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Tall Shadow Chasing After Me

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Madeleine knows what mistakes he has made. He knows there is blood on his hands from faces he cannot remember, innocent blood. He knows that the only true absolution for his sins lies with God—man could never, and would never, forgive him. Among the mistakes he knows he has made, there are those things that lie in a gray tenuous place, which he prays forgiveness for but cannot wholly regret or mourn. When one of those tenuous half-mistakes makes his appearance at Montreuil sur Mer as Inspector, Madeleine supposes that it is a test from God.

Life has been unnaturally easy, lately.

He maintains a safe distance from Inspector Javert, and if his dreams are troubled, they are only dreams. His body, which has been dormant for many years, stirs again in Javert's presence, but he has mastered the art of a neutral presentation. It is fine. All is well. Madeleine almost begins to believe this, and he matches Javert's stiff respect with fluid cordiality. He accepts Javert's suspicions with grace, though it is admittedly much easier to behave gracefully when the man does not have the temerity to voice said suspicions.

If Madeleine ever knew love, he has long forgotten it—but he cannot forget Toulon.

*

It started with a cane. Or, no, perhaps the true start was before that, when Valjean discovered that the new adjutant-guard did not object to being stared at and instead found it an excellent excuse to exercise his willpower against the convicts. He was young, very young, though Valjean never discovered his exact age, having never cared to ask; he had the eager step and quick reflexes of a young man and the stern speech of an old one, and though he did not spare any man punishment when it had been earned, he also did not attack convicts at whim. When the wind blew in rough, his face flushed and he resembled an overgrown boy with a roughened veteran's soul—cheeks red, lips full, and a steely expression that could not be bribed or teased or frightened away.

Valjean did not care much about him—any guard was an enemy to him, a mere tool of the state that had wronged him—until he discovered, to his great surprise, that Javert was in the habit of staring every convict down but Valjean. Oh, he tried, certainly, but if Valjean met and held his gaze, Javert would inevitably break away first. Javert took up the inelegant art of excusing himself, finding some convict to correct or some order to snap or remembering some meaningless thing to say to one of his fellow guards—in this way, he tried to hide what Valjean knew, which was that he was, inexplicably, cowed by Valjean. Yet he did not stop watching Valjean. Why? What moved him to constantly attempt to meet the challenge of Valjean, and more importantly, what caused him to fail when he could challenge every green-capped prisoner in Toulon and never quiver?

Valjean would not know the answer for many months. The answer came by dint of the cane.

"Do you know why you are being punished?"

There were two rooms in Toulon reserved for punishment—one with a rack, and one with a table, two chairs, and a display of canes and whips. The table was adorned with metal rings so a convict could be secured to it, and Valjean was currently spread there, with Javert standing within his line of sight. He held the cane in both hands, turning it in a way that might be methodical. Most punishments in Toulon were quick, public affairs or prolonged ones, depending on the severity—but Valjean had landed himself in the unfortunate middle area, where his offense was too large for a quick slap of the cudgel and too small to make a messy example of him in public.

"Theft."

Javert rolled his eyes. "24601, you are being punished for plotting an escape, as evidenced by this." He reached into a pocket and extracted a ragged piece of paper. Valjean knew what was on it, but Javert still tucked the cane under his arm, unfolded the paper, and held it within his line of sight. There was a hand-drawn map of the prison on one side, and on the other, several scrawled notes about guards' habits. "On one hand, I feel that we should congratulate you for showing us our weak spots. On the other, this is clearly something deserving of punishment." He paused, as if expecting a reply, but Valjean did not speak. "So. You are to suffer five strokes. Do you understand why?"

Valjean stared at him sullenly and did not reply. Javert waited, waited, and then—there, his eyes flickered down, under the pretense of refolding the map and tucking it back into his coat. He took the cane in hand and laid it across Valjean's face, gently, almost a caress.

"I asked you if you understood, 24601."

"Yes, sir."

"Good." Javert walked around the table, out of sight, his boots clicking against the stone floor. "Let's make this quick." With no further preamble, he brought the cane down on Valjean, a quick snap that made pain lance through him. Valjean's body jerked with it and he groaned. Up until now he had known Javert's cudgel, but not his cane—some guards were brutal with it and some had a lighter hand. Javert wielded it expertly, so the pain was intense but not overwhelming at the first strike. Valjean clenched his fists and braced himself for the next blow. It came after a short pause, the pain like lightning, and he did not have time for the pain to ebb before the third strike came down on his thighs. Valjean cried out and instinctively tried to jerk away; his chains rattled; he could not move. He had begun to pant without realizing it. His breath was loud and laced with moans of pain as he waited tremulously for the next cut.

The fourth stroke came down, and he gritted his teeth against it. Sweat broke out on his face and neck, and his body was hot from pain, shivering slightly. Just one more. But no final blow came; the anticipation and instinctive fear in him mixed with a slow-burning anger. The roaring noise in his ears began to fade as the pain in his buttocks and thighs ebbed into a deep ache, and still he waited.

He was not the only one panting.

Surely that wasn't true; surely his own breaths were echoing in his ears. He swallowed and held his breath for a moment, forcing his body into silence—but no, he could still hear the ragged breaths in the air, and they were coming from behind him. They were coming from Javert. For several seconds, neither man moved.

Then: "How many was that?"

If Valjean did not know that they were the only men in the room, he would have never believed it was Javert; his voice was breathless and shaky, too high-pitched. How could he have possibly lost count? "Five," Valjean lied, before he could consider the possible repercussions.

"Our friars have taught you well," Javert said. He cleared his throat and paced away. Valjean remained perfectly still. "So—" He cleared his throat again. "So, 24601, have you learned your lesson?"

Valjean nodded.

"Then that will be all." Javert dropped the cane back onto its shelf and paced back to Valjean; he fumbled with the chains. When he was forced to return to Valjean's line of sight, it was clear that his face was flushed, and his eyes were dark. Valjean recoiled when his fingers brushed at his wrist, but he was not anxious, anymore. His disgust and anger were cleansing; he was comforted to finally know the manner of his power over Javert. It seemed such a ludicrous thing, too human to be part of Javert.

As Javert hauled him to his feet, Valjean let out a quiet groan, watching Javert's face as he did. The flush crept down his neck, and Javert released him as if he were a hot poker. Valjean staggered forward, slumping against Javert—and before he could push him off, Valjean gripped between his legs, and found a hardness there, and for a moment neither of them moved.

Then, Javert's erection twitched against his hand, and his mouth opened, and he was undone. Valjean drank in his vulnerability as if it were a sweet nectar. For the first time since he had seen Javert, the man looked afraid; in the panting seconds after, he gazed at Valjean with the wide-eyed fear of trapped game.

Valjean removed his hand. Javert's face closed, and the fear was replaced with a guarded wariness. The smell of sweat was strong between them, and Valjean still throbbed with pain. Javert moved as if to speak, stopped, lifted his hand as if to touch Valjean's shoulder, then took a long step back.

"You'll return to the trenches," he said, and his voice did not quaver.

Valjean inclined his head. "Yes, sir." He quit the room; Javert did not accompany him.

For many nights afterward, Valjean contemplated the pain with ambivalence and watched Javert submit to his presence. When he approached Javert two weeks later and pressed him into a corner, he did not shy away.

It was in this way that he sought recompense from the men who governed his life.

*

Javert, for his part, is nearly unchanged since Toulon. He has finally grown into the age of his soul, and he cuts an intimidating figure in his billowing greatcoat and hat, but his scowl is the same as it ever was. Madeleine is sure that Javert is making inquiries behind his back, but that is hardly a crime, and he has been careful enough that he does not think anything substantial will come of it. Between their chaste, formal interactions and the time that has changed them both, Madeleine tries to remain confident that both his good fortune and Javert's doubts will keep the law at bay for many years.

Then, Fauchelevent's cart breaks—and Madeleine cannot let the man die, not when he knows he has borne heavier loads than this as a younger man. Resigned to his fate, he saves the man. He spends the day shaking in spells and in a strange, half-conscious state that is too elevated to be suffering and too human to be a trance; when he retires to his bed, he lies awake for hours with a single candle flickering on his bedside table. A part of him believes that his door will burst open at any moment and Javert will thunder in with all of God's fury. When a cat yowls outside his window, he startles so badly that the candle is nearly knocked off the table. At some point between midnight and dawn, he sleeps, and it is enough that he wakes calm and self-possessed once more.

Let judgment come.

A week passes, and twice Javert gives a report in Madeleine's office without showing any sign that anything is amiss. Another week passes, and Madeleine's fears simmer in the back of his mind, becoming less potent as time goes on. Perhaps, he thinks, nothing will come of the incident. Surely Javert does not think 24601 was the strongest man on Earth; perhaps he has decided that there are at least two men strong enough to stand in as jacks in France, and that it was just circumstance which brought him to both of them. Perhaps.

In the third week after the incident, Javert is once again in Madeleine's office, straight-backed and composed as he delivers his report. When he is finished, Madeleine thanks him and dismisses him.

Javert does not move. "Monsieur," he says, bowing his head, "if I may speak candidly, please."

Madeleine's heart skips a beat, but his face remains perfectly composed. He nods and gestures. "Of course."

"It is only about the incident several weeks ago, regarding M. Fauchelevent." Javert straightens his back and begins to address the wall above Madeleine's head; the hand on his cane tightens. "At the time I did not say anything, and since then I have kept quiet, but as time passes I find it more difficult to remain so. Monsieur, forgive me; I said at the time that only a man I knew from a bagne could replace a jack. I see now that the world is remarkable, and that is not so." His gaze slides down from the wall and meets Madeleine; it is cold, so that Madeleine would shudder if he were not keeping such a close hold on his reactions. "The strength that made that man terrible makes you admirable, Monsieur le Maire. I hesitate to say it—but I also will not lie to you, Monsieur, and so I must admit that I have thought about it quite often."

Madeleine's mouth has gone dry.

Javert plows on, saving Madeleine from the Herculean task of deciding on a reply. "I am pleased to be in your service, Monsieur, and I hope to witness your strength again." He pauses, scrutinizing Madeleine. When he next speaks, the words are slower, as if he's turned each over in his mind before turning them over on his tongue. "If I can be of service to you in any capacity, Monsieur, do not hesitate to call on me."

Madeleine nods, at a loss for words. "Thank you," he says.

"Do not thank me," Javert says, "until I have properly serviced you." He pauses. "That is all, Monsieur."

"I—" Madeleine clears his throat. "I will keep that in mind, Javert. Thank you. You may return to your post."

Javert bows once more, turns, and exits the room with long, sure strides. He cannot believe that just happened—Javert cannot be serious. Madeleine has had many people in Montreuil sur Mer approach him with coy propositions, and he knows that his generosity lends people to assume he will be generous in that aspect as well, but he's never had someone be so—blatant about it. And for Javert to do it is inexplicable, but—

—it's because he knows. Of course. He knows he is Valjean and means to prove it by being intimate with him, means to scour any remaining doubts from his mind by finding familiar scars and using the tactile truth of them against Madeleine.

It should not matter. It should be meaningless, a one-man joke, perhaps a shiver of fear.

It is not. Madeleine is half-hard, and something strange is stirring in his stomach, and he wants, very much, to follow Javert onto the street and then to somewhere secret, where he can take him by the hair and paint fresh bruises on him.

He doubted for many years that his time with Javert was a mistake—but as he palms himself through his trousers and shudders with desire, he knows without question that it was.

Chapter Text

"Is that all?" Madeleine asks, though he knows Javert's reply.

"If you are finished with me, Monsieur." Javert inclines his head.

Since Javert's initial offer, their meetings have been trying. Javert maintains a respectful distance from Madeleine each time, but also each time he slips in remarks that could be professional but are most certainly not. He regards Madeleine shrewdly; this, Madeleine knows, is not personal. It is calculated. Javert is looking to find Jean Valjean's body, to use it as his final proof. There must be some doubts keeping him from denouncing Madeleine, doubts that would be cleared at the first touch of Valjean's scars. Perhaps he thinks that the promise of sex will turn Madeleine back into the violent brute of Toulon.

He is not that man anymore. The Bishop anointed him with new life; his pauper soul was bought with silver and in this way given to God. He balks at violence and would give anything to ease a stranger's suffering. He is gentle. He is kind. He is not the man who hurt Javert—that man is dead.

He must be.

*

Valjean had never been in this part of Toulon. If convicts were caught in the guards’ quarters, they were punished. Whatever Javert’s intentions may be, Valjean could not help but be wary as he followed him; the quick snap of Javert’s boots and the strident way he walked—without hesitation, without looking back or even side-to-side—did little to mollify his doubts. It had been several months since they started this, but they were no closer to trusting each other for it.

Still, Valjean followed. He’d been disappointed, lately; Javert enjoyed himself too much—was an eager partner, even when—perhaps especially when—Valjean beat or choked or scratched him. He was undaunted by sodomy, demanding when he sucked cock, and quicker with his tongue than his fist.

While Valjean would balk at the prospect of actually raping Javert, he expected—well—not that. Not Javert snarling and coming and returning over and over like a drunkard to wine. It had begun to feel less like a recompense and more like a giving; it occurred to Valjean, after the last time, that the sex must be fueling some twisted part of Javert, that perhaps he thought it only right that he should only be fucked by a convict because to seek out his desires in a kinder venue would be inappropriate.

That was only speculation, but Valjean bristled at the possibility. He wanted some part of Javert to suffer—he wanted his heart to be torn as Valjean’s had been—perhaps to have him realize the folly of licking the boots of his superiors.

It occurred to Valjean, therefore, that playing the rough-handed convict in Javert’s fantasies was only reinforcing the pathetic workings of his mind. Holding dominion over his body meant very little when Javert's mind remained unscathed. Today, he intended to rectify that mistake.

Javert stopped at an open door and held up a hand for Valjean to wait. He surveyed the room, then the hallway. Satisfied, he beckoned Valjean into the room and shut the door behind them.

There were two bunk beds with thin rolls on each bed; four trunks stood at the head and feet of the bunks. A chamberpot was tucked under each, and a single washbasin rested against the far wall. Javert removed his boots and belt and climbed onto one of the top bunks. Valjean frowned up at him.

“I’ve seen you on the roof,” Javert said, leaning over to peer down at him. “I know you aren’t afraid of heights.”

Valjean pointed at a bottom bunk.

“I will not do this on Belrose’s bed.”

Valjean pointed at another one.

“Nor his. Get up here.”

Valjean folded his arms across his chest. Javert sneered.

“Is Jean-le-Cric scared? What for?” When Valjean only continued to glower at him, Javert sighed. “I would get fired if they caught us here, you know. I am the only guard in this block who is off-duty. No one will be back for hours.”

Valjean pointed at the floor. “Down.”

Javert did not hesitate. He swung over and dropped down, then took to his knees in front of Valjean. “Make me,” he said, and it was so belated a command that Valjean almost smiled at the absurdity of it.

Instead, he crouched down so they were at eye-level and said, “I do not have to.”

Javert gaped at him as if he’d been struck. “You—“ A terrible anger came over him that was juvenile on his young face, no more a threat than an agitated sparrow. In this place, Javert held no power over him. “You are not superior to me.”

Valjean stood and stepped aside. He pointed at the bottom bunk.

Javert, still on his knees, shuddered. “No.”

Anger spiked in Valjean, an arrow striking the quick of him. He lunged forward and wrenched Javert to his feet—Javert grunted and began to struggle—clawed at Valjean’s arms and neck—his head knocked into the low edge of the bunk and he groaned. Valjean dropped him like one might an animal carcass, and Javert lay twisted on the bed a moment, panting. When he rolled onto his back to survey Valjean, his erection was visible, his trousers taut against it.

Having proved his point, Valjean climbed onto the top bunk.

“What?”

Valjean turned his face into the mattress—Javert did not, evidently, have a pillow—and inhaled, breathing in his smell.

“Pardon?” Javert said. “After all that?” He emerged from the bottom bunk to stare at Valjean. “Are you stupid?”

Valjean rolled onto his back. The mattress was inordinately comfortable, and he stretched, his chains clinking as he did. Javert grumbled under his breath and clambered onto the bed; there was hardly room for one man, and the two of them made a messy pile of limbs. Additionally, the ceiling was so low that Javert could not sit up properly; he bumped his head several times as he attempted to adjust himself on top of Valjean. For his part, Valjean did nothing to help ease the transition, content to watch and wait. There was not much room in Valjean's soul to truly enjoy anything, but Javert's small troubles were amusing in their own way—just as Javert had nearly situated himself properly on top of Valjean, he bucked his hips, sending Javert's head crashing into the ceiling again. It earned him a withering glare but nothing more than that.

Once Javert settled down, straddling him, Valjean rested his hands on his hips and guided him so their cocks met; despite the awkward struggle, Javert's erection had not wilted. Javert bent low over him, one hand insinuating under the chain round his neck, and began to rut against him, sharp and quick. The clothes between them caused too much friction—Valjean did not like it, but he knew the cloth of Javert's uniform was causing him as much frustration and so bore it without complaint. He cupped the back of Javert's head and clamped his ass with the other; Javert shuddered and rested his face in the crook of Valjean's shoulder. His fingers tightened on the sensitive skin of Valjean's neck.

Usually Javert started to make his demands at this point, or insulted Valjean, or rambled in a feeble attempt to seem in control, but he did not; he was quiet and focused as he thrust over Valjean, and his breath was hot on Valjean's shoulder. It had been over a month since he last took Javert—that must be why, or perhaps Javert, despite his reassurances, was nervous about making too much noise. All the better for Valjean, who still had no concrete plan for what he meant to do with Javert but who had begun to stir with ideas. The bunkbed was sturdy and weathered Javert's quick thrusts with just a quiet creak on each thrust; aside from Javert's heavy panting and that steady, rhythmic creaking, the room was silent and still. Valjean stroked the back of Javert's neck and earned a scrape of teeth through his smock.

Javert began to move with longer thrusts, grinding the whole length of his cock along Valjean's, his arms trembling from the effort, the muscles of his ass tight and hard. Valjean patted his flank and stilled his hips a moment—Javert huffed out a frustrated breath but complied, his thighs trembling slightly as Valjean began to work at their trousers. He undid his first, and was not surprised when Javert crooked his head to watch as his hardness came free of the cloth. When he unbuttoned Javert's, he took a moment to run his hand lightly down the full length of Javert's straining cock; Javert gasped and seized up as if he were about to come, but he did not, his cock twitching helplessly in Valjean's hand.

Javert swallowed thickly and bore down on Valjean, grinding hard and fast against his exposed cock. Valjean stroked the back of his head once more, his neck, tracing at the sweat that had collected there. "I," Javert started, and then stopped, swallowing again. He cursed into Valjean's shoulder and began to thrust faster, shallow, a desperate rutting that would bring him off soon if Valjean didn't stop it. Valjean himself was hard but not overwhelmingly so; he was more aroused by Javert's desperation than by the act itself, and he was preoccupied with his thoughts.

He would have to stop this before Javert came—but not yet. Not until Javert was closer. He waited and tasted at Javert's neck; there was a spot there that made him moan, but Valjean, still unused to the finer details of him, always had trouble finding it at first, but—there, his tongue flicked across it and Javert tamped down on a moan. That was enough—Javert's body began to wind tightly with the beginnings of his orgasm, and Valjean took the opportunity grab him by the waist and flip them around—a difficult task on the small bed, but it did not matter if Javert knocked into the wall and ceiling as a result, did not matter if Valjean earned bruises himself as he forced Javert onto his back. Javert tensed under him and clutched his shoulders; rather than hesitation or fear, there was a grim determination and frank desire that Valjean still did not understand.

Valjean wrested his hands from his shoulders and pinned them over his head—he rubbed his cock in one long, agonizing thrust, against Javert, and then he took to his knees and began the arduous task of turning Javert over on his stomach. As Javert scrambled to support himself on his elbows, he said, a little breathless, "Left pocket. In my left pocket." Curious, Valjean felt for it, and found a small bottle of cooking oil. He gazed at it in stupefied wonder. "Don't use all of it."

And there: Valjean had found the key.

He set the bottle to the side where it would not be disturbed.

"Did you plan this?" he asked, and drew Javert's hips up until he was on his knees and elbows. Javert turned his face into the mattress and did not reply. It did not matter—if Javert had not lied to him, and Valjean did not think he did, then he had plenty of time. Valjean used his legs to close Javert's thighs and braced his hands on his hips; he let his fingers slide up under his shirt to toy at the heated skin of his sides and lower back. He pressed his cock against the juncture of Javert's thighs, and began to thrust, languid and slow, between his legs, enjoying his muscled thighs in the abstract. The room already stunk of sweat and sex, and when Valjean bent forward, he was met with the sharp tang of Javert's body; when he mouthed at the back of Javert's neck, he could taste salt and sweat. These concrete sensory details did not ground Valjean in the reality of his actions; instead it felt more like a dream, something he might wish for but never be brave enough to take.

Javert's whole body jerked with each of Valjean's thrusts. The bunk creaked its feeble protests.

"This is your bed," Valjean continued, and emphasized the point by pressing Javert's face into the thin mattress. "Did you plan this here, at night?"

"I..." Javert reached between his legs.

"No."

He took his hand away with a reluctant groan. "What if I did?" he snapped. Valjean slowed down, made his thrusts deep and steady, fucking Javert's thighs high enough that his cock ground all the way from the sensitive skin behind Javert's balls to the base of his cock. He knew it was not enough friction to make Javert come, that it was just enough to make him squirm. He twisted his hand in Javert's ponytail and shoved his face into the mattress—and that was enough incentive to make Javert talk. "Yes," he said. "I couldn't take it, anymore, when they were deciding on our schedules and the others were—" Javert stopped and cursed under his breath; he reached between his legs again and managed to grip his cock before Valjean twisted his hair ruthlessly. With a gasp of pain he took his hand away and clutched at the thin blanket. "I kept thinking of—of this. You're a plague. I hate you."

This admission startled Valjean. He went still, his cock trapped between Javert's thighs, pressed hotly against his prick. "You do not know the first thing of hate," Valjean said.

He peeled away from Javert and took up the small bottle of oil. Javert tensed. "Well, then," he said, twisting his hands in the blanket, "teach me what hate is. Go ahead. Take me like the brute you are. Show me the depths of your hate."

"I do not hate you," Valjean said, and coated his fingers with oil.

Javert had no answer for that. He shuddered under Valjean and turned his face into the mattress, panting thinly. "Go on," he said, voice muffled.

Valjean laid his fingers against Javert's entrance and paused there, leaving only light stokes and a slick pressure that almost allowed him to push inside.

"Now, 24601," he commanded.

But Valjean did not do more than that—he circled the sensitive puckered skin of his entrance and stroked it with his calloused fingers. Occasionally, the oil and motion worked to have the tips of his fingers slip inside, but he never pushed deeper than his first knuckle and always returned to his patient stroking. Javert's face flushed and he bit into the blanket, but that did not stop him from choking on needy sounds, and his thighs shuddered with want; when Valjean traced a finger across the underside of Javert's cock, it twitched. A drop of come had beaded at the head of his cock, and Valjean swiped it away, tracing the thick wetness back down his cock. Javert groaned.

"Do it," he said through gritted teeth. "I want—I want it." His voice was plaintive and wrecked with his lust, and Valjean had to pause a moment to control himself; it was imperative that he wait, that he force Javert to submit. Otherwise, it meant nothing.

He stopped, and took up the bottle, and, using a small dollop of oil, slicked his cock. The sound of his hand working at his hardness was lewd in the quiet air, and Javert pushed his hips back. "No," Valjean repeated.

"No?" Javert repeated. He scoffed and craned his neck to look back at him. "Just shut up," he said, "and take me."

At any other moment, Javert's disdain would be enough to anger Valjean into doing just that—would force his hand and make him finish the ordeal. Valjean would not let that happen. He returned his hand to Javert's head and pushed him down again, slowly grinding his face into the mattress, and pressed the head of his cock against Javert.

He waited, rutting his hips with slow, shallow rocking movements.

"24601," Javert murmured into the mattress. His shoulders trembled.

"Tell me what you thought would happen," he instructed, quietly.

"This," Javert said. "I thought about sucking your cock until you were ready, and then bending down and having you take me with your—your hands on my hips, like that, and your—your prick in me. When I bought the oil I knew what it would be used for. I knew. I—God, you stink. Have it done, 24601! I cannot take it anymore."

He did not. He leisurely began to fuck between Javert's thighs again; each time he pulled back, he took care to run the length of his cock along Javert's entrance, so that each thrust had time to chip away at Javert's ego. For the third time, Javert went to touch himself, but this time Valjean took both of his hands and pinned them down over his head: "No," he snarled. The command could have come from another man—Valjean did not recognize it, did not recognize himself as his thrusts quickened, became vicious.

"Oh, God," Javert whimpered.

His uniform had bunched up about his stomach and back; his trousers were bundled about his knees. A bead of sweat trickled down his thigh. Valjean did not know how long Javert would last—but it did not matter. The pleasure they gleaned from this was worlds apart, and Valjean was not desperate to have this thing done. He had patience on his side, and Javert only his thoughts, which had already damned him to this. It would not be long before he stooped so low as to beg mercy of a convict.

Javert cursed under his breath, and then louder, but it was weak, still, and his wrists twisted feebly under him.

Another moment more—and knowing this, Valjean began to thrust in earnest, pounding between Javert's legs, which shuddered with want.

"Oh, God," Javert repeated, anguished. "24—246—Valjean, please, God, please, have me, I cannot take it anymore, please—"

With that, Valjean held him by the hips and took him with in one deep, powerful thrust; he fucked Javert thoroughly, drew out his pleas, drew out his pain, his debasement—and he took a deep satisfaction from Javert's downfall.

He had won.

*

"If you are finished with me," Javert says, and inclines his head, and Valjean thinks: I am not that man, anymore.

He says, "I am going for a walk later this evening." The corner of Javert's mouth twitches into a triumphant smile that is quickly smoothed away. "I would like it if you would accompany me. Unless," he adds, "you do not have the time. I know you are busy with your work."

"Never too busy to entertain M. le Maire," Javert says.

That evening, as the sun begins its slow descent along the horizon, Valjean stands in his office and fixes his coat and takes several long, deep breaths. He knows what he must do to dispel Javert of his suspicions—to throw him off this trail. He only hopes that he can do so with grace. He is afraid of what Javert can do, that is, how he can affect Madeleine's life here, but he does not want to hurt him.

He takes one last steadying breath and exits the factory. Javert is already waiting across the street, and tips his hat as he approaches. Madeleine prefers to take his gun on long walks, but he does not wish to take the detour back to his home for it, and so they set off for the edges of town, where the houses fall away to make way for low, rolling hills and the edge of the forest stands like a black omen on the horizon. They walk side-by-side, arms brushing with every other step; Valjean balks at the contact, but he does not shy away. If Javert were to look into his face, he would find only a mild, thoughtful expression that gave away nothing.
"What a beautiful sunset," Valjean remarks, nodding at the western horizon.

Javert blinks. "Ah—yes."

They walk in silence for a mile.

Then, as if it is quite a natural thing to do, Valjean slips his hand along Javert's wrist, and takes him by the hand, cupping his palm. Javert jerks in surprise but does not quite yank his hand away; he glances, alarmed, at Valjean.

"This is very pleasant," Valjean says. "Though I should like to know what you are thinking."

Javert's hand twitches convulsively against his. Valjean takes the opportunity to lace their fingers. "Yes, Monsieur," he says. His hand is limp against Valjean's a moment, and then he clutches back so fiercely that Valjean's fingers ache. "It is very pleasant. I am only thinking of—how strange it is, that I have not been out this far before, except while travelling."

"Ah, that is a shame, Javert. Perhaps we can go together one afternoon. The forest is beautiful during the day."

The sun is very low on the horizon now, and the grass of the fields has turned a blue-gray in the low light; stars have begun to dot the sky, faint white sentinels. "I am sure," Javert mutters. His hand twitches again in Valjean's.

They walk another mile before the darkness of the night has cloaked the fields. Valjean stops, then, and faces Javert. "Shall we?" he says.

Javert visibly relaxes. He untangles his hand from Valjean's and wipes it on his coat. "Monsieur," he says, and inclines his head.

Valjean climbs the nearest hill. At the top of the hill, he removes his coat, though the air has begun to chill, and lays it out like one might a blanket. He sits down and pats the ground next to him; Javert folds himself on the coat awkwardly and doffs his hat. "I think this is a lovely spot, don't you?" Valjean asks.

"Certainly."

"Do you know much about astronomy?" Valjean continues, delicately pressing Javert's shoulder.

"I—some, yes."

"I have been learning, but it is a slow process. Please, Inspector, share what you know with me."

"Monsieur," Javert says, a touch pained, "are you not wearied from the walk?"

"Indeed. Nothing could revive me as well as your voice, I think, Javert." He takes Javert's hand again, and traces his thumb against the back of his hand.

"I—see."

"That," he says, pointing at Ursa Major, "is Ursa Minor, correct?"

Javert cringes. "No, M. le Maire; it is Ursa Major."

"Ah, I see. Of course. Forgive me—and what is that?"

Javert's gaze follows his finger. Valjean leans slightly into him, so their shoulders touch—and Javert's hand curves against Valjean's of its own accord, and their fingers lace again. Javert blinks for a moment, following the tracing pattern of his finger. "Surely you know that is Orion," he says. "There—see how he holds his bow? With his dog at his heels."

"Yes," Valjean says. "I see it now."

For another hour they take turns tracing patterns in the night sky, hands clasped. When the night air turns cold and the wind unforgiving, they begin the slow trek back, still discussing the night sky, occasionally pausing to frame constellations in their hands.

At the door to Valjean's house, they pause. Javert watches him expectantly. "Thank you," Valjean says, gently, "for a lovely evening, Javert. I will see you in the morning." And he leans forward and kisses Javert's cheek, chaste and sweet, a more cunning blow than any other.

Javert's shoulders are a straight line in the darkness. He shudders once, though with what Valjean could not know, for his face is in shadows. "Good night, Monsieur," he says.

As Valjean retires to his rooms, he hopes that will be the end of it—and knows it will not.

Chapter Text

Of course Javert does not give up. Madeleine invites him on two more walks, to his home for tea and coffee three times, and has begun to stand and touch his arm in greeting when he comes to the factory for his reports. Javert is stiff and uncomfortable throughout it all, but he perseveres; he never turns away Madeleine's affections, though he does not initiate any of his own. Perhaps he sees through Madeleine's ruse. In these things Madeleine is careful: Where he touches, where he kisses, and how he answers each question. He has, in fact, only kissed Javert twice since the first—once on his brow, and again on his cheek. As for his touches, he is chaste and gentle each time, generous when holding hands; the most daring he has been is to touch Javert's knee, and then only briefly.

They do not talk much. Between any other men, the silence would be easy and companionable. It does not escape Madeleine's notice that they are no closer to trusting each other than they were in Toulon—and perhaps, he thinks grimly, they are not much kinder, either, though their actions and words are tempered by honey.

Javert, to his credit, has not asked him any direct questions about his past, and instead probes gently about his education and travels—over tea once, he mentioned Faverolles, and a shock ran through Madeleine, but he kept his neutral facade and side-stepped the comment with an impassive remark. Madeleine knows it is just a matter of time.

He has resolved, therefore, to take more extreme measures.

He invites Javert to dinner, and takes care to dismiss his housekeeper before Javert arrives for the evening. Though it would be no trouble to stoke the fireplace in his sitting room, he leaves it, and leaves his stove cold as well, so that when Javert arrives he will be forced to notice the absence of the housekeeper. She leaves a heavy stew on the stove and insists on cutting a fresh loaf of bread, but Madeleine nudges her out the door before she can brew any tea or fetch any wine.

Javert knocks on the door just as the sun has reached the horizon. Madeleine shucks his greatcoat, takes care to loosen his cravat, and runs a hand through his hair before answering the door—and the effect of these small adjustments shows on Javert's face for just a moment before he schools away the surprise. Madeleine watches carefully as they step inside, as he takes Javert's coat—as Javert notes the lack of housekeeper, the empty stove, the empty table. His lips press into a thin line, but Madeleine does not miss the flicker of triumph that passes over him.

They do not talk, except to quietly murmur about the food and tea; when Madeleine has finished his bowl of stew and has taken to slowly chewing on his bread, he reaches across the table and touches the back of Javert's hand. Javert's eyes flutter shut when he runs his thumb across the back of it—and then he gazes across the table at Madeleine with an intensity that burns him.

Madeleine clears the table. He will not show himself, he thinks. He will ignore the steady pulse between his legs. He will bring Javert to the edge of his quarry and then throw him off the scent—he will win this game, and Valjean will disappear as a cornered stag, with a sleight of hand.

Javert follows him to the sitting room and stands in the middle of the room, arms crossed, watching as Madeleine stokes the fire. "It is getting very late, Monsieur," he says. "Perhaps I should take my leave."

"Nonsense," he says. He feeds the fire two more logs and then brushes his hands on his trousers, pleased to see that a bit of ash and dirt smudges on his thighs. "Stay a little while, Javert—I insist."

"If you say so, M. le Maire, but I am afraid I am not an engaging conversationalist."

Madeleine smiles at him and moves to the couch—he sits there without taking his eyes off Javert. It is only once he has sunk into the couch that he says, "I will be the judge of that."
Javert relaxes—this he knows, this he can counter. He bares his teeth in a smile and sits next to Madeleine. It is very dark outside, and Madeleine has not lit any lamps, bringing one with him to light the fire and not bothering with any candles. Javert glances at his loose cravat. He brushes Madeleine's knee with the tips of his fingers and slips his hand away, adjusting his shirt, as if the touch was an accident and meant nothing.

Madeleine hesitates a moment—he knows what to do, but not how to transition into it.

Then Javert makes it very simple. He smooths his trousers and then, without hesitation, brushes away a bit of dirt from Madeleine's thighs. When Madeleine does not move away, he presses his palm against his thigh, lingering a moment there before brushing away more dirt.

Madeleine takes his hand. "Javert," he says, lowering his voice, "I admit I have been enjoying your company overmuch these last few weeks." He can hear Javert swallow; his hand tightens against Madeleine's.

"I am at your command," he says.

Madeleine sets both of their hands on his thigh—he slides his fingers against Javert's, so they lace slowly, slowly, and the touch is unavoidable; Javert turns so his knee is touching Madeleine's.

Then: "This may seem silly," Madeleine says, "but would you please kneel in front of me?"

The breath shudders from Javert and he nods; he kneels down, facing Madeleine. "Monsieur, I—"

"The other way, Javert."

Javert blinks. "Pardon?"

"I've only noticed that you are a bit windswept, Inspector, and I would like to fix your hair." This is not true; he is as composed as ever—but lies come easily to Madeleine, and this one is so simple.

Javert opens his mouth. "Monsieur, I—"

"Please," he says.

Javert's teeth click as he shuts his mouth. He turns around.

"Thank you, Javert." He calmly unties the ribbon keeping his hair back and lays it over his knee; Javert's hands clench into fists.

Valjean would take this opportunity to grab fistfuls of his hair, to yank and use it to haul Javert against the nearest surface—perhaps over his table, or chair, or down against the couch. That unchanging beast of a man would exert his natural power, would make Javert groan and curse and thrash.

But it is Madeleine in this room, in this body, and he slides his fingers through Javert's hair. Slowly, giving it his loving attention, Madeleine begins to comb through Javert's hair with his fingers—he massages his skull and the nape of his neck with the tips of his fingers, aware of how vulnerable a thing he touches. The cool slip of his dark hair runs through his fingers, coils against the back of his hand—and he never noticed that it is soft as silk. He has had it in his hands so many times that he wonders how he never noticed this.

Javert chokes back a sound as he catches on a tangle.

"Forgive me," Madeleine says. He is impossibly hard. "Did that hurt?"

Javert constrains himself to a terse, "No."

Time seems to slow down, passing sluggishly. It would be very easy to hurt Javert like this. But Madeleine doesn't want to hurt him—he wants to cord his fingers in his soft hair and hold the back of his neck and gently kiss his throat.

Javert leans back against his legs. "M. le Maire, if you would let me, I could—"

"Let us not be crass," he says

"If—if it would please you, I—"

"This pleases me."
Javert shudders and says no more. Madeleine combs through his hair; he wishes he knew how to braid, but as it is, he is sure even his simple queue will be the worse for wear when Madeleine is done with him. Still—he runs his fingers through his hair over and over until his hands are no longer sensitive to each pass, until the hair is warm, until Javert's eyes have shut—his body still tense against his legs—and then, finally, he gathers it all at the nape of Javert's neck and ties it with the ribbon. A strand slides loose and clings to Javert's neck.

"There," he says. Before Javert can turn to face him, he bends down—allows his breath to trace at Javert's ear—and then brushes away the strand of hair and kisses his neck, lingering there. Javert tenses—he holds his breath—and it is only when Madeleine straightens that he breathes out, a slow, shuddering thing.

He turns to look up at Madeleine. "Thank you, M. le Maire," he says. His hand rests on the inner curve of Madeleine's knee, just under his thigh—and he glances at the strain of his trousers. "Madeleine," he says, very quietly. He leans down, as if to kiss the inside of his thigh.

Madeleine cups his chin. "It is late, I think," he says, "and the factory opens very early. Perhaps we should say goodnight."

There is something vulnerable in the way Javert regards him—a sort of fear that Madeleine does not dare to examine. Then it is gone, replaced by something new—impatience, perhaps. His hand tightens at Madeleine's knee, and then he stands, quickly. "Of course, Monsieur."

Madeleine shows him to the door—and before touching the latch, brushes his knuckles against Javert's neck. He smiles. "We should take a walk on Sunday," he says.

Javert bows. "I will consider it."

Consider! Madeleine manages to keep the relief from his face—consider! What a wonderful word! Already the hound seeks and finds nothing but old scents—already the hunter is putting aside his rifle—Valjean is a ghost—he disappears with the mist under the rising sun.

*

They had two and a half years in Toulon. Considering the length of time, they only knew each other a handful of times, each one unkind, rough, with few secrets shared between them and no trust except that which their bodies demanded. Perhaps it would have lasted longer if Valjean did not attempt to escape.

But he did, was compelled to when the sliver of hope showed itself—and like that, he broke from his chains and took to freedom with the desperate, unthinking energy of a hunted animal. It was quick—a burst of hope—a flood of fear—the one lasting for but an hour, the later poisoning him. He struck east through the city, only because he could not remember having traveled that way before, but soon was forced to quit that path and dive deeper into Toulon's streets, praying to fate, avoiding any and all human sounds and most animal ones.

For two days he hid in the city; for two days, he did not sleep or eat. He drank hungrily from fountains when he crossed them, but even in the dead of night it was too dangerous to linger there, and so soon dove back into the shadows afforded to him by alleys. He wore no more than a coarse sail fashioned into a makeshift shirt and trousers much too small for him, with a black, ragged cap covering his brow. Valjean knew that to survive any longer, he needed to find new clothes—but he also knew he could not remain undiscovered much longer in the city. He could steal new clothes, but to get close enough to a vendor terrified him. Finally, he resolved to head east out of Toulon and brave the wild there.
He reached a sparse forest and followed a creek for several hours, hoping that the creek would widen into a river—but it stayed small and shallow, widening occasionally into a proper stream before narrowing again, often to a trickle. Halfway into the third day, his body gave out, and he could run no more—he must rest. Shaking from fear and exhaustion, he took to an alcove under a nearby tree that had fallen and begun to rot, removed the sail, which stunk now with his sweat, curled up in the dirt, and slept a while. His dreams were terrible, wrought with hunters—with limbs that did not cooperate—he was captured, in his dreams, and dragged back to Hell, with walls made of stone and burning chains about his neck, with the sea about his waist.

He woke to the sound of hooves.

It was too late—the rider would see the color of the sail—and why had he not thought to throw it in the creek? The sun had not quite risen over the horizon; the forest was still blanketed in a gentle darkness that would work in his favor if not for the light color of the sail.

Valjean waited for the horse and its rider to pass. A cold sweat broke out over him.

But the horse halted with a loud snort and a metal clinking, just behind the fallen tree. Its rider dismounted with a thud.

He approached the tree; his hands skittered across the dead bark as he leaned over. Valjean looked up, petrified of what he might see—and it was Javert looking down, inscrutable in the early morning gloom.

"24601," he said, measured, "you will come with me."

Valjean scrambled to his feet. Javert was alone, with just his horse and his weapons—his standard-issue cudgel and a pistol at his hip—and perhaps Valjean could overpower him. But he did not want to struggle if he did not have to—he could already feel the weight of the fresh years on his sentence if he was taken back to that horrible place. "Javert," he said, and Javert flinched at that, an ugly shock on his face. Valjean had never said his name before now. Perhaps he thought Valjean did not know it. "Wait a moment—please—I will do whatever you want if you let me go."

In that moment, he knew he meant it, that he would become whatever Javert wanted or needed or had never dreamt of wanting—that he would wear whatever chain Javert wished and break free of that at the first opportunity. To break from one man would seem an idle man's work compared to once again facing the tombstone walls of Toulon.

Javert hesitated—his shoulders drew up—his fists clenched—and Valjean knew, suddenly, that he was still the young guard who had first looked away from him, that Valjean need only press the right spot to make him break, as simple as finding the sensitive curve of his neck.

"Javert," he said, lowering his voice, grateful that he was shirtless and powerful, that the morning light hid so much of his fear. "Javert, come here. You do not need to do this."
For a moment nothing moved; even the forest hushed, the early cries of the bird silenced by some great unknown force. Then, Javert walked around the tree, shoulders stiff, inscrutable. One hand rested on his cudgel. But when he reached Valjean, it was with his bare hand that he grasped his neck. He leaned down. "You will come with me," he said. "If you struggle, I will not hesitate to shoot you. Do you understand, 24601?" His hand shook with anger—and in that touch, Valjean knew defeat, a black hopelessness that crushed him. A gamble is only worth it if one wins—and the stakes were too high, the odds against him.

Valjean went with him, limp, without struggling.

The next time he was on the line—the next time he saw Javert—he met his gaze, and held it, and waited—and then turned away from that impassive stare, and returned to his work.

He did not approach Javert again.

*

I will consider it, Javert said, and hope sprung within Madeleine at its sweet promise. Even if it takes another month or another six, it does not matter—Javert is losing interest, is shirking from the possibility that it is an innocent mayor who walked with him and touched him and kindly kissed his brow. Madeleine knows the chase is not done, but each of his careful stints are working, and that is enough.

That Sunday, he approaches Javert after mass and offers again to take a leisurely walk out of town. It is with some hesitation that Javert accepts, and he is tense and quiet as they walk out of town. The sun is bright and warm, even as they take to the woods; the dappled shadows from the trees skitter across the ground. Madeleine takes his arm as they walk, and has to suppress a smile when Javert gently extricates himself soon after. When they return to Madeleine's doorstep, Javert stands at an arm's length away and makes his polite farewells.

The moon wanes and waxes—and Javert accepts his invitations when they are made, but is wary each time, unnerved. Where before he had been cold and calculative, now he moves as if expecting snares.

It is not enough. That is what Madeleine tells himself as he watches Javert—that there are still some lingering doubts that make Javert suspect him, and that these doubts must be dispelled lest Madeleine be caught in his lie. If Javert would provoke him again, he could handle it then and there, but they are at an impasse; Madeleine is not willing to do more than take his hand or arm, than to brush at his hair with his fingertips—and Javert only willing to accept each touch.

If Javert also looks at him more kindly, now, with the reservations of the coy, it does not mean anything—it cannot—for all of this between them is meaningless, and must be, or else they are damned men and fools for it.

Chapter Text

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?"

"I do."

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.