Two More Days
Translated into English by the wonderful Yamx! Thank you so much.
Until the very last second, Jean Valjean had not believed that Javert was really going to do it. True, Javert normally did what he said he would, but throwing himself into the Seine with his hands cuffed behind his back was much too final. It could not end this way. Valjean could not imagine a world without Javert. Conflicts could be faced, no matter how painful, rather than trying to escape them in such a way - not to mention the fact that it was a sin.
"Don't save me. Please, Valjean, let me die," Javert said and threw himself backwards into the fast, foaming currents of the Seine.
Valjean spat out a curse more blasphemous and obscene than any he had used since the day he met the Bishop of Digne. How many more lives would he have to save within a handful of hours? First Enjolras, then Marius Pontmercy, and now, for the second time, Inspector Javert, of all people. His desire to do good was really being tested to the limits, he thought while kicking off his shoes and diving headfirst into the river.
Javert felt the cold waters of the Seine close over him. Finally - it was finished. The hunt for 24601, which he could not have withstood for even another day, was finally over. The law had held no answer for his dilemma; this was the only way out he had been able to find.
The anguish on Valjean's face had surprised him. Such anguish only made sense when faced with the death of someone close; there was no reason for Valjean to look so grieved. But even though the expression on Valjean's face might not have been about him, could not have been about him, it was nice to think that maybe someone would miss him - even if it was an escaped convict.
Javert suppressed the impulse to move his legs to get back to the surface. Motionless, he let himself sink to the ground. To his surprise, he did not see his own life flash before his eyes; he saw Jean Valjean, prisoner 24601, Monsieur Madeleine, the mayor, Ultime Fauchelevent.
And suddenly, knowing that he was dying, he realized that there had been more than one reason to chase Valjean all through the country.
In this moment of realization, Javert felt himself seized and pulled towards the surface. He tried to push away the hands, to break free, but the hands had such a tight hold on his shoulder that he could not break it. It was not possible to break free of such a grasp while trying to drown with your hands in cuffs.
Javert tried to free himself by twisting from side to side. For a moment, he actually managed to get rid of one of the hands.
"I'm sorry, Javert," a familiar voiced gasped into his ear, "but you're making it much too hard to save you."
Before Javert could reply that he had no intention of being saved, a well-aimed punch to his temple made him lose consciousness.
The first thing Javert noticed upon waking up was that someone was being yelled at by a thunderous voice. The second thing he realized was that it was him.
"You obstinate, mulish, stubborn fool of a policeman," the voice was yelling somewhere above him. The concern discernible even through the harsh words seemed sweeter to Javert than choirs of angels and harps - which he had not really expected to hear, anyway, considering that suicide was a grave sin. "Do you really think I spared your life in the tavern just so you could throw it away? What on Earth were you thinking, trying to sneak off like that?"
Carefully, Javert opened his eyes, and found himself on the bank of the Seine. Jean Valjean was kneeling above him, water dripping from his hair and clothes.
The face above him lit up with relief when Javert opened his eyes, showing that he was still alive. "Thank God," Valjean gasped, out of breath from the struggle in the water and from yelling at his opponent afterwards. "I thought I'd lost you."
Something had to be wrong with this sentence - one could only lose what one had had in the first place. Javert was beginning to realize that he had actually survived. "Why did you do that? Why did you come in after me, 24601?"
"My name is Jean Valjean." The words sounded almost like an automatic reply to that reviled form of address. "And I think after pulling you out of the water I deserve not to be called by a number."
"I didn't ask you to jump in after me," Javert growled.
"Did you really expect me to just stand by and watch you drown?"
No, he couldn't really have expected this, not after the tavern, not after seeing Valjean carry young Pontmercy through the sewers. So Javert remained silent, not answering.
For a long while, the only thing disrupting the silence on the river bank was the loud, exhausted panting of the two men. Finally, it was Javert who broke the silence, albeit reluctantly. "It would be kind if you could open the handcuffs." The next words were difficult - they would lead to Valjean touching him; Javert preferred not to think about how that made him feel. "The key is in my inside pocket."
"Of course," Valjean said casually - in fact, much too casually. His right hand slipped across Javert's chest into his right jacket pocket.
Javert took a sharp intake of breath. This first voluntary touch that was not part of a fight, and the gentle, searching fingers, awoke memories of dreams so intimate he had not spoken of them even in confession. "Other side," he hissed through clenched teeth.
"Sorry." To reach the other pocket, Valjean had to bend over Javert. Javert could smell the other man's skin: the not-exactly-clean Seine water, sweat, and blood, which had to be Pontmercy's.
Was Valjean taking this long on purpose? Surely, no one could take this long to find a key inside a single pocket.
"Found it," Valjean said proudly and looked straight at Javert.
Their faces were mere inches apart; the closeness frightened Javert. It forced him to face the truth - he had known it before, but so far had managed to repress it. The truth made everything much more unbearable. It was bad enough to be unable to bring a criminal to justice out of gratitude, and because he was a good man, but being unable to do it for personal reason… That was the end!
Valjean looked away first. "Turn over," he ordered and took the key from Javert's pocket.
Javert turned away and extended his cuffed wrists to Valjean. It seemed to take forever until his hands were finally free. Apparently, Valjean was very clumsy, for instead of simply putting the key into the lock, he kept sliding his fingertips across Javert's palms.
There was only one way out, and he had tried to take it once before. His wrists were barely free when Javert jumped up and ran towards the quayside. He had to end all of this, before something happened that would disgrace him and make a complete fool out of him.
Valjean had seen this coming; he had seen the despair in the other man's eyes. With speed remarkable for his age, he ran after Javert. He fully realized the irony of the situation, the hunter becoming the hunted.
Only two steps from the edge, Valjean managed to grab Javert's collar, pull him back, and position himself between him and the Seine. "I'm not going to put up with this all night, Javert. You trying to drown yourself, me saving you - we're both too old for this."
"Then let me die, then this will be over."
"No," Valjean replied simply, raising his fists.
There was something nearly like a twinkle of humor in Javert's eyes. He looked down on the smaller man almost with pity. However, this was not just any smaller man; this was Jean Valjean, who could lift bigger boulders than anyone else, who could lift a loaded wagon, who could carry a grown man through the sewers for hours.
Javert hung his head. He would not be able to get past Valjean without a fight, and he did not want to fight him. He simply could not bring himself to hurt him, and he would not get past him without hurting him.
Defeated, Javert turned and walked away.
But Valjean was not that easy to get rid of. A few seconds later, he was next to him. "If you think I'll just let you leave, you're very wrong, Javert." Valjean kept up, even when Javert tried to quicken his pace. "I will not let you out of my sight. I will follow wherever you go."
"I'm afraid you're confused. I'm the one chasing you."
"Not anymore, Javert, not anymore." The way Valjean beamed at the taller man made the whole situation still more absurd - if that was even possible. "However, we should get out of these wet clothes, or we'll both catch our death."
"That'd be an alternative to the Seine." Did Javert just almost crack a joke?
"I'd suggest the Rue Plumet, but having Marius and you in the same house probably wouldn't be a good idea right now…" Valjean mused. "And you'll understand that I don't really fancy visiting a policeman's apartment."
"Great, then we can simply go our separate ways."
"Oh, no. I already told you that I won't let you out of my sight until I'm certain you won't try again."
For a moment, Javert considered simply going back to his apartment anyway, but rejected the thought immediately. Valjean seemed determined enough to follow him even to police headquarters. What a horrible thought that someone there might see the truth!
"Marius," Valjean suddenly said, apparently randomly. "Since Marius is in the Rue Plument, his own room should be unoccupied."
"You and I in the room of an insurgent student?" Could this night get any more absurd?
"Do you have a better idea?" Valjean coughed in a way that sounded distinctly unhealthy.
"Yes. I return to the river, and you go wherever you want."
"That'd mean the river, as well."
Javert almost growled with frustration; it took considerable control to suppress the emotional sound. What choice did he have? Valjean would not let him out of his sight, and it was very unpleasant to walk around Paris in wet clothes.
Valjean coughed again, and this time it sounded decidedly impatient.
"Fine, I'll come with you to Marius's place to dry my clothes, and then…" Javert left the sentence unfinished, for he had no idea what "and then" would be.
Marius's room turned out to be an attic chamber. It was locked. Javert was just about to turn around and gladly descend the stairs again, when to his horror he saw Valjean kneel down before the door and begin to work on the lock.
"What are you doing?" Javert asked warily.
"I'm opening the door."
"That's breaking and entering."
"What is it you keep saying? 'Once a thief, forever a thief'?' Valjean copied Javert's intonation almost perfectly. At the same moment, the door opened. "Et voilà. I did learn a thing or two in those nineteen years in Toulon."
Javert followed Valjean slowly into the chamber. It was furnished sparsely - a bed, a closet, a cabinet, a table and a chair, as well as a multitude of books on the floor, the walls, the table, and the cabinet. Valjean opened the closet and searched through it.
Javert stood next to him uncomfortably. "We're committing a burglary. This may not be a new situation for you, but it is against the law."
"Marius wants to marry my daughter," Valjean's voice said from the closet. "I'm merely visiting my son-in-law."
To be on the safe side, Javert closed the chamber door. He did not want to be here, but more than that he did not want to be seen here.
"I'm afraid there's nothing that would fit you," Valjean said from the closet. "Marius is not exactly a giant. It'll be best if you wrap yourself in the bed sheet. I found a coat that might just fit me." Valjean emerged from the closet and began to take off his wet clothes without the slightest hesitation.
Embarrassed, Javert tried to look anywhere but at him. One did not take off one's clothes in the presence of others. He had never done so himself. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to at least watch Valjean from the corner of his eye; the starlight coming in through the small window made shadows dance across Valjean's light skin.
"Oh God, this is too much," Javert thought and tried hard to think of something innocuous. "Say, where are your shoes?" he asked, staring intently at the bundle of clothes.
"Lying on the bridge, I suppose, where we jumped into the water," Valjean replied and finally put on the coat. "Aren't you going to take off those wet clothes?"
Javert picked up the bed sheet, withdrew behind the closet door, which was still standing open, and began to peel of his soaked and heavy uniform.
Valjean busied himself at the table and lit the candle, coughing the entire time.
"Are you sick?" Javert asked, wrapping himself in the sheet.
"No, everything's all right, I'm fine." The reply would have been more convincing if Valjean had not been coughing his lungs out after every word.
Worried, Javert closed the closet door and stared at Valjean, who was holding on to the table to remain upright; he was being wracked by coughs. The drops on his forehead, which had seemed to be Seine water before, could not be from the river, for Valjean had dried his face. They had to be sweat, which proved that nothing was really all right. Two steps took Javert to the table, where he looked into two glazed eyes. He did not even have to touch Valjean to know he was burning up.
"I'm feeling so hot," Valjean whispered almost inaudibly. He would have dropped to the floor if Javert had not quickly caught him.
The noon sun shining through the window made Javert blink confusedly. He had not taken his eyes of the shaking, feverish man in front of him for hours. He tended to forget that Jean Valjean was no longer young. First the barricades, then hours of carrying young Pontmercy on his shoulders, and finally diving into the cold Seine, their struggle, and a long walk through the city in wet clothes…
It was not surprising that Valjean had collapsed. To his shame, Javert had to admit that his first thought had been to return to the Seine. But he could not just leave Valjean to fend for himself; he could not allow him to die here, alone.
His second thought had been to contact Cosette and let her know that she needed to fetch her father home. But the thought that Valjean might not survive the trip was insufferable.
So Javert had stayed, and done what he could, which was not much. After all, he had never been close enough to anyone have to, or even want to, take care of them. There was nothing he could do except try to lower the fever and wait.
Valjean was tossing and turning in feverish dreams. Sometimes he screamed, haunted by demons of the past; Javert feared, not without reason, that he might be one of them. It was hard to calm down the sick man, make him sip water occasionally, and just sit there the rest of the time.
Now that the sun was falling right into the chamber, Javert finally had something to do. He gathered up the clothes that were lying around and put them over a beam to dry. That way, at least his clothes would be properly dry when Valjean woke up - if he woke up.
His back had been turned towards the bed for only a few seconds when he heard his patient shout his name, full of fear and despair.
Javert turned and leapt towards the bed, where Valjean was writhing. He forced the feverish body to lie still, and whispered with a gentleness he had not known himself capable of, "Peace, my friend. You don't need to be scared. I will not take you back to Toulon. That's over once and for all."
The following night, the fever finally broke, and Valjean fell into a restful sleep, from which he awoke the next morning. It took him a few seconds to get his bearings and realize where he was. But then he remembered the last days' events…
Javert! Valjean sat up so abruptly he immediately felt dizzy. He had rescued the Inspector from the Seine and had brought him here. But the room was empty except for himself. Where was Javert? Had he gone to have him arrested? No, if that had been his intention, he hardly would have jumped into the Seine.
The Seine! Was this fool trying it again? And Valjean would not be there to stop him this time…
At this moment, the door opened, and Javert entered, carrying a basket. "You're awake," he stated the obvious.
"I was afraid, you…" Valjean was interrupted by coughs, his throat was parched, "... had gone back to the Seine."
"I'm certainly not going to leave you here to fend for yourself until you're strong enough," Javert replied. It was only after saying it that he realized he was leaving the Seine open as an option. "I got us some food." He put down the basket and started to unpack. "A piece of cheese, some ham, chicken soup to build up your strength, and a loaf of bread."
"I hope it's paid for."
Javert opened his mouth to start a lecture about respect for the law, and closed it again. If Valjean could make a more or less sarcastic comment about the darkest time in his life, he really had to be getting better. The wave of relief that washed over him was not as easy to ignore as Javert had hoped. "If you're feeling that well, we can leave this dreary place. I will inform your daughter, and then…."
"I didn't think you'd come back," Valjean interrupted.
"You said that already. But running away is your specialty."
"I think I'll need another day or two before I can get up and run from you again."
He had not gotten a lot of sleep the past few nights, and so Javert had fallen asleep in his chair sometime during the day. Valjean though he seemed almost peaceful, sleeping with his head resting on his arms. It felt strange to be watching him leisurely, without having to be on guard.
Valjean had known; in the tavern, if not before, he had admitted to himself what was the matter with him, even though at the time it had seemed a hopeless dream, suited for nothing but poisoning his remaining years. When he returned to the Seine, it had almost broken his heart to watch Javert's firmly fixed world view crumble. He had had no choice but to stick to his hunter like glue once they were back on dry land - but to be honest, there was no place he would rather have been.
Valjean was very aware that Javert was not out of danger yet. He had had a similar crisis himself after his release from Toulon, and he might have ended up the same way had it not been for the Bishop. In his fever, he had had nightmares in which he was bedridden and unable to rescue Javert from the river a second time. It was impossible to let Javert out of his sight again.
For a long moment, Valjean considered delaying his recovery, but that would hardly help to stop Javert from thinking about the Seine. The problem was that he still was sick, and he needed to get some sleep, but every time he came close to falling asleep, he was afraid to wake up alone in the room.
Therefore, Valjean had tried everything to stay awake. They had eaten together, Javert at the table, Valjean in bed; he had ordered Javert around, had asked him to bring him his clothes, which had dried by now. He had been amused by the Inspector turning away while he changed. After nineteen years in prison, there was no such thing as shame. Then, he had asked for something to read, which prompted Javert to go through Marius's books.
"Most of these books are banned. This one twice. It's against the law to own them."
"Javert," Valjean had admonished him, gentle reproach in his voice.
Despite the large number of books, there had not been a single one with sage advice on preventing a suicidal policeman from jumping into a river.
No, this was a time for more desperate measures, so Valjean reached for his jacket, which was lying next to the bed, folded tidily. At the bank of the Seine, pocketing Javert's handcuffs had been nothing but a reflex, but now they might prove useful. Carefully, he took the handcuffs and the key from his pocket, not taking his eyes off Javert for a second. Determined, he put one of the cuffs around his right wrist and snapped it shut.
The click was quiet, but not unfamiliar to Javert; it startled him awake. Valjean feigned a coughing attack.
"You're not planning on relapsing, are you?" Javert asked suspiciously.
"I don't know," Valjean replied innocently, "but I'm feeling hot again."
Javert grunted disapproval, got up, made a face, for he had been sitting in a very awkward position, and went to the bed. He hesitated. Valjean seemed quite healthy. However, he had not noticed anything beforehand when Valjean had collapsed two nights ago, either.
Javert took a deep breath. It had been easy to touch Valjean when he had been unconscious, but now he had to be careful not to give anything away. He put his left hand on his patient's forehead. "No," he said with relief, "no fever."
Before Javert realized what was happening, Valjean had slipped the other cuff around his left wrist and snapped it shut.
"What the…?" Javert barked. "Let me go right now!"
"I'm sorry, Inspector," Valjean replied, putting the key inside his waistband. "But isn't this exactly how you've always wanted me?"
"Let… me… go!" Javert repeated.
"Not until you promise not to try to kill yourself again."
"Well, I know that one can rely on your word."
"You're not only a convict, you've also gone insane." Javert stared at the man lying before him. "You're going to keep me chained to yourself until I promise not to kill myself? You cannot be serious. We will never be free from each other."
Valjean shot Javert a sarcastic glance. "For that, my dear, neither one of us would need chains."
Javert felt very silly, standing in front of the bed, his wrist tied to Jean Valjean. "So you expect me to just stand here all night?"
"That's up to you." For a fraction of a second, there was a spark of wickedness in Valjean that seemed to belong to the convict he had been and not the saint he had become. "I'm more than willing to let you use half the bed. There's not a lot of room, but…"
"I will not lie in one bed with you."
"You are scared."
Javert wanted to just turn away, but the handcuffs made that impossible. The worst part was that Valjean had hit the issue dead on. He was deathly afraid what he might do, how his body might react to such closeness. "He's a convict, he's just 24601," Javert kept repeating in his mind. Unfortunately, that did not help one bit.
Valjean seemed determined to leave the situation unchanged overnight. He way lying down again, his head on the pillow and his eyes closed.
This forced Javert to remain in front of the bed in a very uncomfortable position, neither standing nor squatting. After almost an hour, his back, his outstretched left arm, and his slightly bend leg were aching, while Valjean's breathing showed that he was sleeping peacefully.
"Go to hell, 24601," Javert muttered and lay down next to Valjean. A small victorious smile appeared on the other man's face, proving that he was only pretending to be asleep.
Javert tried to keep his distance from Valjean as much as this was possible on the narrow bed and with the handcuffs, and to lie somewhat comfortably at the same time. The only way to do so, however, was to lie on his left side, his face turned towards Valjean. He certainly had not wanted this. He could feel the warmth of the other man's body, mere inches from his, he felt his breath on his skin…
Javert sighed quietly. In all likelihood, he would not get any more sleep here than he would have gotten while standing next to the bed.
Valjean was still smiling when he woke up. Dawn was seeping through the window and enabled him to glance at Javert, who apparently had fallen asleep after all. He almost pitied the Inspector, but it was necessary to chain him to himself like this. He never would have come so close to Valjean voluntarily.
A strand of Javert's hair had come loose during the night and was lying across his face. He was sure to disapprove of such unkemptness when he woke up.
On impulse, Valjean raised his left hand and brushed the strand away from Javert's face. Lightning-quick, Javert's right hand shot forward, seized Valjean's wrist and held it in a viselike grip. Only then did he open his eyes. "What's the meaning of this?" he snapped.
Valjean showed surprise at the severe reaction to his gesture. "I was thinking that someone should take care of you. You seemed lost."
"Lost? In case you've forgotten, I wanted to kill myself."
"No, I haven't forgotten. What do you want to do now?" Valjean ignored the painfully tight grip on his wrist. "What's going to become of you?"
"Nothing," Javert replied darkly. "Everything I believed in, everything I considered the natural order of things, is ruined. My life has no meaning; it never did."
"Then we have to give it new meaning, find something that makes life worth living," Valjean said and kissed Javert without warning.
For a brief moment, Javert was much too surprised to react, but then he reacted all the more forcefully. With a single, swift movement he had rolled Valjean onto his back and was on top of him, pinning both of his hands next to his head. "Dare to do that again, and I will…," Javert growled.
"Will do what?" Valjean asked politely. "Kill me?" Pinned in this position, he had only one means of defense. He kissed Javert again. "Have your policemen beat me up?" Another kiss. "Send me back to Toulon?" Once more, he kissed Javert.
This was too much! No man could have that much self-control, not even Inspector Javert. For one long moment, Javert forgot the world and himself. All that mattered was the warm, breathing body under his, and with an intensity that surprised himself most of all, he returned Valjean's kiss.
Javert's grip on Valjean's hand loosened, and that hand ran through his hair as if of its own volition, pulled his head down, closer, and Valjean continued to kiss him. The kisses became more and more hungry and wild. Javert had never cared for kissing before, had considered it an emotional waste of time, but this was different, indescribable…
When Valjean tried to press his body closer to Javert's, Javert realized how pronounced his arousal had become. All of a sudden, his thoughts became less clouded.
This was insanity!
He managed to detach his lips from Valjean's mouth for a second. Looking pointedly to the left of his head, he whispered "That's not going to work."
Valjean followed his gaze and saw their wrist still chained to each other. "It would work," he said with a small laugh, "but I'll admit it's not going to be easy with these things." With a feeling of regret, he slid his free hand away from Javert's head, along the nape of his neck and then in between their bodies.
Javert closed his eyes painfully when he felt the hand glide downwards over his chest and stomach, until it stopped in his most intimate area - and then was suddenly gone.
"It will be easier this way," Valjean said and unlocked the cuff around his own wrist first.
Mere fractions of a second later, Javert had rolled off Valjean and fled to the furthest corner of the room. There, he leaned on a beam, his back turned to Valjean. "I can't," he said in a dull voice.
"Because it's a sin?" Valjean asked calmly, sitting back up. His body was burning with passionate desire, and this escape from his arms hurt almost unbearably. "You tried to kill yourself. We can have a philosophical discussion about which is the greater sin if you want."
Javert shook his head silently.
"Because you can't imagine being with an ex-convict? Because you hate me?"
"I can't stay here," Javert panted and bolted from the room.
For the second time in two days, Valjean cursed fiercely. Things could not have gone any worse. Instead of giving Javert a reason to live, he had tumbled him into even greater turmoil. And that meant that they were exactly where they had been two days ago, and that Javert would be in the same place.
Valjean heaved himself out of bed, ignored the dizziness that hit him, pulled on his jacket, and stormed out.
He was swaying dangerously by the time he reached the staircase. He would never be able to catch up to Javert in this state, especially not without shoes. It was exhausting just to get to the street. But at that moment, heaven had mercy. A carriage pulled around the corner.
Valjean blocked its way and did the first thing he could think of. "I'm Inspector Javert with the police," he yelled at the driver. "I need to commandeer your vehicle for urgent police business."
Javert was standing in the same spot he had been standing two days before and stared into the Seine. Two more days that had changed everything; only he doubted that it was a change for the better. He still wanted to jump, after all, albeit for different reasons. These two more days had been filled with emotional turmoil. Javert was not sure whether he regretted having lived these two days longer. After all, they had opened his eyes to the fact that most of his life was built on a lie.
He pondered the handcuff dangling from his wrist. Should he snap it around his free wrist? The handcuffs made him think of Valjean again. How would he cope with the fact that he had not been able to save another soul?
Through the silence of the dawn, he heard a distant carriage draw nearer and finally stop in the middle of the bridge.
"Thank you for assisting the police," Valjean said and rolled off the driver's bench with a dull thud. He collapsed a few steps from Javert's feet, and just lay there.
"Glad to be of service, Inspector," the driver replied, pulling away.
"You do realize that it's illegal to impersonate a police officer?" Javert managed, trying unsuccessfully to suppress his feeling of happiness at seeing Valjean.
"Well, you keep saying that I'm a hardened criminal." With difficulty, Valjean pulled himself upright, using the parapet for support. "I hope you realize that I will jump in after you again. But I'm afraid that, considering my condition, neither one of us is going to survive it this time."
Javert snorted a humorless laugh. "I will find another way."
"I'm sure of that," Valjean agreed. "But unfortunately, I don't understand why."
"Can't you figure it out?"
"I'd like to hear it from you."
Javert threw a painful glance to the fading stars above. "Because my life is a lie. For decades, I told myself I was dedicated to the law. I fooled myself into believing that my obsession with getting you back to Toulon was only intended to serve the law; to fulfill its demands. Do you know what it feels like to realize that you had a different reason entirely? That you lied to yourself because the truth would have been unbearable?"
"Well, thanks a lot," Valjean interjected with a slight frown.
Javert almost flinched. He had not realized that the other man was following his thought process so completely; it embarrassed him. Why did it have to be Valjean of all creatures? "You don't even know what is making this truly unbearable," Javert's voice was getting heated. "Your understanding and compassion. Your self-sacrifice. Oh, Saint Jean gives the desperate man that which he longs for the most to give meaning to his life. He even lets him use his body to quench his sinful desires. All in the name of charity!"
This time, Valjean's reaction was entirely unexpected. He held onto the parapet and brazenly dared to succumb to uncontrolled laughter, which was actually bordering on hysteria.
Javert stared helplessly at the man whom he had just confessed his feelings to, albeit in a roundabout way, and who had nothing better to do than laugh uproariously.
"You're unbelievable, Javert," Valjean snorted once he regained his breath. "Could you please stop always seeing me in extremes? I'm neither a criminal nor a saint. And the idea that I held you in my arms out of pity - it's hilarious." He almost started laughing again. "I kissed you because I wanted to, because I had been wanting to at least since the tavern. There just hadn't been a chance before. What do you think these students would have done to us if they had seen me kissing you? And afterwards I urgently needed a doctor for Marius. I couldn't very well let him bleed to death because I had to stop and kiss a policeman."
Javert shook his head in disbelief. It could not be true, Valjean was just trying to deceive him, like in Montreuil-sur-mer. But he had to believe him, the hysterics had been too honest, too genuine.
"I certainly didn't pray that God might send me a stubborn policeman, but I can't help myself. I want to be with you, Javert." Valjean was perfectly serious now, and the honesty of his words was reflected in his face.
Javert made a gesture of denial. "You can't want that, it's impossible. I've made your life a living hell, I've never allowed you any rest. God, Valjean I've stolen twenty years of your life."
"Then don't steal the rest as well by disappearing from my life." Valjean's voice was becoming more urgent. "Let's not waste any more time."
Javert looked at the man who had offered his heart to him without reservations, without a chance of taking any of it back. Awkwardly, he pulled Valjean close, rested his head on his shoulder and simply held him.
"Maybe we should go someplace where we can be alone," Valjean suggested after a while.
Javert nodded, though he was not entirely free of fears - but they were different ones now, not focused on losing control. "But first, could you…?" He raised his left wrist with the handcuff.
"And you won't jump?"
"Not now, not ever."
Valjean took the key from his pocket and unlocked the cuff on Javert's wrist.
With a grim smile, Javert took of the handcuffs, looked at them once more, and flung them into the Seine.
While they were leaving the bridge, walking close to each other, Javert and Valjean both realized that the policeman had finally succeeded in catching the convict, albeit in a way neither of them had foreseen…