Long live Les Miserables! The central dynamic between Javert and Jean Valjean has always been most fascinating, possibly the longest-running, most intense relationship in the novel. And it had to end in suicide...
Disclaimer: All characters belong to the great Victor Hugo
He is despicable, a convict, the scum and filth of the streets. Once a criminal, always a criminal. And these sort of gutter-born lowbrow rogues should never be permitted freedom - that's why you've spent so much of your life pursuing him. It's not just a matter of duty - what sets you apart is not merely the duration, but the fervour. Finding and arresting Valjean has become the focal point of your existence; completion of that task would be the highlight, the sole moment you believe you will feel truly satisfied.
So why is it that you have not succeeded so far?
Is it always thanks to meddlesome fate, or have you been permitting him escape every time? No, no, you cannot, you would not, how on earth would you ever allow a convict to slip through your fingers? You've simply been unlucky - or incompetent. The suggestion brings a bitter taste to your mouth, but it's better than facing the other inevitability.
For some maddening reason, he seems to be decreasingly hostile towards you; but then, he is no ordinary convict - perhaps with the same intentions of escaping and evading justice as everyone else, yet seems to choose to be something else: establishing himself as a charitable mayor, going after the little daughter of a prostitute he barely knows, saving the life of strangers, even rescuing you.
You made it clear that you did not owe him anything. As soon as you were out of there, you told him, he would meet the hand of the law. And you were true to your word, bringing troops to the barricade, and waiting outside the drains where you knew he would emerge.
But now, as you stand on the edge, allowing the wind to buffet you, you can no longer deny it: you let him go.
You let him go.
So what if he was hoisting a dying boy over his shoulders? He's begged you for more time before; you've not granted it to him. You could have arrested him and brought the boy to a hospital simultaneously. It was the perfect opportunity - he couldn't possibly have run. All the stress, the worries, the fears would be over.
And you still let him go.
Was it because he'd saved your life, that you would wish to return the favour? No, it would not be, you would know better than that. Your purpose is to abide by the law, to ensure that justice is not miscarried. No exceptions can be made, not even for Valjean. Guilt? Never. Kindness? Not possible.
You've told yourself that your obsession is with catching the convict, not with the convict himself.
Yet now, as you momentarily allow one foot to swing in nothingness, you must admit it to yourself: you are obsessed with Valjean. And that is what makes everything so wrong: he is a man, he is a convict, he is Valjean. You cannot. It will never end well.
Facing the river, you quickly tamp down any feelings other than nihilism. Was that how you always felt when you failed to arrest him? Nihilistic? Disappointed? Disappointed at not being able to fulfill the task you were committed to, made for; or disappointed because it meant you wouldn't know when you might be able to see his face next?
You take a step forward and let yourself fall. If your spirit is already in hell, you might as well send your body along.
To your surprise, you awake in a place that is not precisely hell. It could be the same - Valjean's house. You figure that he must have saved you.
It's the second time now; surely, he must have some incredibly compelling reason to rescue his worst enemy, knowing that you would not permit him mercy. Or would you? You are not quite sure if you would or would not - you are sure that you should not. Must not.
Amidst your confusion, Valjean enters the room. "Feeling better?"
"More or less," you reply evenly, averting your eyes as so not to meet his gaze.
He sits down on a chair beside the bed and asks seriously, "Why did you try to drown yourself, Inspector?"
He has to sit that close, you think. And why does he have to ask? What can you tell him? That obsession has made it unbearable for you to continue? It would only glorify him further - he's not only saved your life two times over, but you also feel committed heart and soul to him.
You'll be damned forever - but how could you expect otherwise? Are you so different? You were born in a prison, after all, coming into the world tainted; no amount of service or duty could erase that. You were never clean to begin with; you can't possible imagine that you might ever be able to wash yourself clean.
You don't answer his question. Instead, you say, "Why did you save me?" You sense his eyes boring into you; you wonder if the Seine has washed something else from you, carried away something you shan't ever be able to regain. "You should have let me die."
"I would not," he tells you without a moment's hesitation, grasping your hand in both of his.
Now, your mind is your only saving grace, because your body has turned traitor and is doing all that you should not. Your mind informs you dryly that when you grab Valjean and kiss him, and open your mouth when he returns it with similar passion, it's not a result of too-long pent-up desire, it's because you wish to degrade yourself further. You are an attempted suicide, damned in the eyes of God; you cannot sink lower.
Born in a gutter. A product of rape. Son of convicts. This is what you truly deserve. You can no longer run.
He takes you, and your mind both reminds you that you shouldn't, mustn't, and confirms that this is what you have wanted all along. Your mind tells you that when he fucks you, you don't grip him and try to to pull him closer; that you don't moan and beg with his every thrust; that you don't go completely to pieces when he dips forward and kisses the hollow of your throat at your climax.
Later, when he lies in your arms, your mind tries to pass the loosening knot in your chest off as grim satisfaction at punishing yourself, and not joy at release. Part of you would beg to differ.
It's odd how matters progress. You are more or less dead to the world; you cannot return to your post, not now, not after consorting with a criminal. You won't admit that it's partly because you don't want to - when since have you not been devoted to your job?
You have no where to go, so you stay. He lets you stay.
It turns out that the boy he saved in the sewers married his daughter, so he now lives alone. Just as well. You tell yourself it makes it a little less embarrassing and a little more bearable, living with a former convict. You know the truth is that it gives you and Jean the freedom to do what it's taken nigh on twenty years to allow yourself to do.
Maybe, someday, you'll finally be able to stop denying that the warmth that spreads through you whenever he embraces you is not chagrin, but true happiness.