Valjean walked fast enough that Arielle had to trot a few steps to keep alongside him. The effort made her wheeze, but he did not slow down. In the end she said, rather crossly, ‘he is not going to go away if you take a few minutes longer.’
The end of the Rue Plumet came, and he looked up and down to see if he could spot a gamin. There were not so many in this area of the city, and he very much did not want to have to go searching. ‘He may change his mind.’
‘If he were going to do that, he wouldn’t have started it. You know him better than to say such a thing. Once his mind is made up-‘
She did not finish because she did not have to. Valjean had to acknowledge the truth of it – and so, had to consider whether his desire to hurry this chore was more to do with the need that flared in him. Arielle looked around, turned to the right and waited for him to follow. ‘Do you think Cosette wouldn’t be able to guess you decided to spend the night at the house? She is not stupid.’
‘I know. But I will not have her worry.’ Not for anything. Not even the desire that had been physically painful to halt, ten minutes before – if he had put off this task any longer, he was not sure he would have been able to stop.
‘You could have finished what you were doing,’ Arielle grumped. ‘And sent the message afterwards. It is not so late.’
‘Well, we are here now.’
He almost smiled at her vexation, but the impulse turned to something else as he thought of Dog trailing morosely to the door after her. She had licked his face in temporary farewell. The image made something lurch in his belly and he set off again, faster than before. By Heaven, he could usually not move for gamins swarming over him. Where were they all?
‘Why did you ask him about the dog’s name?’ Arielle said, huffing along beside him. ‘You should not have asked him that. It is his business.’
‘Yes, I know.’ He looked as embarrassed as he had when he asked. ‘But it had crossed my mind that perhaps if the dog had a name, he would speak again.’
‘Oh.’ Arielle seemed to consider this. She was silent as they walked, almost until the turn of the next street. There were more people here, and Valjean looked around again. ‘It’s possible, I suppose. But Dog seems happy enough not speaking. Javert doesn’t need to understand him. He is a simple enough creature.’
‘He has changed in the last year. Not so simple any more, I think.’
Arielle’s silence was so pointed, even he got distracted from his search and looked down. She was staring up at him, and he would not need to be familiar with her to read the expression on her face. She quite clearly thought he was very dim. ‘What?’
She sighed, and swatted a lazy paw at a fly coming too close. ‘Dog is as simple as they come. He wants love. And he will not get it from Javert.’
A gamin wandered by, his fox cub threading its way through his feet as he walked. Valjean almost missed him, staring as he was. But he roused himself in time, and handed a note to the boy with a coin. The fox form slid into a pigeon, and rested on the gamin’s shoulder as he ran off in the direction of the Pontmercy’s. Valjean began walking back towards Javert, his pace just as quick but his expression thoughtful. ‘Do you think that’s why he does not speak?’
‘I think it has been so long since he has, he has forgotten how. But I’m not sure it matters. He can express himself in different ways.’
Valjean glanced down at her. And the thought came that Arielle had not ceased talking when they were both close to death, except when neither had the energy for it any more. But they had been in that together – and she had been the first to wilt. He had only followed her. If it was Javert that actively injured Dog at some point in the past, as he suspected, then perhaps that is why he would not talk.
He put a hand down, and stroked Arielle’s head. It was something he rarely did, and her face showed surprise and then a little gratitude. ‘Do not stop talking to me,’ he said, quietly. And she snorted, and leaned into his touch.
‘You test me too often for that. Do not worry. I will keep you right.’
He smiled, and saw the entry to the Rue Plumet approach. His stomach contracted with nerves and anticipation, and his pace increased once more. Arielle sighed, and broke into a trot. ‘Come along then. I wonder if he is behaving like a teenaged boy also.’
She might sound disapproving, but he was sure there was some amused relief in there too.
Javert sat on his hands, and stared at the wall. He should have gone with him – not because he did not think he would come back, though that was starting to become a concern. Simply because the trouble it would have taken to dress respectably would be worth it not to have to sit through this torture of inactivity. Though, he had to admit, walking in this state of arousal would have been awkward.
‘I suppose he is stopping to hand out alms. Yes? Do you think?’ he said to Dog, who sat in front of him with his head cocked. ‘Oh, never mind.’
There was no point talking to the animal. Dog seemed to sense his disquiet and curled himself up into his customary ball – it occurred to Javert, his brain working fast in its feverish state, that the only time he saw Dog not in a ball was when he was with Arielle. Then he was happy enough to roll around and stretch against her, to lie on his back and show his belly. He was a stupid creature – but no matter, it was not important now. Javert scratched a hand through his hair, resisted the temptation to put the same hand inside his trousers and rub, and thought of the touch of Valjean’s lips instead.
Everything about this was stupid, and would probably send them to Hell. But the truth was, he was willing to risk that for a taste of Heaven here on Earth. It was more surprising that Valjean was, but…no, he did not know why, and it was a question that could wait for another time. He would ask him if he was sure, of course. He would never push, and would respect whatever the man wanted. He simply hoped it continued to be the same thing as he wanted, because if he only had his own hand for satisfaction tonight, he would be disappointed.
Perhaps that was an understatement.
He sighed, then jerked his head around as he heard the front door open. Without realising he was moving, he pushed to his feet – too fast, too fast, his leg pulled uncomfortably. But he pushed that aside, and swallowed hard as Valjean came back into the room.
‘You sent your message?’
‘Yes.’ Valjean unbuttoned his coat, then seemed to hesitate. ‘You have not…I can still leave if-‘
Javert strode forward, took Valjean’s face in his hands, and kissed him. He heard Arielle say, ‘I told you,’ as she pushed at Dog’s head with her nose, and he had to break off to chuckle. Valjean smiled too, and then kissed him in turn, and he did not think of anything for a while.
Eventually, breathless, he said, ‘the bedroom, perhaps?’ and Valjean, panting, nodded.
Valjean’s kisses were warm and gentle, and Javert had the dazed thought that perhaps he was not contributing enough in return. But every one of them seemed to envelop him in a numb haze, pleasure freezing him as though the man’s lips held some kind of opium. All he could do was copy the slow tangle of his tongue, and try to press back a little; put a hand in his hair and hold him just as close. He was aware of nothing outside the welcome prison of Valjean’s arms. He could barely open his eyes. He knew only they were on his bed, and despite his fears for Valjean’s health, the strength wrapped around him was enough to smother any man.
He was not sure how long they had been tangled like this. Valjean’s shirt and waistcoat were on the floor, and his cravat dangled off the frame of the bed. Javert was propped on pillows and one of Valjean’s arms, his hand rested on skin that was horribly uneven. Their legs wrapped around each other’s, and his own trousers rested halfway down his thighs. He was doing everything he could to ignore the obscene lump covered by his shirt, the only thing retaining his modesty. Valjean’s palm was clasped warmly to the inside of his leg, and it was hard to breathe as they kissed; everything rested beneath that hand, so casually placed only inches from his arousal. But Valjean did not seem tempted to touch it yet, because his fingertips were running over something else instead. It was only when Javert noticed that the sensation was odd – it was there, then gone, then back again – did he realise that Valjean was touching the scar left behind by Dog’s teeth. When the feeling disappeared, he was touching places left numb by the bite. Javert gasped as his finger dragged over live nerves which burrowed pleasure deep down into his muscles, and Valjean turned his head to look into his face.
‘Are you all right?’
Javert nodded. He shifted his legs under the throb of pressure, and if there were room he would have spread his knees. Valjean leaned in, and Javert could not respond, he only sat and breathed as Valjean kissed first the top lip and then the bottom, and then took his mouth with such gentle heat that for a moment, the entire room disappeared. Javert moaned, and was panting when it ended. When he looked down, there was a small wet patch on his shirt. They both watched as Valjean stroked his leg, and it became larger, and Javert felt his balls pull up and his prick strain…he looked away, and Valjean let his hand go still. Javert’s breath came in hitched gulps, and another small sound whined out from between his lips. Valjean did not kiss it away this time, but said, with his hand tightening a little, ‘I am sorry for this.’
Javert closed his eyes. The foolish man. The foolish, foolish man. When he opened them again, they fell on Arielle lying on the rug. The only part of Dog he could see was part of his snout and one eye, so thoroughly was he wrapped in the embrace of her body, and enormous front paws. Both looked to be sleeping, but happy, and he could not bear any apology for what had brought them all to this.
He turned his head, and pressed his lips to the one ridge on Valjean’s shoulder; some rogue lash mark that escaped over his back and marked almost as far as the collarbone at the front. ‘And I am sorry for this,’ he murmured, lips against his skin. ‘I am sorry for all of it, but I would not turn away from all you have given me this last year.’
Arielle stirred a tiny amount, rubbed her chin over the part of Dog it was resting on, and settled again. Valjean looked pained. Javert kissed his lips and was glad to get a response; he kissed him again and Valjean’s hand stroked, just a small circle of his fingers on Javert’s damaged thigh. There was not room for him to spread his knees but he tried anyway, he could not help it, and the thought came to him that later, tomorrow, soon, he would turn over and open his legs, and play the bitch for Valjean; he would take his weight and feel him inside, and he had to break the thought off there because the heat of it was too much, just as the hand on his leg was not touch enough.
He kissed Valjean hard then broke it off, heat flushing up his neck. He took Valjean’s hand and pulled it up under his shirt; they both watched as Javert encouraged him to rub; as he panted, as he started to moan and his mouth fell open, and his eyes drooped closed and the wet patch on his shirt began to spread. He made him move faster, and there was nothing but this; nothing but the pressure of his touch and Javert cried out, and gasped, and suddenly pushed the hand away…there was a moment, a dreadful moment, when he thought it was too late; he knew the heat on his cheeks, and the dry rasp of breath in his throat, and the thumping pulse between his legs and he fought to hold it back. Valjean kissed him as he struggled, and he moaned quietly again; his hands found Valjean’s buttons and began to fumble them open as the hand returned to his cock, and started to stroke once more.
‘Please,’ he said, roughly. ‘No.’ And it stopped, but only because he lay back and pushed Valjean’s trousers down at the same time; only because he pulled him on top of him and kissed him again. ‘Like this.’
He yanked his shirt up, and let them come together. He did not know who made the noise when they started to move, his good leg curling around Valjean and holding him close. He did not know who strained first, and cried out; only that everything was wet and slippery, and everything was pleasure; it was desperate and frantic for a few short seconds, and he pushed up, everything pulsed, and there was nothing but the bliss of giving himself over entirely, and taking Valjean into his care in return.
They breathed together when it was over. The room was a haze. Valjean was solid, a warm anchor he could not let go of. When he turned his head to get fresh air, the light from the window glinted off something. Dog’s eye, watching him from between the fold of Arielle’s paws. He could not be sure, but he thought maybe the animal was smiling.
He supposed he should feel awful, afterwards. He had never enjoyed feeling exposed. But this was different, and he could not bring himself to do anything but enjoy it. He supposed it was trust, and that was a strange notion in itself, but one he was not going to relinquish.
They would have to get a bigger bed. This one was barely big enough for him, though it gave the advantage of forcing them to lie practically on top of each other. Still, he pushed a little at his shoulder, and the man rolled to his side so they could look at each other.
‘I do not know,’ he said, after a moment of just looking. ‘I do not know how we are supposed to behave now.’
Valjean smiled, one of his smiles that lit up a room. Javert supposed the feeling that exploded inside him was love, but was too busy crumbling under it to think much further. He could not find any words, and Valjean only kissed his cheek. His hand, Javert noted, covered the scar again.
‘You do not have to rub it better,’ he muttered, a little abashed. ‘I do not mind it.’
Valjean did not stop. He looked thoughtful as he traced the marks; Javert glanced down too, took in the size and heft of Valjean’s cock, and thought again, soon. His mouth was dry. He would not just put himself on his belly for that. He would go to his knees, look up and watch Valjean’s face as he sucked on it. The thought made him light-headed, and his cock twitched lazily on his thigh.
‘Does Dog have a scar also?’
Javert blinked, his thoughts derailed. ‘I don’t know,’ he said, after a pause. ‘I have not looked.’
‘Oh.’ Valjean’s fingers traced on. Javert watched his face, and wondered, maybe, if Valjean wanted to heal his scar because he could not heal his own.
‘Dog,’ he said, on an impulse. ‘Come here.’
There was no sound of movement. Javert only watched Valjean, whose hand had stilled but not moved away. Perhaps the animal would not come; Javert never called him, so he was hardly used to the command. But, after a long few seconds of silence, there was a scuffling as Dog pulled himself free of Arielle. She sniffed. ‘We were comfortable,’ she said, but that was all.
Dog sat by the bed. Javert refused to look down. ‘Up here,’ he said, and again they had to wait, because Dog was old and damaged, and it was difficult for him to climb any height at all. If the mattress had not been weighed down by two of them, he would not have managed. Javert did not move to help him, and propriety said Valjean could not, though he was frowning in consternation at the way Dog had to scramble and fight to drag himself up the sheets. Eventually he sat there, panting. His eyes were downcast as though he feared punishment. When Javert glanced at him, which he did only once, he noticed that the animal’s hair was pushed in all directions from where Arielle had held him close.
‘Well,’ he said to Valjean. ‘See for yourself.’
Valjean’s head snapped around, incredulous. ‘Javert!’
He looked back, calm. ‘I mean it.’
The room was still for a long time. Dog watched both of them, seemingly unsure of what he should do. Valjean made no move to touch – of course he did not, to touch another’s daemon was the most inappropriate thing one could do – but Javert’s gaze was unwavering. He did not know why it should seem such a large thing, at the same time as realising that it very much was. But he could not touch Dog without pain, and Dog was scared of him. But Valjean…he could trust Valjean. And more than that, he should trust Valjean, for no other reason than to show the man he was important enough to be trusted. So no, there were no qualms in him. He merely nodded. And, after more time had passed, Valjean reached out his hand and stroked carefully down Dog’s head.
Javert did not attempt to classify how it felt. If sharing a climax was like falling into another person, this was like opening his chest and allowing Valjean to sink into every part of him at once, even the bits he himself could not reach. He felt as though his entire life was being stroked with the lightest fingertips; a brush over his childhood in prison, a fingernail scratch on the pain of his mother’s death, the pad of a thumb spreading open his pride at becoming a policeman, and pulling the thread of it through the rest of his years. His eyes fell shut once more, and he arched up helplessly, not sure he liked it but utterly unable to stop.
He felt Dog walk up his body and settle on his chest; he did not want to look but did not have to to feel Valjean rubbing the little mongrel’s ears. His own hand dangled off the edge of the bed, and he felt it come to rest on Arielle’s head. Valjean murmured ‘no,’ when he snatched it away, so he put it back, and buried his fingers in the thick fur around her neck. There was a scar under there, and Valjean made a small sound that was unmistakably fear when he ran his fingers over the ridge of it. A collar, he recognised with horror. A permanent collar.
All he could do was turn and kiss him, and accept it when Valjean moaned into his mouth in turn. It was like opening up to light and air; being utterly exposed and knowing Valjean was too, but there being no fear in it, only the knowledge of safety. He held tight with one arm, ran his hand through Arielle’s fur, and let her lean into it without complaint. And if Valjean was gasping, and his cheeks a little damp, well, perhaps his were too.
He woke up blearily. Valjean was resting against his side. Arielle and Dog were wrapped together on the rug, and the room was already warm with the heat of summer. Javert blinked at the ceiling, and felt nothing in him at all, as though every part of him had been drawn out from inside, cleaned, and put away where he would never have to agonise over it again.
It would not be that easy, he knew. A man cannot put down his life’s sins and walk away from them, simply at the touch of another. But there was another now, and perhaps that was the difference; Valjean knew him, and he knew Valjean, and if understanding was the key to knowledge, and knowledge was the seed of growth, then surely, he could hope, life would be a whole new prospect from here.