowed himself a rare smile.
"I thought," Valjean explained softly, "that given our history, you might not be pleased to have to remain in my house. It seemed ... almost an affront, to me, that you should be forced into this position. I'm sorry. I should have been quicker in helping you outside. Then perhaps you would not be so badly injured."
Javert closed his eyes. "That was hardly your fault, Valjean. I am entirely to blame for the mismanagement of that situation. I reacted badly, and allowed events to move outside of my control. There should have been no need for you, or anyone else, to come to my aid." He opened his eyes to look curiously at his keeper. "I did not expect to survive that misjudgement."
Valjean looked down in shame. "You nearly didn't, Inspec ... Javert. When they backed down, and I ... looked at you, I thought I would be looking at a corpse. I was terrified I had been too late. And then you were looking at me, as furious as ever, and I felt such a relief ... I truly thought you were dead. According to the doctor, few men would have survived the beating you recieved. He thinks you are a very stubborn man, to have stayed alive, let alone conscious for as long as you were. And I think I must agree." He looked up at Javert, and there was a wry humour in his face. "I, more than any other, know how stubborn you can be, Inspector Javert."
Despite himself, Javert understood that momentary humour, and permitted that understanding to show. True, what he chose to think of as his dedication was often mistaken for stubbornness, and Valjean of all men had felt the force of it for far longer than anyone else. But that was because no-one else had required it for so long. No-one but this man had been so successful in eluding him again and again. If anyone here could be called stubborn, it was Valjean. Their enforced relationship would have ended long ago if Valjean had not kept stubbornly trying to achieve 'freedom'.
"Stubbornness, Valjean," he said softly, "is one of the few characteristics I think we share. And if this doctor knew of what you have done in your life, I believe he would agree."
Some of the stiffness in Valjean's posture dissipated, and his eyes softened. "Perhaps, Javert," he concurred. There was a momentary silence, as if neither man could help but pause to consider that, and all that had brought them to this. It was a long journey, and none of it particularly pleasant. Then practicality intruded once more, and Javert, unable to raise himself, nevertheless straightened himself as far as possible, and turned an interogative gaze at Valjean.
"So," he commanded softly, "what now, Valjean?"