Author's Note: All right. This is my third attempt to get this story off the ground, and I think this time I'm on the right track.

Nominally, this is supposed to be a Les Miserables/Highlander cross-over. However, you don't need to know anything about the Highlander universe to read it. In fact, it might hinder the reading, as you'd be hard-pressed to look for actual Highlander-specific characters in the text. This is basically a Les Miserables fic, with two key twists borrowed from a different fandom: immortality and swords.

I cannot tell a lie. This might turn into another monster along the lines of "Between the Dog and the Wolf." This time, however, the plot will follow the book closely enough to permit far speedier writing.

Here we go.


Prologue: On the seashore of endless worlds

The demonic roar of the approaching motorcycle penetrated the foliage of the surrounding trees and broke through Valjean's slumber. Several heart-pinching seconds later, a familiar symphony of electric hums flooded his body. As always in such moments, Valjean shuddered.

Behind the trees, the unseen motorcycle engine died. Valjean lifted himself up on his elbows and turned his head to watch the rider park his machine. To his surprise he spied two men instead of one: a tall and lanky figure draped head-to-toe in black shook hands energetically with a similarly tall and lanky figure in jeans and a grey shirt. A second later Jeans-and-T-shirt was running across the rails towards the distant platform, adjusting his massive hiking backpack as he ran.

Valjean lay back down onto the brittle grass. Half a minute later, a familiarly hoarse baritone growled above his head: "Tschuldigung, ist hier noch frei?"

Eyes tightly closed against the blinding sun, Valjean smiled.

"I'll take it as 'yes'," said Javert and sat down next to him.

Valjean opened his eyes and looked at his friend. "You look... frightfully hot," he said with concern.

Javert's leather outfit, entirely black except for the shiny criss-crossing zippers, covered everything except his face and a narrow sliver of dark neck.

"Ugh. I swear, this is not a loaner from a sex shop," grumbled Javert as he pulled off his gloves and undid the top button of his high collar. "This is local motorcycling gear, if you'll believe it."

Valjean believed it: two similarly attired fellows were visible in line for ice-cream at the Imbiss by the parking lot, conspicuous among bikinis, Hawaiian shirts and bright swimming trunks.

Javert lay down on his back and pushed his sunglasses onto his forehead, squinting and rubbing the sweat out of his eyes. "Usually, I would not mind, but on a day like this, this get-up is murderous. As soon as you drop the speed below forty, you start feeling like a lobster steaming in his shell."

"So change," suggested Valjean.

"Shan't."

"Why?"

"Can't take the risk of the trousers shrinking from the heat by the time I have to climb back into them."

"Who was that chap on your bike?"

"Just someone I picked up ten kilometers out of Freiburg. His rental car broke down, and he had a train to catch. I decided to be nice for a change."

Javert's German, Valjean noted, had decidedly changed since he'd heard it last about a decade ago. Javert liked to imbue his non-native European languages with various Asian accents, and now his German also sounded vaguely flavored.

"Are you supposed to be Turkish now?" asked Valjean, switching to French.

Javert shrugged. "Just blending in," he answered, also in French. "Around here, lots of fellows that look like me sound like this."

He turned over onto his side. Stretched out to its full impressive length on the sun-drenched lakeside saturated with summer colors, his body looked somewhat surreal, like a black silhouette.

"So!" He grinned a large carnivorous grin. "Did you miss me, old man?"

"Yes," said Valjean simply. "Ten months is a long time."

The grin disappeared. "I wish I could tell you it'll get better," said Javert. "But it doesn't look like it. You know yourself how bad things are these days. With train stations going up in smoke all over Europe, vacation time around our department has become a mythical entity. Like the monstrous squid, or Baba Yaga."

Javert leaned in close to Valjean on his elbows.

"Why won't you just come and live with me?" he asked quietly and sadly. "To do what you do in this day and age, what do you need besides a computer and wireless internet? An architect's table? We'll buy you one. Some software? I'll find you any kind you want. I've got a whole room you can take for an office. What's keeping you in Ireland? Have you got a girlfriend there?"

"No, no girlfriend."

"Boyfriend? Sheep friend?"

"I had a company there, you ass. Your loyalties are to Interpol; mine are to free enterprise."

Javert shifted onto his elbows. "Wait," he asked, taken aback. "What do you mean, 'had a company'?"

Valjean sighed.

"It was going to be a surprise, but since you caught me: I sold my share in it last month."

"Does this mean you're leaving?" Javert's voice trembled slightly with excitement.

"Yes."

"Where will you go?"

"To Berlin, if you want me there."

A huge toothy smile bloomed on Javert's face.

"Damn straight I want you there!" he exclaimed. "I've got at least twenty solid years left in Berlin. Maybe twenty-five, if I work hard at it. I'm 'thirty' now. I can make it to 'fifty.' And maybe even fifty-five."

"Fifty-five would probably be pushing your luck."

"I wouldn't be so sure. They say fifty is the new forty. Who knows? In a few decades, fifty-five might be the new forty."

"Any slip-ups at work?"

"Not yet. I've been lucky in the field. And I'm keeping myself well away from sharp objects in the office. So right now, it's just the expected: 'Still no partner?' and 'Would you like for me to set you up with someone nice?' Very age-appropriate. None of the other stuff yet."

Valjean sighed. The 'other stuff' was why he was now leaving a company into which he had invested decades. Five years ago, he could still laugh it off. "How do you stay in such great shape, John? Fifty-seven, and you look twenty years younger!" One could joke about the benefits of cold beer and hot yoga. But now the compliments have given way to bemused side glances and rumor-mill nonsense about stem cells and gene therapy. It was time to move on. Berlin beckoned.

"Will people react well to your living with a man?" Valjean asked.

Javert snorted. "I should think so. Right now those same people think I've got a different man over every night."

"Playing up the wild youth card?"

Javert stretched and pushed his sunglasses back over his eyes. "Let's just say that this time, I left myself plenty of room to grow."

Out in the water, children and teenagers splashed about in the blindingly sparkling water with squeals of wild joy.