Inspector Javert had retired to his room, expecting some hours rest before returning to Paris in the morning. He had not anticipated finding an unwanted guest, in what he had been assured were private quarters.

As a matter of course, he removed his coat and hat on entering, hanging the former on a peg, and setting the latter aside with his cane, on the chair beside the door. The air in the room was stale, something easily solved by opening the gable window, and securing it with the latch. The night air was cool and refreshing with the scent of coming rain. A gentle breeze caused the candle to flicker and flare, so this was removed to the safe distance of a dresser. Loosening the leather stock from his neck, he set it on this chest of drawers as well.

Javert picked at his waistcoat buttons, loosening them for comfort's sake. Lastly, he made use of the crude wooden boot jack before even giving attention to the bed. It looked fairly ridiculous, having been a sturdy, heavy piece which had been 'stumped' to fit under the sloping roof . There was no beauty or dignity to it, any more than the rest of the mismatched furnishings, but it was serviceable enough, with homespun blankets rumored to be clean. At least if one rolled off the bed during the night, there wouldn't be far to fall.

"Special accommodations for the newly wed." He smirked as he repeated the words from the placard in the hall below. There was little point in asking if the bread was moldy, when there was nothing else to eat….

A rumble of thunder, half distant, announced the coming storm that the rising wind had first suggested. He would throw himself down to rest dressed as he was, preferring the stimulating, cool night air to the questionable comfort of rented bed linen.

Only now did he hear the creak of floor boards, at the far end of the 'marriage suite'. There was a drape there, closing off the corner commode for gentile sensibilities. He squared off where he stood and glared at the colorless fabric.

"Come out." he demanded firmly. "I can hear you there."

He fully expected to see a chore boy chased from the tavern room earlier. The lad had incurred his master's wrath, and had dashed up the stairs out of range--- and presumably here-- to cover. Whether the youth had been deserving of chastisement or not was none of Javert's concern; the boy could not hide in a corner of a hired room.

The boards creaked again, but no one appeared. Frowning with impatience, Javert strode to the curtain and jerked it aside.

"I said come out!"

But there was no boy. There was a man.

Javert's surprise was evident in the speechless moment which followed. It was the convict Jean Valjean who leaned against the wall with arms crossed, smiling.

"I couldn't leave our conversation as it was."

Javert's eyes flashed at the sight, as anger replaced shock.

"What are you doing here? I gave you until tomorrow!"

Wasn't it enough that he had compromised?

It was a gentleman's agreement, though Javert was loathe to admit it; an exceptional situation which required a deal with the devil. When they had parted company below, it was with the understanding they would meet in the morning and return to Paris together. It was a notable risk that the Inspector had taken, trusting Valjean at his word. That he owed a debt to this felon for his life was degrading enough. If the convict were to bolt in the night and break that contract, Javert would feel free to shoot him on sight, their next meeting.

"Yes, you did." Valjean agreed. "Though I don't think I expressed my gratitude sufficiently."

"It's a little late for that."

Javert turned for the door and pulled it open, holding it wide for the man's expected departure.

"I have purchased this room for the night. For myself. You will kindly find other accommodations."

Valjean nodded, pursed his lips in thought and then took his time closing the distance between them.

"Aren't you worried that the accommodations I find may end up out of your reach?"

"At the moment it is not my concern." That wasn't true of course, but Javert suspected this creature's sense of 'honor' would prevent such possibility. "You've little enough time to see to your business, the details of which are of no importance to me. I have given you that much. Tomorrow there will be no further discussion on that or any other matter."

"Wouldn't you prefer to keep me close at hand?"

"You have given your word." For whatever that might be worth, Javert pondered without humor. "Tomorrow you are my prisoner."

"Agreed." Valjean pushed the door from his grip, swinging it closed and planting a palm against it. "Tomorrow I will be your prisoner. But tonight….. you are mine."

The Inspector thought he had misheard. If not, what sort of nonsense was this? He leaned back cautiously and studied the man. Had he been fool enough to fall into a trap-- devised and set by this person? Impossible; the brute has no real cunning.

It took very little effort for Jean to nudge his unwilling host back against the door, catching him off guard for a moment. By the time senses revived, Javert found himself penned; the intruder's arms barred the way left and right, stiff against the door on either side.

"What do you think--"

"Listen and I will tell you."

The convict's voice was strangely calm, almost seductive in a way. The Inspector realized he would not be able to best Jean the Jack physically, without club or pistol. Valjean was indeed a product of his years at hard labor; if nothing else, prison had given the legacy of an unnatural strength. Javert pressed back against the door with arms at his sides, waiting for the explanation, or a chance to reach a weapon.

"We have known each other a long time." Valjean nearly whispered. Something in this tone caused the listener tense. It was not angry or threatening as might be expected. Instead, it was rather chilling in its softness. "Longer than it takes to raise a child. Longer than some enjoy marriage, or even life." The calm was more unsettling to the listener than violence would have been.

"You will leave at once."

Jean laughed softly.

"That hardly seems likely. We have, in our own way, been as close as brothers. And tomorrow, it is at an end. It will all be over. You will have me locked away, and we will be done with each other once and for all."

What was said was at least as provocative as the manner in which it was spoken. It was that voice.

It did not growl or threaten; it did not spit curses or swear oaths-- it did not erupt in temper as it might have-- should have done. Instead it purred, like a lover. It was gentle and sad-- and strangely soothing; none of the things as might have been expected.

Javert became aware of the heat between them, close as they were, and the convict's earthy, masculine scent. His eyelids lowered slightly, as if there was something intoxicating in this closeness.

"Do you intend to kill me?" Javert's voice was quiet and calm, as if quietly resigned to such a fate.

"If I intended such a thing, it would already be done." Valjean relaxed his arms a bit, bending elbows and moving his face closer. "But for now, I only want your attention."

The comment was absurd enough to coax a grin from his captive.

"Under the circumstances, it is unavoidable. But I would think, after twenty years, you would've had enough of my attention."

"Twenty years." Valjean's words carried a smell of wine, perhaps a hint of garlic and sage, and Javert turned his face away to avoid it. "Have you learned nothing in that time?"

"Only that the notion of criminal reform is a farce. But it's nothing more than I knew at the start."

"And you have thought of nothing more, in all those years, than returning me to prison?"

"Don't flatter yourself. You were not my only concern."

"True, you had much to take your time, as Inspector."

"If I had not, you would have been run to ground much sooner." Javert looked him in the eye again, reminded of the supremacy of the law. "You will remove yourself immediately, or I shall be obliged to have you placed in irons and detained until morning."

"I am already in irons, Javert. And we are both detained."

The Inspector did not fully understand at first; more exactly, he did not want to.

Yes, he had learned things in those twenty years-- things about himself that he continued to deny. Moments of weakness when he would lie awake at night and stare into the formless dark above him. Moments when he dared to question what was right and just.

Valjean bowed his head with a sigh. It was close enough to brush crown to crown. Could it be that the Javert, like Justice, was blind? Why, then, was the cornered hunter trembling?

"Let me pass." It was spoken through clenched teeth, more statement than command.

"I cannot. Any more than you could do for me, all this time."

"I am bound to duty." It seemed almost an apology, a notion so foreign to Javert that he did not realize he had spoken until hearing the words. "You are a criminal, I am sworn to uphold the Law. That is our only link. We would never have known each other outside such arrangement."

Valjean slammed an angry fist against the wall suddenly, and snapped his head up, glaring closely at this most faithful of enemies.

"Do you not see? Do you understand nothing??"

Javert was startled briefly by the noise, and then held speechless by the nearness of Valjean's hard features. Jean's hair shook like the mane of a lion, as it roars and stakes its claim. Eyes again closed by half, Javert was entranced-- perhaps enthralled-- by the sight of so elemental a being. Before him was unrefined strength, pure impulse and base animal passion. What carnal excess did such a creature know, unbridled by the bit of right order thrust cruelly in its mouth? How different they were; how impossible and untouchable were their lives.

Valjean studied the man of law before him, who seemed oddly passive and untroubled by the situation, as motionless as a bird locked in a predator's stare. He made no move to push past those arms poised like metal bars to prevent escape. Yet, were Javert make move to escape, the convict would let him pass unchallenged. Whatever desire stirred within Valjean for this beloved foe, he could and would keep it hidden away for these final hours of freedom, if he must.

Though it was a wonder that Javert did not try to break free.

"I understand." The words practically choked Javert, catching in his throat and escaping on a whisper. "Neither of us can escape the law. It is all that binds us."

Valjean shook his head, and again the mane trembled. One hand moved from its place on the wall, coming to rest beside the bared throat. This was warm to the touch and throbbed with an anxious pulse. If whim possessed him, the convict could crush both windpipe and life in a single gesture. Still Javert made no move to pull away as Jean leaned forward to take in his scent. Hair and neck smelling of leather, linen, and nervous perspiration. Javert drew a sudden breath, when Jean's lips placed a gentle kiss beside his ear.

"Do not begin this."

It was not spoken in warning, but rather more a plea. It was undeniable now; Javert felt a hollow sensation in the pit of his stomach; an ache and emptiness which he had never dared acknowledge. It was a bittersweet sense of longing, hateful to him and yet precious. Something long denied and strangely welcomed.

If he was destined to fall, it would not be his own doing.

Another kiss on his throat caused Javert to tip his head back with a soft moan. What was this? Had reason abandoned him, so quickly? Thunder rumbled closer now, hardly heard over the pulse pounding in his ears.

"Do…not." He tried again, lifting palms in defense but still unwilling to make contact.

Valjean would not hear him. A hand moved from flesh to hair, a second one to waist as he eased closer. Javert jerked palms away at first touch, but then rested these against his captor without bid for freedom.

"We… cannot."

Valjean silenced the protest with his mouth, perhaps a bit more forcefully than intended. Javert hardly struggled against this sweet insistence, with but half a heart. Gruffly, the convict pulled him close, and found to his surprise that Javert's body betrayed him; the Inspector's words may object, but his arousal did not.

Javert pulled his mouth free, and turned his head to speak as kisses fell on his neck and throat.

"Why?"

A breathless gasp, not refusal or condemnation but mere request. Was it possible such indiscretion could be excused by a simple explanation?

"I have but one night of freedom left." Valjean's words were warm in tone and breath. "You have granted me this."

"Yes." Javert closed his eyes, half ashamed to admit it.

"Tomorrow and for ever after, I will be dead to you."

"Yes." Even softer now, hardly a word at all.

"One night. A sparse, final few hours. Brought to this moment by all that has gone before."

Yes.

"There is no more chase. The game has ended. Tonight there is no convict Valjean, no Inspector Javert. There is only you and I and the night. Can you not let what will be simply be?"

Javert turned back to study the image which so completely filled his sight. He felt like he was falling, heavy with sleep and ready to dream. Lips parted to draw a slender breath to speak.

"Yes."

Valjean raised a hand, to stroke this familiar face. Instinctively, Javert pressed into this motion. The calloused skin, the warmth and the solace found there were overwhelming; he was lost to thought and reason. He reached for and covered this hand with his own, turning to kiss that palm with a sweet and almost reverent tenderness.

When next their lips met, it by Javert's choice. Valjean pushed the loosened vest from obliging shoulders and it dropped to the floor without regret. He seized a fold of shirt, pulling it up and free from trouser waist, and then moved eager fingers to the bared torso beneath.

Javert shivered and groaned aloud; the sensation of this rough masculine hand coursing over his body was exquisite and exciting. He had never known the touch of a lover nor the hands of a stranger, urging him to ecstasy. Soon both of Valjean's hands were roaming free, caressing back and waist, chest and side. He savored every smooth, unblemished inch, drunk with the pleasure it gave them both. Javert's knees grew weak from this sweet forbidden surrender. In a sudden motion, he lifted his shirt up and off to free himself of its tangle, and embraced his partner with naked, yielding limbs. Valjean's muscles rippled beneath his clothing; the buttons rubbed cold and hard against Javert's chest, exciting all the more.

Lips met in a rush of kisses, and tongues parried, wordless and impassioned, in a desperate play for conquest.

Though powerful in appearance, Valjean would prove a careful, practiced lover. With this guidance, that model of order that was Javert slipped further from his worldly guise with every new sensation. The mask of cold stone had cracked, and a spring of passion and desire surged form within, an unstoppable flood.

If there would be but one such moment in this cold and regimented life, it was to be now, in this room, on this singular night.

The storm was upon them, in every sense. A gust of wind extinguished the lone candle, whose flickering dance could no longer keep pace. White stabs of lightning took its place, filling the room with bright irregular flashes. Such bursts of light were unnecessary; it was not by physical sight that lovers find their way.

Javert pushed himself away from the wall, and Valjean staggered back with the motion, never breaking their embrace. He moved them toward the bed, though neither seemed willing to halt their attentions long enough to disrobe or even turn back the covers.

Javert could not think where such pleasured trespasses would lead, and trusted his companion to chose the path. Jean took hold of trouser waist, and having no patience for buttons instead tore open the closure with a single hard tug. Javert grabbed for this suddenly, as a final shred of reason fought to surface.

"I---"

"Shhhh. You are safe with me."

His free hand tugged against the fabric and Javert gasped in relief and surprise, as this barrier was loosened and pushed aside by powerful hands. With this freedom, Javert pressed hips full against this man who was both enemy and savior. His arms encircled the convict's neck like a drowning man clings to rescue. Though Jean's own clothing still kept flesh from flesh, it did nothing the stem the tide of desire.

Valjean seized the bared hips and buttocks as they flexed and tensed. Fingers dug roughly into this, almost violent in their greed to possess. Javert cried out briefly with the odd pleasure of this pain, pressing forward with greater conviction. For a moment Jean struggled to keep his feet, now holding his partner firm and close around the waist with one steely arm.

"Take them down." he whispered. and kissed his lover's neck.

There was barely a breath between request and compliance. Javert relaxed his arms from their desperate hold, and pressed his mouth to Valjean's as he pushed against the last of his clothing. He stepped from this finally, and only then did he break the kiss. Valjean was not finished and traced along the offered throat with deep, sucking kisses.

It was beyond what this novice could withstand. He shuddered and threw back his head, knees close to buckling as release neared. It was not what Jean had planned, and he quickly slid a hand between them to caress his lover intimately, taking the latter's breath away. Another step and Jean was gently guiding him onto the bed with soothing whispers for calm and patience.

Javert lay back, his lean frame revealed perfect in a flash of lightning. His skin was without scar or mark, with muscles as smooth and finely sculpted as an alabaster Christ.

Valjean leaned over him, stroking dark hair and brushing tendrils away from a hopeful face looking younger than moments before. He knelt like a suitor on one knee, gazing fondly at an expression more lovely than imagined. His hand moved gently along broad shoulder and chest, as his partner moaned soft approval.

Javert watched the shadow above him through heavy lids. Was this what he had been been searching for, all those years, staring into the dark? The thought was lost in the touch of a lover's hand, as it moved low to stroke and caress the source of aching passion, still unspent. He reached up with hungry arms, to pull his partner down, and loosen the clothing that still remained between them.

Jean smiled, and kissed the place resting above that pounding heart. Gently he pushed aside those eager hands, to unfasten his own cravat and waistcoat, and bare his chest between folds of linen. Javert found the growth of hair on expansive chest, and lost himself in the sweet exploration of a new paradise.

Rain battered the roof, and blew through the open window as thunder shook the walls. It seemed a place out of time; not a tavern or Inn, or any mere dwelling place of mortals. It was suddenly Olympus, removed from worldly constricts and limitations. A place where spirits lay down with Gods, without sins or regrets.

The tempest raged.

Twenty years of wonder, wanting, dark refusal and bitter penance were swept away with a lover's sigh and ecstasy found. Valjean controlled his ardor, so every moment could be savored, and the pleasure that came to pass would be mutual in all respects.

He had certainly spent sufficient time dreaming details of all the ways he would enjoy carnal knowledge of Javert. As early as Toulon, he had watched that slender form upon the walls, pacing like cock of the walk, and had faced those dark eyes at judgment. Though he was free of prison, he was never free of Javert.

When paths crossed again and again, and leave taking followed, he came to understand the measure of this man's soul. That he was a hunter, in the thankless service of the goddess Law was not to be denied-- but what and why he hunted? That secret could only be whispered heart to heart, and never spoken in light of day. It was worth this final night of freedom and more, to take at last the treasure that fate had kept for him alone.

They shared the truth, without a word being spoken. The pleasure of arms, embraces and caresses, doting lips and hungry mouths that seemed insatiable, outlasted the storm in that modest room. Huddling beneath blankets when the air cooled, naked to the rain when passion burned, but it was the convict, Jean Valjean who set the pace. He would reign in his desire, to keep Javert from any harm.

The lightning dimmed, and thunder faded.

Wind and rain ebbed away, and in that room exhaustion took its toll. Sheltered in each other's arms, breathing was the only sound to stir the blackness. Jean tossed a blanket over them both and for a short while, they slept.

Beyond the walls and streets, at the monastery in the hills, a bell tolled morning vespers. Dawn was not far off, but Javert was already awake, staring once more into the dark. Behind him, Valjean slept, breathing hot against his hair and neck. One strong arm was still curled protectively around his lover, who stroked it slow and fondly. At last Jean stirred, and finding himself so near, pressed a gentle kiss on the back of that lovely neck.

Javert twisted slightly, as if to shrug this attention away.

"It's morning." he said flatly.

"Already? The end of dreams." Valjean rested his head sadly in the thick dark locks he found so inviting. He hugged his partner tightly, and only relaxed this when he felt lover tense. "It's Paris, then, where we are Javert and Valjean again."

Javert idly stroked the rugged arm once more.

We will never be Javert and Valjean again.

"You will go." He eased the convict's arm away, and this was reluctantly withdrawn. The Inspector's tone left no room for debate. It was not a demand, but rather definite in its suggestion. "I wish to sleep. I do not expect to see you when I wake. Here, or in Paris."

There would be no more said.

As Valjean had predicted, they had but a single night to leave the world behind. When the dawn came, the uniform and the façade would be donned again. Inspector Javert would return to Paris, and he had made it clear that he would do this alone.

Valjean climbed from the bed and dressed without promise, argument or plea. When he was done, he paused at the door and looked back. Javert was presumably asleep, lost to sight beneath the blankets save for hair spilled over a pillow. Jean had been dismissed without regard or regret.

Quietly, he took his leave as a free man who would always remain a prisoner.

Javert stood back from the window as the horizon brightened to the east. The morning air felt fresh and new, as if the storm had washed away the sins of the world. He had not been sleeping; he had heard Valjean leave and now stood watching from the gable as that familiar figure grew distant and turned a corner, out of sight.

He stared at the spot a moment more, but Valjean did not reappear. With a sigh he raised eyes to the horizon. The walls of Paris stood beyond, some miles and hours distant. Cold comfort there, and a river, waiting like a mother with open arms, to welcome her child to rest.