'Welcome back to channel X24.601, and we are live at …'
Valjean was off his chair and slamming his hand flat on the radio off button in less than a second. He glanced at Javert, who sat bolt upright in his bed. Valjean couldn't tell it was the number or the sound of him hitting the radio that had startled Javert. He desperately hoped it was the latter.
'Sleep well?' he asked, perhaps a little breathlessly.
'Yes,' Javert said warily. He sounded like a man who had just been asked a very confusing question. But he had been looking like that a lot lately. At least, since he woke up.
Valjean had grappled with the truth of Javert and their history since he'd first gone with him to the hospital. It was new, and discomfiting, having an irreconcilable problem with the inspector's identity, rather than with his own. It felt wrong. Like they were wearing each other's shoes, despite having differently sized feet.
They were not in Cardiff, so Javert was not known here. Valjean, out of frightened habit, had not alerted the authorities that the inspector was in a hospital in London. For all Valjean knew, his co-workers were looking for him. It had been three weeks. Of course they must be. His mind had been a muddle when he pulled Javert from the Thames, filled with indescribable panic. The sight of Javert face-down in the water had set a fire in his brain that could only be doused by leaping into the cold dark, dragging him to the shoreline and spending five minutes trying to resuscitate him while a concerned lady in a parka dialled emergency services.
He ought to have left him when the ambulance arrived. Vanished, the way he always had before. Things would be simpler, better, for both of them.
But he hadn't. When the paramedics had seen him clutching Javert's spasming, coughing, soaked body, and assumed he was Javert's lover, he hadn't corrected them. He had lied to the hospital, and taken Javert home to his apartment. He had lied to Javert.
What would happen when Javert's memory returned? He would not thank Valjean. He would be outraged. What if Valjean woke up one night to Javert, humiliated and angry, holding a knife to his throat? What if something he said or did, something about his profile or the way he sliced bread for toast in the morning, what if it sparked a fire in Javert's mind and brought his memories flooding back?
But Valjean was the only one who could do that, and he knew it. Valjean had been one of the few notable certainties in Javert's life. That was not pride. It was common sense.
Javert could have gone home to his own flat, unmarried, no children to watch over him. It would be convenient for the higher ups, Javert being an older member of the force, having attempted suicide and wound up with amnesia, to forcibly retire him and put him on a pension. For Valjean to send Javert back to Cardiff and have that happen would only ensure his worst possible fate. That was what he told himself.
Valjean knew Javert would not see it that way, even if his memories did return. Valjean tried not to hope that Javert would not remember, that he would simply stay reset. It was selfish. No matter how much he told himself that it would be better for Javert not to remember at all, for him instead to start a new life, a blank slate, Valjean knew his own motives too well.
So he carried on, letting Javert sleep in his bed while he laid out a futon for himself in the study and stared at the ceiling, grappling with guilt. He silently listened in the afternoons, as Javert tried to piece together scraps of images and sounds that flew through his mind like elusive dreams; a red flag, buttons on a uniform, a penknife cutting through nylon rope. A black and silver cross on a chain, which Valjean had found around his neck after dragging him from the water, making his heart plummet in an indescribable moment of both misery and happiness. Valjean had tentatively shown him the cross, which he had taken back, and Javert had haltingly asked if he could wear it again.
'I gave it to you,' Valjean had said. 'Years ago.'
'I wish I could remember,' Javert had replied quietly.
No, you don't. I don't want you to, Valjean hadn't said.
Valjean hoped Javert did not notice that he was hiding. He wasn't locking himself in at all hours, nor was he actively stopping Javert from leaving the house or watching television or having contact with the outside world. Javert voluntarily stayed at the apartment, reading Valjean's Paul Coelho books and eating his peanut butter, all with a stiffness and curiosity that belied both his current confusion and his life spent as an arm of the law. The Paul Coelho books he seemed to like. The Eckhart Tolle books irritated him, and he hadn't touched any of the Alain de Botton. The sight of a well-thumbed Bible on the bed stand had made him raise an eyebrow at Valjean.
Valjean returned from grocery shopping in the first afternoon of the fourth week to find Javert rolling up the futon in the study. He protested, and Javert looked at him with a combination of blankness and sternness.
'It can't be as comfortable as a real bed,' he said flatly. 'You should be sleeping in your bed.'
'You are sleeping in my bed,' Valjean had reminded him, and the resulting impatient eye-roll from Javert.
'Maybe it would … help me.'
'Having you next to me,' Javert said. There it was again, that officious stiffness. It was clearly a thought, an idea, which Javert had been grappling with for some time.
'It won't work,' Valjean said doubtfully. He painfully wanted to confess there and then, it won't work because we aren't a real couple, because you and I have never slept side by side, we have never touched more than to punch, kick, hurt each other.
But he couldn't say it. His mouth went dry.
'I trust you not to do anything unseemly,' Javert said, the corner of his lip twitching, and Valjean was surprised at the rush of want that surged to the surface at that. He had never been the recipient of such an expression from Javert before. He had never seen the officer be sarcastic, or offhand, he had never seen him smile. The reaction must have shown in his face, because Javert stepped forward and Valjean felt no desire at all to step back. Javert stood within ten inches of him. He could feel little puffs of air, Javert's breath, and smell his own aftershave on Javert's skin.
'Just sleep next to me.'
Valjean found himself shockingly unable to say no.