SUMMARY: They whisper in Toulon that Javert has no daemon. That he is unnatural, cursed, soulless.

CANON: Book/musical fusion.

CHARACTERS: Jean Valjean & Javert gen


NOTES: Kinkmeme fill, for the prompt "Daemon!AU. Where, instead of the obvious wolf, Javert has a daemon that's small and easily/often hid on his person, to the point where people whisper that he's so soulless that he doesn't actually have a daemon." Daemons are a concept from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy, set in an alternate Earth where a part of people's soul is expressed as an animal-shaped daemon that can talk. People cannot be parted from their daemon without pain or even death.

The Price One Must Pay

Valjean knows he should not look the guards in the eye. Everyone learns that by the end of their first week at Toulon, if not their first day. But Valjean has never been good at following the rules. That is why five years passed, and then ten, and he is still in the galleys. His back bears a stripe for every resentful look, every dragged step.

But he cannot stop himself from looking, if only to remind himself that he is not yet a beast. Beside him, Hélène cringes and whimpers against his side as Valjean looks up, her large brown eyes worried under her sheepdog fringe of hair.

Javert's face does not change, but he signals for them to work faster, and Valjean looks down again, grunting under the weight of the shackles. He is stronger than other men, but still human.

They whisper in Toulon that Javert has no daemon. That he is unnatural, cursed, soulless. He is not the worst of the guards—he cannot be bribed, but neither is he cruel for the sake of cruelty—but he is the most feared. Even the other guards do not like him.

What kind of man has no daemon?

Valjean dares to look up again, quickly, at the tall dark figure standing ramrod straight above them, apart from guards and prisoners alike, and he could almost swear he saw a little movement in the vicinity of the man's collar.

"Eyes down!" another guard snaps, and Valjean feels the tearing burn of the lash across his shoulders again. Hélène yelps and snarls as if the blow fell across her own shaggy back, but although she bears no iron shackles, she can no more fight back than he can.

There is no reason for Valjean's certainty that Javert has a daemon, and less reason to be watching for her, save that the boredom in Hell can kill the soul as quickly as the lash.

Javert's daemon must be small, he decides, perhaps a ferret or a rat. Something fierce and dangerous. Not a bird: Javert is too much a creature of the earth and muck of Toulon for that, for all that he tries to stand above it. Nothing so timid as a rabbit or a mouse.

He looks up when Javert does rounds, meets those angry dark eyes under the fierce brows, and does not flinch away. Javert does not punish him, but he frowns, and there is contempt in the curl of his mouth. Valjean once heard him tell another guard that it was unnecessary cruelty to punish a man for his eyes, and besides, the convicts worked better if they saw where they were going. This does not meant Javert has any sympathy for the convicts. There is no sympathy for anyone in him; he is made of wood.

Javert's daemon must be small enough to hide inside his coat, perhaps near his ear where she can whisper to him. Valjean watches his back as he passes, boot-heels ringing on the stone floor. Javert has coarse dark hair, long enough to hide the nape of his neck and curl into the collar of his overcoat. And there, again, that faint movement, as if a breeze stirred his hair. But there is no breeze in the corridor.

It is a week before Valjean's release when Javert stops in front of his cell. At once, Valjean is sick with fear: he has been careful, so careful, this last month, to keep his eyes down, to play the good slave. This time he will be free, and he will never again smell the stink of Hell.

He racks his mind, trying to remember what imaginary transgression he might have committed to draw Javert's attention—no, it is Javert, it must be a real transgression against the law of Toulon, no matter how stupid and vile that law. Javert does not invent transgressions. He cannot think of one.

"24601," Javert says. "Look at me."

Perversely, now that it is commanded, Valjean does not want to look. He keeps his eyes down, sullenly. Hélène whines low in her throat and slinks back, away from the bars.

Javert's truncheon is thrust through the bars, with a rattle and clang of metal; it's cold and inexorable under his chin, forcing him to look up. Javert's face is as icy and stone-cut as ever, the face of a man who has never known warmth or kindness or mercy. "You will be released soon," he says, his harsh voice revealing nothing.

"Will I?" Valjean's voice comes out dangerously bitter.

"If you do not try to escape again in the next few days," Javert says, and there is almost a hint of humor in that granite voice. "Even you don't seem that stupid."

Valjean grits his teeth.

"Why do you stare at me?" Javert asks. "You do not stare at the other guards. It annoys me."

The words come as if Javert drags them from him, unwilling: "They say you have no daemon."

Javert stares at him for a long moment, then draws the truncheon away. Valjean does not look down, as Javert's lips peel back from his teeth, and he tilts his head back in a terrible, silent laugh. It is worse than Valjean had imagined. "Do they, then?" Javert says, with black humor. "Enjoy your last week in Toulon, 24601."

But as Javert walks away, Valjean sees her at last: a little blue-gray lizard of some kind, her tail wrapped around one of his coat buttons. And as Valjean watches, she slowly changes color, until she is the same dark blue as his coat. And then she disappears, as if he had only imagined her.

It is curious, he thinks as he pets Hélène in reassurance, for he had not thought that Javert was a man who could change himself like that, who could change at all. Unless he already had, unless the man who watches over the galleys with his granite face and straight back is the lizard who had disappeared into the blue coat, and the real Javert was something else entirely.

The thought unsettles Valjean, and he curls up with his head against Hélène's side, closing his eyes and letting the wet-dog smell of her coat help him forget for a moment that he is in Toulon. It doesn't matter. They will be free soon enough, and he will never see Javert again.