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Trope Bingo 1/5

Chapter Text

 

 

 

‘Stop it. I am not in the mood.’ Javert kicked out at the dog nipping his ankle, who whimpered and backed away. It sat staring at him, head cocked; he sneered at it, and looked out of the window instead. Snow had begun to fall. Montreuil would be buried at this rate. ‘And stop looking at me. You are a stupid creature.’

The dog – whose name was Dog – laid down, and set its head on its paws. Javert wished it would go away. It was a mangy thing, skinny and rough, with hair that resembled the black bristles of a sweeping brush. It was loyal, he would grant that, but he did not enjoy looking at it. It whined now, and he rolled his eyes. ‘What’s wrong with you? Shut up. You think I should have treated the woman kindly? I thought you knew better. And do not whinge over the mayor, I am sure he does not deserve it.’

Dog made no answer. It never spoke anymore. He remembered when it used to try, and he made it stop. A singularly unpleasant experience all around, and not one he dwelled on. ‘Now then,’ he muttered to himself. ‘We will see. Yes, we will see.’

He pulled paper and ink towards him. Dog curled in on itself, and closed its eyes.

 

*

 

Madeleine did not pause when he saw the mongrel at the corner, nor did his expression change. His lioness turned her head to examine the poor creature, but did not approach either. Both moved to the side as Javert emerged, to let him pass or stop to exchange a word as the man saw fit. The former suited, apparently; there was only a curl of his lip and a slight nod. The dog barked – an oddly hoarse, high-pitched sound – as they moved on.

‘You could speak to him. You know he took your intervention with Fantine badly.’

Yes, he could speak to him. But say what? He did not regret what he did, and would do it again. Moreover, he thought Javert behaved atrociously towards her…and further to that, he would rather not put himself in the man’s path more than he had to. He never avoided him, but never sought him out either. It seemed to have worked thus far.

‘The dog is ill,’ said Arielle, gently.

‘The dog has been ill for as long as I’ve known him,’ he said, shortly, and that was the end of it for today. He walked on, his thoughts turning to the factory and then to the three o’ clock visit with Fantine. Arielle lingered on the spot, watching the straight back of the inspector move down  the street. The mongrel trailed at his heels, small and ignored. But Valjean was six paces ahead, and she could not linger. She sighed in resignation, and trotted to catch up.

 

*

 

‘I tell you that there is no Monsieur Madeleine and that there is no Monsieur le Maire. There is a thief, a brigand, a convict named Jean Valjean! And I have him in my grasp! That's what there is!’

The dog barked its hoarse bark; Arielle stood still, not even her tail twitching. Javert had his hand on Valjean’s collar. The woman was shrieking and her bird was careening round and around their heads, like some crazed, all-encompassing halo. Valjean made no move to resist, and indeed felt calm except for  his worry about Fantine. Javert was in a state of great agitation, but there was no threat of violence from him beyond the grab. That was not how he worked, Valjean knew that.

But then Fantine sat upright, her taut arms holding her up shakily. She gazed around at the men, the nun, the dog even now biting at the feet of the lion. The bird squawked, an agonising sound that seemed to cut at Valjean like a rough saw through flesh. And then she stretched her arms out, her hands grasping. The bird’s wings flapped, and feathers began to drop through the air. Arielle turned her great head to watch…and Fantine fell back, her head hit the board, fell forward onto her chest, and she was dead.

There was silence for just a second, in which the bird evaporated in the air. Dust showered the two men. Javert shook it off angrily, and Dog began to bark once more. But Valjean did not move, and nor did Arielle, until moments had ticked on and he reached up and released himself from Javert’s grasp. 

‘You have murdered that woman.’

‘Let's have an end of this!’ shouted Javert, in a fury. ‘I am not here to listen to argument-’

He was loud, and Dog cowered. Arielle observed the two of them as the words went on, and as the threat of thumbscrews came, she lifted one of her giant paws and placed it firmly, but gently, on the back of the small dog. There was no weight to it, it caused no pain. But to move it was impossible. One might as well have tried to lift a mountain. Javert’s face blanched, even though he paid no attention to the animals.

‘If I scratched it,’ said Arielle, conversationally. ‘Do you think he would come and save it?’

‘Hush, now,’ said Valjean quietly, and she acquiesced, turning her stern gaze back on the pinned creature. To Javert, he said, ‘I advise you not to disturb me at this moment.’

The silence was terrible to Javert. He watched Valjean minister to the woman with fury and loathing that tried to claw its way out of his chest, yet he could not move. Dog was writhing under the paw of the great cat, biting and scratching and yapping, but to no avail. The scene remained as it was until Valjean, finally, kissed the woman’s hand, and turned to face Javert. Arielle let the dog go. It immediately buried its teeth into her leg.

‘Now,’ said Valjean, calmly. ‘I am at your disposal.’

 

*

 

The dog sat facing the prison cell. Mangy though it was, its back was straight and its paws neatly aligned. Javert sat with his back to it, as though it were not there.

When the cell was found to be empty a few hours later, he kicked the dog into the wall. It yelped and was dazed for a time, but it kept up well enough when they ran after the escaped prisoner. It did not have a choice.

When the collar was finally put on Valjean three days later, Javert received a report that said the man had been found with his lioness on the opposite seat of the coach, and they were deep in conversation. No one knew what was said. Only that the animal was calm, and Valjean came without a struggle.

 

 

Chapter Text

 


 

His legs ached horribly. The martingale cut into his wrists. Dog lay at his feet, curled into a ball and seemingly unconcerned with all that was happening. The animal looked worse than ever; he had passed a good portion of the night thinking on how useless it was. Yes, it showed its teeth at criminals, but it slept the rest of the time, or else sat away from him. Indifference had become de rigueur, and in usual circumstances this caused no difficulties within him. The night before his death, he had simply expected more from the creature. Well, no matter.

‘You could bind me to that table,’ he said to the blond one, whose eagle glared so unwaveringly. ‘You were not kind to leave me standing all night.’

He was surprised to be granted this request, as well as water. It did not change his opinion of them, nor did Dog move when he did. He lay bound in the dark with the animal six feet away, and uncomfortably aware of it. It was knowledge he always despised, that to push the animal too far distant was unhealthy for both of them. He had tried it in his youth, locking the thing up and leaving it, but he could not do it. He was weak, he gave in. The dog stopped talking soon after. And now it just followed around, yipping and biting at people, and then ignoring everything else. Perhaps it was its age.

The dog sat uneasily in his thoughts for hours, until it woke up and stretched, and shuffled a little closer. Javert calmed, and was able to put his thoughts back on the correct track. Except there was little to think of. They would shoot him. He had no doubt of it, and did not even mind so much. To die in the staunch defence of one’s duty was a fine thing indeed, and no one would be able to say he had not died with honour. So. Very well.

 

But if he was resigned to his fate, it seemed God could not resist a twist of the final knife. Javert looked up into Valjean’s unreadable eyes, and then down at the lion that sat at his feet. He would laugh, if anything were funny. As it was, he just said, ‘it is perfectly simple.’

 

*

 

Arielle prowled up the alley, her tail flicking one way and then the other. Dog drooped along behind her, and the tuft at the end would often brush its face. A soft lash, one the mongrel did nothing to avoid. When Valjean and Javert came to a stop, it slumped down on its belly and stayed there. Arielle sat next to it, her tail still moving, watching the men.

‘You are free.’

Ropes fell to the ground. Dog’s ears twitched. Javert snarled and Valjean was not surprised to see his face so shocked; he had never any doubt that Javert thought the very worst of him. There was no satisfaction in seeing that expression though, and all he could do – all there was time to do – was  impart the necessary.

‘I do not think that I shall escape from this place. But if, by chance, I do, I live under the name of Fauchelevent, in the Rue de l'Homme Arme, No. 7.’

Arielle’s nose lowered towards the ground a little, but her chest swelled out. Dog lifted its head.

‘Have a care.’

‘Go.’

Arielle’s fur was yellow and shining, even in the muck of this place; a sliver of sun fell between the buildings onto her shoulder, and seemed to light her up all over. It was as if she glowed, though her eyes were sad and staring forward.

Dog was on its feet. Its lip curled, trembling either with anger, or the effort born of disuse. A grumble came from its chest. The lion did not move. When Javert walked on, Dog had no choice but to follow; instead of falling to silence, it growled as it went. And it flinched when the shot went into the air, turned its eyes backwards. Arielle sat there still, watching, even as Valjean turned away.

 

*

 

Javert stood with his fingers twined in his whiskers, unmoving, rigid. Rain had fallen, the streets were wet. There were no people.

The river roaring below could not drown out the sound of Dog.

His thoughts could find no coherency, and he could hardly breathe through the fear. He dug his fingernails into the bone at the join of his jaw, and twisted them through the skin. Dog would not stop its noise; it barked and barked, ran to the end of its comfort distance and then howled up at the sky; it ran back and cried at him; he shut his eyes and tried not to look.

There were two paths. There was no way to choose. Either one left him in the kind of disquiet that Hell itself could not rival, so how could he go forward? It was impossible, and yet he could not remain here either; he could not see out the rest of his days standing on this spot. He must-

He jerked in pain. Dog had sunk its teeth into his boot, and one pushed through the leather into his skin. ‘Do not,’ he said, and shook it off. It howled at him, and tried to run again, but it could not go far. Javert dropped his head, locked his fingers at the back of his neck, and tried to breathe, tried to block out the sound of the animal. But it only roared louder, its voice seemed to be gaining strength in the tumult, and now it was butting against his leg, jumping at him, barking all the time. ‘I said do not,’ he said, and kicked out. Dog went sailing away, yelping even in the air, and Javert winced when it hit the ground.

For a moment, there was silence. His thoughts told him that a convict could not rise, and put his foot on the law. The idea was unbearable; he could not conscience it. So, he would return to the house, and- but no, that was…

Dog’s teeth buried themselves in his thigh. He cried out at the sharp pain, and batted at the animal but it would not let go; its teeth pushed down and then seemed to try and draw together, and it was Javert’s turn to howl and beat at the thing. His enormous fist crashed into Dog’s back, then its side; the pain was awful, Dog snarled from its throat and he, Javert, felt something dislodge in his chest. But he hit it again, and still the animal would not let go.

‘Leave me be! I cannot allow him to…I must fetch him, do you not see? He belongs to the law! Justice must be done, and I must be the one to do it, there is no one else. Let go, you useless beast.’

But Dog would not let go. Blood ran freely down his leg, and the more Javert pummelled, the worse it got. He staggered, feeling sick, Dog dangling in the air but stuck quite fast into his leg. He swung it into the parapet wall, but there was only another rush of blood, and he swayed. He did not know how long this went on, but his trouser leg was soaked through. And then, he fell.

 

He thought he saw gold. He thought maybe he heard a female voice. But what he heard most of all was the silence; Dog’s noise had ceased, and he knew he might never hear it again. ‘Well,’ he whispered, his lips brushing stone. ‘It is, after all, perfectly simple.’

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

One Year Later

 

Summer had come early to Paris, and showed no signs of leaving. Javert, having nothing at all to do, was sitting out in the garden. He was in shirt sleeves because of the heat, and sat in the shade of a tree. It was a place he could not be seen by the overenthusiastic housekeeper who came three times a week; he would not allow her to come more, despite everyone’s protestations.

‘Ah,’ he said, not raising his eyes from his book. ‘Was that the gate?’

Dog wuffed quietly, and sat up. His nose snuffled at Javert’s knee, and then he took his position; straight-backed, neat, tidy at Javert’s feet. Javert himself just read his book, at least until the lioness intruded on his eye line, and Valjean cast a shadow over his page. ‘Hello,’ he said, without looking up. Dog put himself on his belly at Arielle’s feet, and gazed up at her. Javert sighed. So embarrassing. He wished he would stop doing that.

‘Good morning.’ Valjean sat next to him, and removed his hat. Coat and waistcoat soon followed, and he stretched back carefully over the seat, as if easing stiff muscles around his spine. Javert put his gaze back to the page.

‘Have you eaten anything today?’

‘Yes, Javert. More than is decent.’

‘Did you sleep last night?’

Yes, Javert. Babies do not sleep more.’

‘Well, you will know soon enough.’ He turned the page. Valjean’s tone was quietly resigned to the questions, as well it might be. They were not going to stop at any time soon. On the grass at their feet, Arielle sniffed cautiously at Dog’s head. Javert raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. ‘Your daughter, she is well? The pregnancy?’

‘All is well.’

Javert closed his book. For a time they just sat. He was not going to say anything about the way Valjean was still nowhere near filling his clothes out, or the tiredness that hung under his eyes for all to see. His hair was too long; he seemed too small. It caused a frankly disturbing desire to offer protection, but thank God he had not yet embarrassed himself to that degree. ‘Well, I will fetch coffee. Or water?’

‘Neither. I will come with you. It is too hot outside.’

Valjean stood, and offered a hand to Javert, who grimaced as he took it. He had to be careful when he stood or sat; the bite had damaged some mechanism in his leg, and it pulled dreadfully if he moved in untoward ways. He did not mind. It made him remember, and remembering  kept him thinking about his actions. It was hard, but worth it.

Dog sniffed at his foot, then ran away a few feet, with Arielle walking sedately beside. ‘He looks well today,’ Valjean said. Javert winced at any reference to the animal, but could not refute the statement. Dog had grown. His hair was still short, but it shone. He was ragged around the ears, and his muzzle was grey; his tail permanently damaged from the way he used to chew on it. But he did not nip at every person he saw, he bounded on occasion, and walked rather than drooped. He was, unmistakeably, a he.

‘Arielle looks better.’

‘Yes.’

Not recovered. But much of her fur had grown back, and they could no longer count every rib. There was light in her eyes again, even if her coat was coming back more silver than gold, and the exposed skin underneath bore unmistakeable scars. Javert caught Valjean’s eye, and the man smiled tiredly. ‘She has looked worse, Javert.’ Of course she would have. He could not remember her in Toulon, but he did not need to. Every single creature in there was nothing more than a ragged scrap of fur or feather; most were mute, and all careful to behave. Everyone knew the penalty for unruly behaviour in a daemon. Separation was worse than any flogging, and far simpler to carry out.

They entered the kitchen together, and found a jug of water, and plate of meat and cheese on the table. The housekeeper’s note said she would be back in three days, and there was plenty of food cooked to keep the monsieur full until then. Javert nodded, and sat down. Valjean hovered uncertainly, as he usually did, and Javert rolled his eyes. ‘The deuce, you do not need an invitation. This is your house!’

‘No. While you live here, it is yours.’

An old argument. Javert picked up a grape, burst the sour green juice over his tongue as, under the table, Dog settled his head on his foot. The burn of flavour was almost painful; it flushed into the soft parts of his mouth and bit them to life. He pursed his lips against the rush, and felt Arielle thump gracefully on to the floor beside Dog. Their sides were touching. The room was horribly warm.

‘Javert, there’s something I have been meaning to ask you.’

‘Then do.’

Valjean looked embarrassed. ‘It is rather personal. You do not have to if-‘

Javert waved this off, and picked up another grape. This explosion was not so strong, but the skin popped satisfyingly between his teeth.

‘I wondered why you never named Dog.’

Javert eyed him from across the table, another grape turning in his fingers. ‘He has a name. It is Dog.’

‘That is not a name, Javert.’

‘May I ask you a question in return?’

‘Of course.’

‘Why do you ask me that, when you must know perfectly well that ‘Arielle’ means lion.’

Valjean looked even more embarrassed. Javert sighed a third time, and lowered his hand to the table. He rolled the grape absently under the tip of one finger, smooth and easy on the wood. Dog shuffled away from him a little, and pressed against Arielle; Javert could feel him move off his foot, but saw it more in the way Valjean’s eyelids drooped, just for a second.

‘Yes. But her name was Arielle before she fixed on that form.’

‘Did you want a lion?’

‘I can’t remember.’

Javert thought this was probably a lie, but there was no need to push. He shrugged a shoulder. ‘I never named him. When he settled, I called him Dog because that is what he was. Nothing more to it.’

‘You never wanted anything more?’

‘Than a dog?’

‘Than…you had.’

‘No.’ It was the truth. Javert watched him, and did not have to wonder why he looked so awkward. ‘Until now, perhaps.’

He did not look away when Valjean’s eyes came up to meet his. Everything was very still. The heat wrapped around him and pressed down, and he felt Arielle turning her head so it rested against Dog’s. Valjean’s face was red, and perhaps that was fear in his eyes but he was not looking away. Anticipation, of a sort only recently noticed, started to stroke at Javert’s belly. Valjean swallowed, and looked down.

‘I thought I might see to the roses,’ he muttered, and Javert flushed as Dog pushed his head into Arielle’s neck.

‘Do. I will be in here. You will stay for supper?’

‘Yes. I will stay for supper.’

 

*

 

Javert’s leg was very firm against his. He supposed he should move along a little, at least make an effort for propriety’s sake, but Javert did not seem to mind. Indeed, his hand rested on his own leg, but the fingertips were very close to journeying across to Valjean’s.

He felt he should say something. They had got used to spending time in silence over the last year, and neither were any stranger to it before then. But they had learned to make it comfortable. It was not at first, when Javert had lost so much blood it looked as though he might die. And then again later, when Valjean was so starved he nearly died. But in between those incidents, and now after, the silences between them have been…warm.

This one was not warm. This one seared him with its heat, and even though he had known it was coming – surely Javert must have known too – he found his own terror made it impossible to move, or speak, or do anything. A glance at Javert’s face showed disquiet there too, and the man was breathing just a little too fast.

But Valjean did not move. He could not make himself work. His hands felt as if they were filled with sand, and his legs were heavy and dull. The only parts of him that felt as if they belonged to his body were his eyes, his heart – it pounded without mercy – and the nerves clutching between his legs, making him ache.

‘I can go if you like,’ he heard himself say, through numb lips. From the corner of his eye, he saw Javert shake his head.

‘No.’

No. He swallowed quietly, trying desperately to think of something to say. There had to be words that could express some of his fear, and see if Javert shared it. If he were scared too, it would be better. But it was impossible to read his expression. He sat there next to him, leaning back on the sofa in just shirt and trousers, his head resting so that his throat was exposed. Valjean had the rogue thought that he might be doing it on purpose, but who could ever accuse Javert of trying seduction?  It was laughable.

There was a sigh from the corner. He glanced over, because it gave him a distraction. Arielle lay with her head on her front paws, her sad eyes trained on him without moving. ‘Go on,’ she murmured.

Her voice roused Dog a little, who was snoozing against her. His eyes were half-way closed, and he made a small snorting sound, turned half his face into her side and pushed in closer. Arielle turned her head absently, without seeming to think, and pressed her nose against his ear. Dog made another soft noise…and, Valjean realised, with a burst of something…so did Javert.

He did not dare look around. Yes, he suspected this was going to happen, but he found himself unprepared, with no idea how to proceed. He should talk, probably. There was nothing to say. Javert spent most of his time chastising him for almost dying; he had seemed to take it very personally. Softer words would be more appropriate now, but his mind had gone blank, and he was almost positive Javert did not know any.

Something prickled up his side. Valjean realised he had been staring at the wall, completely unfocused. And – oh, there it was again. He looked to Arielle, whose eyes were closing. And then to Dog…who was slowly, gently, licking at one of the bare patches of skin on her side. Valjean could see it glistening in the candlelight, and Dog’s neat pink tongue laving across the red line of a scar that had never healed.

Valjean could not help the gasp. He could not describe the feeling. He was aware of Javert’s hand resting on his thigh.

‘I’ll tell him to stop, if you want me to.’

Valjean paused. Just as he opened his mouth, Arielle said, ‘no.’ And he echoed, quietly, ‘no’.

The silence came back. Dog shuffled forward on his stomach, and licked the patch on her chest, the one she would not let Valjean touch. It was over her heart, and he knew she was scared the fur would never grow back. But she allowed Dog to curl himself in close and nuzzle at her. She allowed him to push his face up, and gently close his mouth at her neck. He did it just once, a gentle expression of…Valjean could not tell, could not think through the emotion roused in him. And Javert’s hand was still on his leg, caressing tiny circles into his inner thigh. Valjean slowly leaned back against the sofa, and gave in to it – his terror, the want, all of it. He had known this was coming, after all. And in the end, he found that Javert’s lips were softer than such a hard man’s had any right to be.

‘Have you no fear?’ he breathed against them, when both their chests rose and fell too fast, and both had felt the odd sensation of another’s hands at their waists.

‘Fear?’ Javert almost laughed. ‘Yes. But-’ he turned his head just enough to direct Valjean’s gaze. ‘Look at them.’

He looked. Arielle had one of her huge paws nestled around Dog, who was cradled into her chest and licking under her chin, his eyes half-closed in comfort. She looked dazed and happy; Valjean certainly felt so. Javert pressed his lips tentatively to his jaw, and murmured, ‘if there is one thing I have learned this year, it is to listen to my dog.’

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

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.’

‘Mmm.’

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.

‘Valjean?’

‘Mmm?’

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.

 

 

-end.