It is not until late summer that their game comes to head. A storm has been brewing on the ocean for two days, now, and it's bound to break soon; the earth is sticky and humid with its potential, and the air thick with the smell of salt and petrichor. This late in the day it's too hot to stay inside; Javert did not hesitate when Madeleine suggested they take a walk out of town though the clouds seem braced to open at any moment.
Even the trees are heavy. There is sweat on Javert's face that he has given up daubing away. They stopped holding hands half an hour ago because even that seems too much in this heat. For most of the walk, Javert has been talking steadily about his work, not quite a report, too formal to be the confiding of a friend. Madeleine is not sure if he's trying to irritate him or is managing to by dint of being Javert, but regardless he has been careful to remain mild and patient, and his patience has been rewarded with a quarter hour of silence.
Without a word, they stop in a clearing, where there is a flat boulder that neither of them are willing to sit on. Javert shifts, watching Madeleine, watching the pistol at his hip—a breeze winds through the trees and stirs them lazily. It occurs to Madeleine that he should say something—but there is something heavy in him that does not have to do with the heat, and his leg is sore, and he should like to rest a while. He reaches for Javert—and there, he tenses like clockwork, as predictable as he always was in Toulon though the behavior is different—and drops his hand again.
"If you don't want my company, you need only say so," he says. He has not realized until now how tired he is of this, of always being just one step ahead of Jean Valjean and never more than that, of constructing and planning every move, of behaving as a man in love while his heart is dry and cold. "I know I have put you in a peculiar position, but I don't want you to be unhappy on my behalf."
Javert frowns—he attempts for a moment to meet Madeleine's gaze, but cannot. It is a peculiar submission that Jean Valjean had never known and which Madeleine understands only now. The wind gusts; the trees shake. "It is only—" He stops, and regards the dark circle of sky above them. "Monsieur, you are not the man I expected you to be. That is all. I did not exp—"
With a clap of thunder, the skies burst—and the two of them without their umbrellas duck against the surprise of the warm and stinging rain. Madeleine leads them back the way they came—but it is a long trip back to Montreuil from here. They hurry through the maze of trees a few minutes before Madeleine recalls an abandoned cottage not ten minutes away—he instructs Javert to stay close and cuts into the underbrush off the path. Lightning cracks the sky in fitful strikes.
The cottage is exactly as Madeleine remembers it, a sombre little place with the windows burst and the black ravages of an old fire curling against the old stones. But the roof is intact, and it will do for them—with a strong shove, Madeleine opens the door, then ushers Javert in and slams it shut against the wind. Inside does not fare any better—there are clumps of weeds here and there growing through the floorboards, the fireplace has an old nest of some kind of animal, and there are spiderwebs hanging like glossy curtains in the nooks and crannies.
Javert regards the cottage with a scowl.
"It will do," Madeleine says.
"Of course, Monsieur." Javert unbuttons his coat, shakes it out, and hangs it to dry over a low stone wall that seems to have once divided the kitchen from the living room. He wrings out his hair. "Do you know who once lived here?"
"No," he says. He sets his coat next to Javert's and wipes the damp hair from his brow. "They were gone long before I came to Montreuil sur Mer." He shakes water off his fingertips. "I don't know why I didn't think to bring my umbrella," he mutters.
"No one expected it to break until tonight."
"Perhaps, but nonetheless..."
Javert crosses to one of the empty windows and peers out at the sky. "It won't last long," he divines.
Madeleine doubts that, but does not reply. He brushes off an over-turned stone that seems to have once belonged to the wall and sits, grateful to rest his leg. For a while, they don't speak. The rain is noisy on the battered cottage. Javert remains at his post, arms loose at his side, attentive, like a wet and particularly tall guard dog.
Then, without any indication that he should want to abandon his post, he turns, walks over to Madeleine, and kneels down.
Madeleine cups his face in both his hands, automatic, without considering the act. He strokes his cheeks with his thumbs.
"It is not right," Javert says, "that a mayor should touch an inspector like this."
Madeleine brushes a thumb against Javert's lips. "You are extremely old-fashioned."
He rests a hand on Madeleine's wrist. It is a hard thing to not jerk back, even knowing that the damp cloth is enough to cover his scars by touch or sight. Javert's neck is pale, and long; a drop of rain has made its way down the length of it, and trembles now just at his cravat. When he swallows, the droplet slides down and is taken by the rough cloth. Madeleine slides his hands up along his jaw, smoothing back the rough hair, there, and then run over his scalp. He lets one hand drift back to cup his ear; the other moves to clasp at the base of his queue. Javert starts to lean forward, lips parted—and Madeleine tightens his grip to keep him where he is, bordering on chaste, undeniably obscene.
Javert looks up at him mutely.
"I would rather kiss you," Madeleine says. He undoes the ribbon, careful. Javert rests his hands on Madeleine's knees and spreads them, slowly. "Javert."
"I don't understand," he says. "Why don't you want this?"
But he keeps Javert where he is, and loosens his hair, which is wet but not soaked through. It is warm where it rested at his neck when Madeleine slides his fingers through it, and sticks wetly against his fingertips as he strokes it. Javert's hands slide down Madeleine's legs and come to rest at his boots; he leans into the touch. "Monsieur," he says, and nothing else. They stay like that as the downpour floods the earth—Javert kneeling at his feet, Madeleine stroking his face and hair with the calculated tenderness of a lover. Here it could be real. When he traces a thumb at Javert's lips, he kisses it, so lightly that it might not have happened. Without his greatcoat to hide behind, Javert's erection is obvious, the curve of it visible against the coarse fabric.
Madeleine traces his lips once, twice, watching them redden. He kisses his fingertips and then presses them to Javert's lips. He has not stopped sliding one hand through his hair, slow, mechanical.
"M. le Maire," he says, with some urgency.
"I would like to kiss you," Madeleine says again.
This time, Javert rises on his knees. They kiss, mouths closed; Madeleine pets his face and sucks lightly at Javert's bottom lip. They have never kissed before. When Madeleine pulls back, Javert tries to follow—but Madeleine holds his face and gently presses a trail of kisses across his cheeks, along the line of his nose, over his eyes, his forehead. He does not return to his mouth, even when Javert licks his lips and turns toward him.
"I don't understand," Javert says, almost breathless. "What do you want?"
"I don't know." It is the first honest thing he has said.
He pulls Javert close and holds him, aware of the hot press of his prick but doing nothing to alleviate it—and he kisses slowly at Javert's face and neck until the rain passes and the earth is quiet once more.
When they leave the cottage, Javert's knees are dirty, his hair tousled, his collar bent—as if he'd just been taken with great force and vigor.
Madeleine prefers it this way.
In the break from the rain, they squelch back to Montreuil sur Mer, going as quickly as the drenched roads allow. By the time they're back in the town, both men are flushed from the effort, panting slightly; the rain has begun to patter again, gently now, though the thunder promises more frightful rains soon. Perhaps it is a good thing that no one is out, or, that is, no one who would spare the tousled Inspector and Mayor a second glance. Madeleine is decidedly aware of how he must look, and self-conscious for it. The mud on him reminds him of a convict's heavy chains—his lips burn so that he's sure anyone who looked could see what Javert had done to him.
When they duck into his home, the housekeeper frets and tuts over them—Madeleine thanks her for bringing them towels and hot tea and then, quietly, tells her to check on her family—and to not worry about coming back if the rain has picked up again. She understands; her mouth opens in surprise and she glances to the sitting room where Javert has perched close to the fireplace—and then a different understanding replaces that, a kind of reassurance that M. Madeleine is worried for her and her children rather than his own privacy. He lets her think what she will and gives her a franc as she leaves.
The house is oddly quiet in her absence. Madeleine wanders to his bedroom without saying a word to Javert, thinking only of finding two dry sets of clothes for them—but Javert's heavy footsteps follow him through the house, and when he pauses to open the bedroom door, Javert stops close behind him.
He trembles. He is not sure any longer that he can do this—but his hand is on the latch, and the door opens, and the momentum of all his months of work carries him inside. It is too sticky and hot to light a fire, he thinks, and then: They would not need one, anyway.
He undresses carefully, removing only his coat, vest, and cravat.
"Please make yourself comfortable," he says.
The light is a sickly bruised gray. Javert moves to the bed. Madeleine draws the curtains, and the room is so dark that it could be night. When he turns, Javert is in his shirtsleeves and trousers; his hair is loose at his shoulders. His head is bowed.
"Lie down," Madeleine says, to see if he will obey. He does, spreading himself in the middle of the bed. Madeleine climbs after him, bends down, kisses at his throat. A wolf might tear it open.
They are men.
And here, in this bed, is the product of all his work, and even now he cannot falter, cannot let the slightest suspicion ruin this. When Javert's hands settle on his shoulders, he allows it; when they grope at his back, he allows it. His shirt hides the scars. He kisses Javert on the mouth, inexperienced and slow, letting his mouth open, letting his tongue brush at Javert's and slide wetly into his mouth. He does not unbutton Javert's shirt, as that would give Javert a precedent for unbuttoning his. Instead, he palms at Javert's cock through his trousers and works at his mouth, paying attention to the unsteady breath, the short gasps and soft grunts that issue from Javert. It is promising. He is not sure that Javert has stopped being hard during their walk, because even at the first touch he is straining and erect, and he squirms under Madeleine's hand and attempts to rut against him.
His fingers dig into Madeleine's back. He tries to bite Madeleine's lip.
"Ouch," Madeleine says, distinctly, and sits back on Javert's thighs. "Gently, now."
Javert strokes his thighs and goes to unbutton Madeleine's trousers—and there, that is all the incentive he needs to gently take Javert's wrists and pin his hands over his head. It is with some relief that he kisses the tip of Javert's nose and says, "Let me, Inspector. Relax. And do not bite me again, please."
Before Javert can reply, he kisses him, deep and slow. There is something vulnerable in the way Javert moans into him.
They are alone in this room. There are no ghosts. It is only rain that knocks on the window. That is what Madeleine tells himself as he releases Javert's hands, as he unbuttons Javert's trousers and takes hold of his cock, which is hot, the skin soft, a drop of come beading on the head. He does not stop kissing Javert as he strokes him.
Javert's hands slide across his face and thread through his hair.
There are scars on his skull, but Madeleine is not sure that Javert will notice them, not when his cock twitches against his hand and they are kissing so thoroughly.
Javert gasps suddenly and pulls back—for a moment Madeleine is terrified that he has found the scars, that he knows—but he is pained, he is on the edge, he is very close to coming. It should be a familiar expression, but there is no anger there, no defenses. "Monsieur," he says, "you should not—"
Perhaps Madeleine would respond.
Instead, he sucks lightly at Javert's neck and slows down his hand until each stroke is firm and lazy, and slides from the tip of his head to the very base of his cock and back. With a gasp, Javert spends—Madeleine can feel his tension in his neck as he bucks up against him, as his hands tighten in his hair. He strokes until the noises Javert are making border on pain, and then he begins to pet his exposed thighs, which are damp with sweat, and his hips. He uses his own handkerchief to wipe the drops of come off Javert's belly.
He kisses Javert until his hands have gone loose in his hair again, and his body lax against the mattress.
He kisses him after, even, when Javert has begun to tense again and when his hands seek Madeleine's trousers—and without a word, he pries his hands away. Madeleine murmurs, "I only need to watch you," and lets Javert believe what he will.
He kisses him until he has drifted into a hazy sleep, and does not move his lips from Javert's cheek even after the storm has passed.
In an hour or perhaps less, Javert will wake again, and shake back into himself—he will be terse and straight-backed and professional with Madeleine.
But now, this could almost be real, and Madeleine can almost believe it himself.
At his next report, Javert is cold, his deference bordering on shame—he stands with his feet shoulder-width apart, shoulders squared, cane tucked under his arm, and when he looks at Madeleine it is as if he looks at a stranger. But there is no suspicion there. He does not pause at the words Monsieur le Maire, and meets Madeleine's eyes as he does, without inflection.
The relief is a flood that washes through Madeleine—but floods do not bring pure water with them, and they carry precious things away.