Author's notes: First off, this is the first fic I have written in quite some years so apologies if I am in any way rusty.
I have for some time felt that Jean Valjean's reaction to Javert's death (upon reading it in a newspaper) in Hugo's Les Miserables book is underwhelming at best. I have tried here to expand upon that scene and get into Valjean's head to see how I think he might react after the scene in the book ends.
This fic does use a mix of both book and stage version. Obviously the scene where Valjean learns of Javert's death only exists in the book, but I love the powerful imagery and drama of Javert's suicide in the stage version, so I hope people will forgive me for trying to blend the two.
"Javert is dead..."
"Javert... is... dead..."
The words danced around Jean Valjean's head, their meaning scarcely able to be believed.
"Javert is dead..."
For the briefest of moments Valjean felt a wave of something primal stir within him, something far more akin to his younger days in Toulon.
The feeling soon retreated, scurrying away back into darkness, but Valjean was shamefully aware of the beast which had briefly reared its ugly head.
This beast was called satisfaction.
The feeling had dissipated almost as soon as it had made itself manifest yet Valjean bit his lip, mentally chastising himself for allowing such a feeling at the death of his fellow man.
Thoughts of a more rational nature followed. Javert was a man, just as he - that savage hunter in a policeman's uniform, that unwavering upholder of the law, and yet he was dead, by his own hand.
Valjean set the newspaper down on the arm of his chair and sat back, a sigh escaping him as his shoulders relaxed with the loss of a long borne weight. That one constant threat, that which could pounce at any given moment and destroy Cosette's happiness, future, and reputation, had in a moment of madness solved the final problem and ended their own private little war by killing himself.
Valjean's hand made a fist and with a nod of approval he stood.
"Good!" he said in a terse manner not used by himself for many a year.
He began to make for the door, intending on taking a stroll in air that suddenly seemed clearer and freer than it ever had when two things abruptly stopped him, as if physically preventing him from moving.
Two separate images had flashed through Valjean's mind in the blink of an eye.
First, a memory of the Dear, Dear Bishop of Digne - his hand placed upon Valjean's shoulder as his eyes had looked deep into his own in forgiveness many years ago. Even now he still felt the warmth of the late Bishop's unwavering love for all as it penetrated his soul. He remembered that look and touch, both of which stated "I will not judge you" despite Valjean's cruel action of accepting the mans kind act of charity and repaying it with brazen theft. The shame of this act, all these years later, still stabbed at Valjean's heart with utmost force.
Secondly and almost concurrently with the image of the Bishop and the feelings and emotions the thought of him rekindled, was the memory of that final and unexpected encounter with Javert.
Realisation of the state of the man during their final encounter hurtled into Valjean's mind like a bolting horse.
The Inspector, always immaculately presented and bearing a posture of sheer authority had been, it now dawned on Valjean, broken.
Everything contained in this image now held within Valjean's memory screamed of wrong, and yet he had neither noticed nor cared on the night in question.
The man of stone had crumbled, like an unstoppable avalanche. His hair disheveled, only remaining partly tied back with the rest hanging loose and obscuring his tired face. His dark blue jacket, the polished silver buttons undone, hung bedraggled from his form.
Javert's appearance was that of a man who had just fought a war with himself, and lost.
Shame once again flooded through Valjean's very being as he turned back and glanced again at the report in the newspaper where it lay discarded on the arm of his chair.
His eyes honed in on one sentence... "...is thought to have committed suicide while of unsound mind...".
Valjean stood in silence. The truth of these printed words sent a physical chill through Valjean's very being.
"Well... Since he had let me go, that may well be true".
It was true, this much Valjean knew for certain.
Casting his mind back over their many encounters across the years, Valjean attempted to make sense of events.
Slowly, he paced towards the other end of the room, pondering what could cause a man he knew so well, and yet so little, to take such a drastic action.
Valjean then froze. He looked up as if a thought had grasped his soul and shaken it.
"What part did I play in this?".
Valjean felt his blood run cold at the very idea.
He knew the truth of this thought. The more he considered it the more he came to an unwanted conclusion. Releasing Javert unharmed from the barricade had it seemed, in a perverse twist, been a mistake.
Javert's words as he departed the barricade, "I find this embarrassing. I'd rather you killed me" were not, it now appeared, an exaggeration.
Letting him go had, it seemed, simply triggered his mental collapse, hence Javert later letting Valjean pass with the injured Marius like a wounded old wolf no longer able or willing to pursue its prey.
Perhaps shooting Javert, executing this man in cold blood, would ironically have been the more humane thing to do? It would, he concluded, have been far more dignified than being pulled drowned from underneath a washer woman's boat in the cold Seine.
Valjean shook his head in frustration.
"No!". He firmly stated to himself through gritted teeth. Whatever would or would not have been for the best, Valjean knew he could never have pulled the trigger that night. Or ever.
Many years before, as Javert lay unconscious on the floor of Fantine's hospital room having been felled by a furious punch from Valjean, it would have been so easy to make a grab for the dropped truncheon and strike a fatal blow to the Inspector before fleeing. Yet Valjean had not, despite having moments earlier made a threat to "kill you here!".
Now Valjean himself felt toothless. Cosette was soon to be gone, flying from the nest of family that had all these years been Valjean's only real purpose in life. His debt to Fantine was paid in full, his mission was over.
And now even his greatest foe was gone.
The ageing man exhaled a sigh that resonated sadness, loss, emptiness and a future that now held no clear path.
Once again he considered the Inspector.
The corners of Valjean's mouth suppressed a small but reluctant smile as he considered words the Bishop might convey to him in this very moment.
Valjean knew what the Bishop would implore - Forgive, and love thy enemy.
Valjean turned and faced the mantelpiece above the fireplace.
Upon it sat the two silver candlesticks the Bishop had gifted him in addition to the gift of precious freedom, liberty and life.
Between the candlesticks sat a small modest wooden crucifix.
Valjean took a step forwards and picked the candlesticks up. He set them down in front of the fireplace with care and reverence, taking a moment to gently light from the fire the flame of the candle each one held.
Then he moved to pick up the crucifix.
His bones aching more with each passing day, Valjean slowly knelt.
The fire burned warmly in the fireplace, the two candlesticks reflecting the fire's radiance sat in front of it. Between them sat the crucifix.
Valjean leant forward and placed a fresh segment of chopped firewood into the hearth.
There was a crackle as the flames eagerly began to consume the fresh wood. A small glowing ember of ash rose from the recently disturbed fire.
It fell in flame, as Lucifer once fell, before it landed gently at the base of the crucifix, extinguished by the colder air, it's life burned out.
The shadow of the crucifix flickered convulsively as the flames danced behind it, it's outline pointing towards Valjean as if reaching out to touch his soul.
Without so much as word or thought Jean Valjean knew what to do.
He would not mourn Javert, this much he knew for certain.
Neither would he forgive Javert, for was there really a need to forgive a man for simply doing his job and fulfilling his duty?
No, Valjean would do the only thing he would, the only thing he could.
Kneeling before the cross, 24601 closed his eyes, bowed his head respectfully, clasped his hands together and prayed for the soul who's final act had damned itself.
He prayed for Javert.