SUMMARY: Five different times Javert and Valjean never met, and one time they did.
CANON: Book/musical fusion
CHARACTERS: Valjean, Javert, Eugène-François Vidocq, Bishop Myriel
NOTES: I realize that neither the AUs nor the canon quite qualify as "two ships passing" in the strict sense, but since the idea for this fic came out of that title, the title pretty much glommed on and I couldn't bring myself to change it.
The five AUs take place in separate universes.
He recognized the fact that he was not an innocent man unjustly punished. He admitted that he had committed an extreme and blameworthy act; that that loaf of bread would probably not have been refused to him had he asked for it; that, in any case, it would have been better to wait until he could get it through compassion or through work; that it is not an unanswerable argument to say, "Can one wait when one is hungry?"
-Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, Volume I, Book Second, Chapter VII "The Interior of Despair"
It was late on a Sunday evening when a man crossed the Place de l'Église of Faverolles. He walked with his head down and shoulders slumped as if weary, his long hair fallen loose from his queue and shading his face, his cap pulled down low over his eyes.
In front of the grated window of the baker's shop he paused, looking in the window at the day-old bread, which would be given out to beggars soon enough if it did not sell. He knew the baker, Maubert Isabeau, a kind enough man, but a man who always had enough to eat; and he thought of his sister and the seven children waiting back at the cottage. Pierre was sick and had cried all day for food, but they had nothing in the house but a handful of beans and some thin broth from the carcass of a rabbit the man had shot the week before, all the while waiting for the shout of the gamekeeper and the sound of gendarmes come to clap him in irons.
Pierre would stop crying if he had bread, the man thought, but he had once again found no work. Was it right, that he, willing to work, could yet find no work, and so those who depended on him starved? Was it right that M. Isabeau should have so much, while he, Jean Valjean, and those who depended upon him had so little?
He regarded the bread again. He was a strong man. It would be an easy enough thing to thrust his fist through the grate, through the windowpane, to break it and clutch the bread to his breast and run.
And yet he thought of his sister's weary face. If he were caught, what would become of her? What would become of the seven children?
He shuddered, imagining the shackle around his ankle, the red cap upon his head. There were worse things than honest poverty.
Jean Valjean hesitated a moment longer, his belly cramping with hunger, imagining little Pierre's cries. But no: if he asked in the morning, surely M. Isabeau would give him the bread, or perhaps there would be some task he could perform in trade. Surely there would be work again soon. After all, it was very rare for someone to truly die of hunger, and if misery could be escaped through theft, there would be a great deal less misery.
No, in the morning he would knock on M. Isabeau's door, cap in hand, like an honest man
The sad figure of Jean Valjean moved on across the square, the moment of madness past. What he might have lost if he succumbed did not cross his mind: he was not a man of great imagination. But when he returned to the cottage and found Pierre sleeping peacefully, and Jeanne ladled for him a bowl of bean soup with a bit of bacon in it that she had begged from a neighbor, he knew he had chosen the right path. It was better to be an honest man.
Tomorrow there would surely be work.