Warmth rolled off of the flames in rolls as Javert sat before the fireplace gazing into it. His finger gently swirled his scotch as he let his mind go. Wondering has ceased hours before, and he didn’t care to chase it down. His chasing days were over. Even closed cases were putting themselves to bed. He was aging… even his mind was slowing. He felt as though his body was slipping into time. Soon it would be a though he would never existed.
He sniffed and cleared his throat. Without thinking about anything but washing the tickle out of his nose and throat, he downed the tumbler full of scotch at once. The menthol feeling caused him to cough a bit, but it did chase away the other sensations.
He wondered if it was his own. It could have been. But, he wasn’t paying that close attention to himself… or his surroundings. Just another sign of how much his mind was slowing. In his younger days he would know that. He would be able to tell who was coming down the hall by the weight of their footfalls and the length of their gait. But, now…
A hand fell on his shoulder.
He didn’t startle. There was only one person in the house with a hand that size. “Jean,” he whispered, his voice vibrating wetly. He cleared his throat and went to pour himself another tumbler of scotch.
“I think you’ve had enough.” Jean’s voice was quiet, his tone gentle. The harsh rasp that had recently become the norm was clearing.
He considered fighting Jean on the statement. He did not feel that he had enough, after all. He felt that if he kept dousing the prickles in his throat – the kindling to the fire that was going to take over his body, closing his airways and making him cause quite a spectacle of himself – then he would be all right. But, fighting the statement – even if he knew Jean would give into his wishes – took energy he simply didn’t have at the moment. A nod. But, he did not move.
Another sigh. This one he knew was not from him.
Jean sat in the chair next to him, and embraced his hand in his larger one.
Javert wished nothing more than to pull his hand away. It happened from time to time that Jean’s touch was painful – almost sharp. But, he had learned early on that the hurt feelings caused by inexplicably taking his hand away or saying that Jean’s touch hurt was not worth the few minutes of displeasure.
“You’ve caught cold,” Jean stated, his baritone voice sending a wave of cool comfort against the discomfort that Javert had been ignoring.
A nod. It was only a matter of time really. All of the children had been ill, and with them still having free reign of the house and the adults looking in on them, it was no surprise when the cold spread to the adults as well. It wasn’t a harsh disease, as far as these things went. In fact, it ran through most of the family with God-given speed. Javert had seemed immune, and took to caring for the youngest, Gavroche. It seemed to hit him the hardest, and Javert not at all. Not known for his caring nature by the boy that their child was named after, he would be damned if he was going to allow another child to be taken down in front of him.
And damned he was. Earlier that week Gavroche had stopped breathing. He had performed the resuscitative process on the boy, and worked to keep him breathing. But, by the time the doctor arrived he said it was too late. Javert had spent days trying to figure out what he had done wrong, even though according to Cosette the doctor said that there was nothing anyone could have done to stop it, nor had anything been done to cause it. It was just one of those things, apparently.
Javert had taken to drinking soon after, unwilling or able to cope with what he was feeling. He couldn’t look at the children, goodness knew what they would think. And under no circumstances could he face Marius.
Forgetting what Jean had just told him about drinking, he reached over and poured himself another tumbler of scotch. He blinked twice… waiting to see if tears would fall. There had been some, mostly when he thought of what to do with himself. Too cowardly to face the master of the house and beg forgiveness for not being able to save his youngest son. Too fearful of the scorn… the man had been there when the boys namesake had died, killed by one under Javert’s command. And now his son… his youngest son…
He choked a sob and swallowed the tumbler like a shot glass.
“The children would like to see you,” Jean offered gently, even though he knew Javert was not in a fit state to be seen.
“No,” he whispered, shaking hands pouring another glass. His hands trembled violently, as the emotions threatened to explode out of him.
“Cosette is worried about you. I am too,” he spoke gently.
No mention of Marius. Not a surprise. The man had lost his son… at the hands of Javert. He had lost someone dear to him because of Javert. Again. A sip of the scotch before setting it on the table.
“Marius wants to speak with you.” Jean’s voice was different in this. Something that Javert could not place. Something sinister lurking… something repressed.
“He wishes me dead,” Javert said. He thought of their home, now covered and boarded. The family vacationed there from time to time. They had brought up Cosette in that house, and they grew old together there. Perhaps he could retreat there. Perhaps…
“What? No!” Jean retorted, pulling his hand away.
“He has to. I killed his son.” The words were whispered, hollow and haunted.
“No, Javert. No.” A chill ran through Jean at the very premise of what Javert was saying. Assuming that it was the alcohol talking, he tried not to surmise the storyline that Javert was telling himself. He coughed a bit, the cold had run its course, but the grief in the house was palpable and the group had done their fair share of crying. It was draining.
Javert waited until the coughing fit ceased. “I’d take care of you, but I’d probably just kill you too.” Shaking so hard he was starting to spill his drink, he downed the current tumbler full and poured another one.
Unable to get through to Javert, drunk as he was, Jean sighed. “You’re not alone, Javert. You’re not the only one grieving this loss.”
But, I’m the only one who caused it, Javert thought, drinking another tumbler full. His brain finally reached the point he wanted it to. Words held no meaning… his emotions became a muddled mess of gray fuzz, stretching across his soul and dulling the ache in his chest. Finally, his thoughts quieted. Finally,
Cosette Visits Javert to try to ease his mind.
Cosette knocked on the door to her papa and Javert’s suites. “Javert?” she called lightly. Pressing her ear up to the door, she was not surprised that she did not hear an answer. Turning the doorknob gently, she entered the room.
The fireplace in the sitting room was dying slowly, but still had a fair amount of heat roiling from it. Javert smelled heavily of liquor, an uncommon occurrence. His snores were deep and uninterrupted, giving her the impression that he was in a liquor induced stupor. But, she would not simply leave him alone. Grief on this level only stemmed from a combination of a deep love and a broken heart.
Sitting on the floor with her legs curled to the side, she put her head on his knee. Tears welled in her eyes not only for her loss but the loss that her family suffered and the pain that they suffered from the loss. She squeaked out small bursts of sadness as tears rolled down her face and wet Javert’s pant leg.
A slow hand came down gently on her head, then down part of her hair. The stroking ministration continued gently for a few minutes before a quiet, “My angel,” was whispered. “I’m so sorry, my angel. I deeply apologize that my ineptitude took your angel.” A strangled sob turned into a wet snort as he tried to be the strong man that he was supposed to be.
Cosette looked up at him, the fire behind her casting her face in shadow, but those large blue eyes were fixed on Javert with a look that he could not quite place. “You cost us nothing, Javert. Your love and attentions kept him alive longer than the doctor says should have been possible. Javert he had bronchiis and pneumonia.” Her voice was gentle, searching. There was no trace of the anger or exasperation that Javert would have expected. There was none of the hatred that he had cast upon himself. Her voice was soothing to his raw nerves and so much kinder to listen to than his own tone.
“Pneumonia,” he muttered to himself. He hand known that. It was apparent from the wheeze in the boys chest. He had gotten his bottle if ipecac which had since dried. Recalling the darkness that would settle in the prison as the disease made its annual rounds, touching each person with its long tickling fingers.
He had tried to add water to the concoction and feed it to the young child by the teaspoonful. But, the taste was vile and the child would not swallow it. He tried to squeeze the young man’s jaw to force it open, but couldn’t be too hard on him. He was trying to save the boy, not hurt him. He couldn’t live with himself if another grandchild was wary of him. He was only trying to help… despite the fear in those soulful brown eyes. Those eyes that would haunt him forever.
Shaking hands achingly reached for his nearly empty decanter of scotch. He needed these memories to flow away. Perhaps the pain would flow away with it.
“Heh-xtht!” He suppressed his sneeze, squeezing his eyes shut and making sure to keep his mouth shut. Shrouded in darkness, he found great relief there. He did not open his eyes again until he felt the decanter be pulled from his nearly cramping hands
He sighed deeply as Cosette placed a gentle kiss to the side of his head, her soft hands pressed gently upon his shoulder and back. It amazed him how much her simple touch could affect him. “Cosette my deepest apologis won’t fix what I’ve broken. But, could I … I would have born the illness for him. At all costs.”
The wait of her hands increased. “I know that you would have. But, that was not the will of God,” she reasoned gently.
‘Gods will be done.’ He heard the echo of the old mantra of the church as it resonated in his soul. He was such an abomination to Gods will. All of those years of misconstrued piety to show him to far he had stepped from the path of Gods will. The unempathetic way that he would tear apart families for the most trivial reasons. If they broke the law they were wrong. Intent meant nothing to him. He tipped his chin down, unable to look into those brilliant blue eyes and tell her that it was his fault that Gods will was to take their youngest child.
“Apologize to Marius for my part in Gods will, won’t you?” he asked, closing his eyes and retreating to the darkness once more.
Were he to look, he would see the soulfully sad look that Cosette was giving him. As much as she was grieving for her youngest son, she also grieved for the part of Javert’s soul that the young boy had taken with him to the grave. “I shall,” she promised him.
Marius shows Cosette how close to his heart their child's namesake is.
Cosette descended the stairs sadly. She had never seen Javert so distressed. Were he a less religious man, she would say that he was despairing. But, she couldn’t imagine him turning his back on God that way. She refused to believe it.
“How did it go?” Jean asked, standing as his daughter entered the room.
“He showed me tenderness,” she said, leading with a positive attitude. After a pause, she continued, “ But, he blames himself, as you said.” Turning to Marius, she continued, “He sends his apologies to you, personally.”
Marius rested his head in his hands and sighed. “I don’t have the patience for this,” he uttered.
“Perhaps that’s what he needs,” Cosette suggested. “Javert isn’t known for his gentleness. Perhaps he doesn’t know how to deal with the kindness and patience that papa and I are showing him. Maybe he needs a more firm hand to move him along.”
Jean shivered knowing precisely how sensitive Javert could be when he cared about the people involved. The absence of the love that he had come to expecet could have irreversible effects. “Cosette, I don’t think that it’s wise,” he warned.
Marius held up a hand. “I will seak to him.” Looking up at Jean he added, “Respectfully.” Marius knew wwhat it was to not be certain how one measured up in the eyes of another. For more than a decade he had the same concerns about how Javert viewed him. He was in a better situation than the other two to be direct with the grieving senior.
The legs of the chair scraped against the stone floor as Marius stood.
“Oh, here. Take these,” Cosette said, handing him two handkerchiefs.
At his peculiar expression, she explained, “One for you and one for him.”
Both eyebrows raised at the supposition that either would be that vulnerable around the other. Wordlessly, he took the handkerchiefs an ascended up the stairs.
Upon reaching the door to Jean and Javert’s suites, he was surprised to find it ajar. Brow furrowed, he knocked lightly. When there was no response, he pushed the door open softly.
Turning towards the sitting room, Marius was surprised to find that Javert’s chair was empty, as was the table next to it – save for the decanter and glass.
A sound akin to a rough swallow and sigh pulled his attention to the bookcase. Javert stood with his hand resting on a shelf, head bowed for a moment.
“Marius, you didn’t need to come,” Javert said, trying to collect enough of his thoughts to speak intelligently to the well to do young man. He didn’t need to turn to see who it was. He had been able to tell by the weight of the man’s footfalls and the length of his gait. “I’ve cost you a lot in life, haven’t I?” he asked, darkly, only vaguely aware that his words were slurring together.
“I don’t understand,” Marius answered slowly. Javert had cost him very little financially. And even all of those years ago, he had likely saved Marius’ life, allowed him to marry Cosette, and took care of his father in law as well as mentored the children. The man was only frightening to those who didn’t know him – and when he was angry. All in all, there had been so much gained that the cost of housing he and Jean was negligible.
As the silence stretched between them, Marius could not help but worry for the man. Never before had he seen him in such a state: drunk to the point of slurring words, avert was nearly engulfed in a cloud of alcohol vapour.
A dark, “Hm,” which would have been easily mistaken for an exasperatingly short, angry laugh, came from the older man. The forgiveness of the young…. He decided to be more clear in his statement. “This is not the first Gavroche that I have cost you, is it?” he asked directly, clipping his words at the end.
Marius’ jaw dropped slightly as he thought back to that fateful day when so many of his friends had been shot down. He blinked as he tried to recall where Javert was when his son’s namesake was shot down. “As I recall, you were not there. “ ValJean… Jean had already rescued Javert by the time that happened.
A deep sigh. “I may not have been there, but I was in command. I may not have shot him myself, but I might as well have.” His head was starting to pound. Turning to the side, he squeezed his eyes shut trying to escape to the darkness. But, all he could see was the boy’s dead body. Of all the revolutionaries who died, the one that affected him deeply was the death of Gavroche. That boy had so much intelligence, strength, and humor. He had diligence and was observant. He had hoped to see the boy join the military. But he was shot down by one of the army regulars. Pain mixed with guilt washed over him, and he became unaware of Marius’ whereabouts. “Heh-xsht!” The sneeze crept up and caused his head to bob. With that tears leaked out. He screwed up his face and turned back towards the bookcase. Curse this alcohol. He lost control of his emotions with two harsh sobs and several much smaller ones. When he opened his eyes, Marius was standing beside him offering him a handkerchief.
“We all knew the risks,” he said in an attempt to relieve Javert of the guilt he so obviously felt.
Javert took the handkerchief and then stormed into the sitting room, pacing in front of the fireplace. “And then I suspect you think I just killed your son. Just outright killed him because he reminded me of that boy I lost. The one that reminded me so much of myself as a youth?” Nearly yelling, his words were slurred together and he no longer had control of himself.
Marius stood still as he watched this. Everyone knew that Javert had a short temper, and all in the house had heard him yell about one thing or another, despite his best attempts to keep himself calm. “Did you?” he asked seriously. “Did you kill my son? “ His tone broached no room for assumptions that the question was rhetorical.
Javert stopped pacing and looked at the man, all of the grief that he had been carrying etched into the lines on his face. “I didn’t mean to let him die,” he said, tilting his head to the side and forward a bit. He swallowed. “I tried to get him to take my ipecac, but he wouldn’t swallow it.” He squeezed his eyes again, this time watching his grandson’s life slip away from him as breathing got too hard for his body to insist upon.
“Ipecac,” Marius whispered, confused. “Then you knew it was pneumonia?”
“I suspected,” Javert said. “I wasn’t certain of course, but that wheeze… I remembered it from when I worked in the prison. I had tried to rehydrate my old bottle, and it seemed to get to the right consistency. But,” he shook his head no.
Mouth slightly agape, shocked at what he had been hearing, Marius took the second handkerchief out and applied it to his mouth.
“I didn’t mean to cost you both of them. My intent was never to harm both of them… either of them.” At this point it was all the same in Javert’s mind.
Marius took a few steps backwards, and then looked at Javert, his eyes wide with the realization that the older man had known what ailment plagued his youngest son. He didn’t know how to deal with this new information and decided not to, leaving the room and slamming the door behind him.
Coming down the stairs quickly, he gave little thought to how his departure affected Javert. He walked into the kitchen with purpose and looked at the other two adults. “He knew. He knew that Gavvie had pneumonia.” Anger filled the room like a cloud building around them.
“Of course he did. He was a guard in Toulon… pneumonia was a common occurrence,” Jean responded calmly, trying to neutralize the situation. “It’s probably why he wanted to care for the boy personally.”
“He should have told us! He should have told us!” Marius shouted.
Cosette looked at her father, afraid to say that she agreed with her husband. Vibrant blue eyes moved back and forth between the two men as she held her breath, waiting to see what her father would say.
After a moment, he spoke. “Perhaps. But, he did what he felt was right.” Jean burned with anger. It made sense that Javert would know the signs of pneumonia. But, to not tell the family, or try to treat the boy, or … he shook his head. There had to be a reason. Even though Javert didn’t care much for children, he had stepped quite lightly into the roll of grandfather. So, why he wouldn’t provide care to the youngest family member? It didn’t make sense.
Rage filled Marius’ every feature. “Cosette come with me,” he said, taking her hand and pulling her out of the room. He lead her upstairs and into his study. “I’ve never showed you this,” he said, unlocking a drawer in his armoire. The lock clicked and he pulled a long drawer which squeaked for want of oil. Lifting out a shadowbox which had been covered in fabric, he brought it over to his desk. Despite the anger which still swirled around him, his hands were steady.
Placing the box down with a quiet thud, he drew a deep breath. Nimble fingers removed the fabric from around the case and opened the top. Inside were tufts of hair, each tied with ribbon. “These were cut before the revolution. We had all put them in one place and buried them so that those who survived could remember the others. He picked up a dark blonde tuft tied in black ribbon. It was coarser than the others and curled on itself. “This was Gavroche’s. He knew the risks… but his death never settled right with me.” His fingers graced the hair gently as his stare distanced.
Cosette looked at the tufts of hair. She hadn’t really known his friends or who they were, but she knew the names. They had been committed to memory as he told her stories over the years. She decided to make new ribbons with their names embroidered on. They deserved to be remembered.
Marius took a deep shaking breath and gasped out a sob, letting the curl fall from his fingers back into the box. Turning to Cosette, he sank into her comforting arms, holding her close. “My son is dead,” he gasped crying fat tears into her shoulder.
Chapter 4: The Thin Line Between Piety and Villainy
The children are excited to learn that their grandpere was part of the revolution of Paris. But, Javert is in no mood to be the hero.
After the failed attempt at communication with Marius, Javert had given into the headache that had been lurking at the edges of his consciousness exploded in a starburst. He decided he had to stop being selfish. Although his companion and daughter had coaxed him to be more free with his emotions, it wasn’t befitting someone of his stature or his age. Dressing in the uniform that Cosette had made him – a replica of that which he wore as an inspector, but bigger to suit his softer aged body, he left their suites for the first time in days.
The haze of the wall sconces prickled at his chest, causing him to cough in an attempt to clear his lungs Oddly he hadn’t recalled being affected by the haze before. It didn’t matter. Swallowing the thickness in his chest along with his pride, he descended the stairs.
Jean was resting in front of the fireplace, staring at the flames. He turned back to see who was walking in, and turned back. He pulled the blanket off of the back of the sofa and wrapped it around his shoulders, as though a cold chill had walked into the room.
Javert sat in one of the armchairs, wondering if coming downstairs was a good idea at all. Perhaps it would have been better had he not. The smoke tickled his throat a bit, and he found himself stifling a few coughs.
“Grampere’s you’re here!” the children said, suddenly flooding into the room, excited.
Javert was thankful for their timing because it covered his sneeze perfectly. The weight of illness was certainly settling up on him, but he did not have the luxury of letting others know about the symptoms. He had drained enough from this family. He would not permit more attentions to be paid to him.
“We learned the most exciting thing today. Did you know that there were revolutions here in France?” Victoria asked, breathlessly. She smiled with excitement.
“Yea,” Collin added. “And we learned about you, Grampere Javert, and how you protected the city from the revolutionaries.”
The color drained from Javert’s face and he felt rooted to his spot. His eyes flickered towards the doorway, as he hoped that he could retreat from the room. But, Cosette and Marius were standing in the doorway, Marius looking as distraught over the news as Javert was.
The adults were struck silent, but they kids didn’t notice as they continued to tell about what they had learned. Their governess apparently had kept the revolutionaries names out of the lessons, and it was the first time the children had been excited about their studies since they all took sick. It was a welcome change, although the topic was not.
Javert swallowed and held his breath against the building coughs that struggled to escape. He suppressed a few, but found that with his anxiety behind it, he was able to hold his breath heart enough to keep his coughing at bay. “I didn’t enjoy keeping… “ What? The city safe? Of course he did. That was his pride and joy and what almost cost him his family. He coughed harshly, feeling as though something shifted in his chest. “I did not enjoy having to lead the army against the revolutionaries,” he explained. “It was my duty, but those boys were barely older than you are now… maybe only a few years. They did not deserve…” What? The way they met their end? They had staged and lead a rebellion, they deserved everything they got. “There should have been another way.”
“Your grampere doesn’t particularly like to discuss those times. They were difficult for everyone who lived through them,” Jean tried to appease the children. His gaze fell on his partner. Javert’s complexion looked ashen in the shadows of the flickering fireplaced.
“Collin, would you like an ethics question?” Javert asked, his voice straining against the cough that was struggling to get out. He had started preparing the boy for military training, and ethics was a large part of that.
The boy’s face lit up and he looked back at his parents proudly. “Boy, would I,” he answered, excitedly.
“What is the difference between piety and villainy?” Javert asked.
“One is good and one is bad,” Collin answered innocently.
Oh, how Javert wished it was so simple. While he enjoyed the respect that his family gave him, at this point he did not feel deserving. “Intent,” he responded. “Piety and villainy are two sides of the same coin. If ones intent is kindness, the result is piety. But, if it is for selfish reasons, the result is villainy.” He withdrew his handkerchief and blew his nose a bit, resulting in the suppression of four coughs. Neither the conversation nor the symptom suppression was doing anything for his headache, which was now starting to affect his vision and hearing.
“I don’t understand,” Collin said, fully engaged with Javert.
Seeing his attention completely on Javert, Jean decided to help with the lesson. Ever so carefully, he withdrew the boy’s pocket watch by its chain and palmed it, nodding at Javert when he was done.
Pained and exhausted though he was, Javert got up and twisted Jeans arm behind his back. “If this were a robber, I would be taking him into custody. With all of you as the witnesses to the crime, you could make certain that he would be in prison for a very long time.” The alcohol had dulled his balance causing him to put too much pressure on Jean’s arm and too much weight into his back, causing him to lose his balance and land heavily on his knee.
“What are you doing?” the children cried out in alarm.
“This man is a thief and I will bring him into the station,” Javert said in his best military voice, causing more than a few coughs to work their way out. A large cough at the end, caused Cosette to look at him kindly, those big blue eyes offering him more empathy than he felt he deserved.
“But, he has not stolen anything, grampere. Let him go!” Collin insisted.
Helping Jean up, and letting him lean on him to test his knee, Javert said, “Are you so sure?”
With that, Jean opened his hand to reveal the pocket watch. “
While the lesson was sound, the look of betrayal on the young man’s face was more than Javert could bear. “Now, if you didn’t know him wouldn’t you want to see him locked away?”
“Well yes, he’s a thief!” The accusation hung in the air before breaking into shards on the mistakes of the past.
“Ah,” Javert turned around and pulled out his handkerchief quickly. “Hah-Ahshoo! Do excuse me,” he rasped, his voice fast becoming tired. The inhabitants of the room blessed him, but he paid them no mind. “Ah, but why? If it’s because you want to keep the street safe for others, that’s piety. If you want to keep yourself safe, because of a personal wrong – that’s selfish. I…”he looked around the room: to Jean who was massaging his knee; to Cosette who was clasped onto Marius; to Marius who deserved so much better than him in his life. “I was no hero. I felt that people who had made mistakes were destined for a life of crime. I didn’t think people could change. I was judgmental and selfish. I was a villain,” he admitted.
The room became achingly quiet, with only the crackling of the fireplace to fill the room. Unable to handle the looks that the family was giving him, or the silence in the room, he pushed his way out of the room and out of the house.
He needed to take a walk.
Javert walked briskly away from the house. There was a little lane down that wound through the grounds. He liked to take walks there during the day, and had done so often enough to have memorized the walk even in the dark.
Safely away from the house, he allowed a violent cough rip from his lungs. The roughness of the cough scratched his chest and his throat throbbed with harsh dryness. Giving into the coughing fit, he stumbled to the edge of the tree line, holding his hand out, grasping and reaching for a tree. Once his hand found one, he settled against it, allowing the paroxysms to overtake his body. When it ceased, he withdrew his handkerchief and tended to his nose which was now running.
“Grampere, please… come back inside. The night is cold, and you’re not dressed for it,” a voice in the darkness stated calmly.
He cleared his throat roughly, tired eyes making out the shadows from the darkness. Had he been a younger man, he would have heard the footfalls… he would have been able to make out the darker shadows in the lighter darkness. As it was, he only recognized the voice: Collin. “I am well enough,” he lied. “Come, walk with me.”
He started walking down the path, the corners of his lips turning up slightly as he heard the young man fall into step with him. “You are still planning on joining the military when you reach the age of majority?” he asked, ignoring the roughness in his voice.
“Yes, sir,” Collin responded, saying nothing of Javert’s symptoms.
“You, too, will be faced with decisions that call on mercy and justice. When I was a young man, I saw them as two separate entities that did not intermingle. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned that justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.” His through itched, and he coughed harshly.
A hand on his arm. “We must tell mama about your cough. It’s not healthy.”
He considered lying to the young man. But, then he decided against. “The doctor will be at young Gavroche’s services. I will speak to him there. Until then, I implore you not to bother the other adults – they have enough to worry about without worrying about me.”
Collin looked at the silhouette of his grampere. While not a traditionally loving individual, the man had his own way of showing that he cared. Collin understood that this was his grampere’s way of contributing to the house- by asking Collin not to let the depleted adult resources be used on another adult. He had grown up on stories of his grampere’s service to France and several cities therein. Never before had he or the other children heard anything that would make him sound like a villain. Villains deserved to suffer. Heroes deserved to be able to maintain their pride. A sigh. “Yes, sir,” he agreed. “As long as you are not remiss in speaking with the doctor.”
In the moments that Collin had taken to consider his request, his nose had started to tickle. His nostrils quivered as he tried to suppress it as he had inside. But, a cool breeze blew and he was unable to keep his control in place. “Heh-eh… EH-Shoo!” The sneeze caused him to stumble forward and his felt Collin’s hand on his arm again. He cleared his throat again. “I will, son,” he whispered.
“Come… we’ll go straight to your rooms. You don’t need to face the family again this night,” Collin said, offering him a courtesy.
“Thank you,” he whispered, letting the young man lead him back to the house.
Chapter 5: Twice the Goodbye
Javert leaves after Gavroche's funeral, but not everyone is happy to see him go.
Golden rays of sun fell on the small gathering dressed in black and gray. The world was a light with happiness and song, in stark contrast to the broken hearts of those assembled.
Javert could not recall the days between the promise he made to Collin and that of the funerary services. He knew that there were cases of children slipping into a deep sleep and waking up prior to being committed to the earth. He prayed that this would be the case this time.
Cosette’s sobs could be heard over the sniffles of the children and the others assembled. He looked over at the family, huddled near the priest and the headstone. He stood a bit away from the family, every so often making eye contact with Marius or Jean’s cold stare. No one had talked about his explosion, nor had any tension between the adults broken.
Hands clasped behind his back, he turned his gaze over to the family that he no longer felt like he belonged to. Jean hadn’t so much as come to bed in nights. Marius had ceased speaking to him all together. The only conversation he received was cold comfort from Cosette and pleas to tell the rest of the house how his ailment was progressing from his grandson. In its own way, it was good that Jean had not been coming to bed. There was no way he could keep his ailment hidden if he had.
As the casket was lowered in, Javert felt cold prickles coming up his spine. He believed it to be grief, but he knew it could also be the fever rash that had broken out the day before. Unable to cry for fear that it would set off another long coughing spell, he turned his attentions to find the doctor.
“Inspector, I do grieve for your loss,” the man said as Javert approached.
Giving the man a polite nod, he cleared his throat, clasping his hands behind his back. “I appreciate that thank you.” Leading the man to the side, he broached the subject of his health. “I’ve been unwell… a cough, fever… I um… it’s taking much to keep my composure.”
The doctor made eye contact and nodded as Javert spoke. “I can’t properly check on you here. But, I would not be surprised if you were coming down ill.”
Withdrawing his handkerchief, Javert coughed wetly, a crackling sound emanating as he took a breath in. As his breath thinned, he sneezed twice. While he was able to mostly contain the first, the energy that it took to do so drained him too much to keep the mounting, “Heh-Asckhoo!” at bay.
The doctor frowned as Javert tended to himself. “Forgive my saying so, but you should not be out in this weather. Do allow your family to take you home,” he instructed, making eye contact with Marius. The man needed to know what poor shape Javert was in.
“No,” Javert said, pushing against the breath that felt caught in his chest. “I can’t do that. They need … they don’t need me burdening them. Is there room at the hospital?”
The doctor nodded. There had not been a recent outbreak of anything, so he saw no reason why there wouldn’t be room there. “But, monsieur wouldn’t you be more comfortable in your own home?”
Thinking back on how he and Jean had not slept in the same bed in many days, how Marius refused to speak to him, and Cosette only did the most menial of tasks to care for him, he shook his head. “No, I don’t believe I would.”
“Well then,” the doctor replied, clearly taken aback by the request and the answer, “I shall pick you up after the services.” He watched as Javert walked towards his family, a slow limp becoming more pronounced with each step.
Back at home, Javert was restless. He quietly packed a small bag, and bristled when Cosette asked him about it when he put it near the front door. The doctor could not come to pick him up soon enough.
“It’s a cold case,” he lied easily. “A body has been discovered and the doctor and coroner want to see if I can recollect the person from any of my old cases.” His voice had become raspy and his chest felt as though a weight were sitting on it, making it impossibly hard to breathe. A gentle hand fell on his arm and he stiffened, clearing his throat lightly.
“I don’t believe your well enough for this,” she ventured, hoping that his temper wasn’t on edge. The loss of her youngest child weighed on her like an anvil pulling her heart down to the earth. But, it did not mean that she stopped caring about the man in front of her. As Marius explained more of their conversation to her, it seemed that Javert had truly done all that he could do – more than anyone ever expected him to. It was God’s will, and she could not wish ill on him.
A soft smile graced his hardened features as he looked into the blue eyes of his angel. He gently caressed her soft cheek with the back of his hand, reveling in the rare beauty that stood before him. “I won’t be long,” he said, his voice just as rough as it had been. Sweat beads rolled down his back, and he forced himself not to shake as goosebumps raised on his arms. Turning away from her suddenly, he grasped his handkerchief and sneezed violently into it. The sneeze echoed off of the walls of the foyer, but he did not notice amidst the horribly full coughs that followed. Still turned away from her he muttered, “I’ll be fine, Cosette.” Forcing himself to smile, which turned out much more like a grimace, he turned to her. “I’ll be with a doctor. I’m sure he’ll provide care if I need it.” He turned away again to relieve his nose. No sooner did he take a short yet clear breath than did he feel her hug him from the side. Instinctively, he wrapped his arm around her.
“Don’t die on me,” she whispered, her voice full of tears. “I couldn’t bear to lose you, too.”
He needn’t wonder how she knew that there was more than met the eye at his plan. More than once in her young life he had tried to leave the house ill. Once it nearly cost him his life and, in effect, hers. Kissing her on the head, he combatted the tears that clung like drops of melted sugar to his eye lashes. “I’ll be back in a week at most.”
“Cosette?” Jean came into the foyer. He paused awkwardly when he saw the two embraced and a smile crossed his tired features. Eyes that betrayed the little sleep that he had gotten creased at the corners, as he hoped that Javert had made peace with whatever demons he was facing.
Slowly, Cosette let go of Javert, her fine hand grazing his beard. “Be careful out there. The weather is turning sour, and…” she put her hand lightly on his chest. She didn’t wish to bring up her concerns about his health again.
Leaning forward, he kissed her forehead. “Jean, I will see you when I return,” he rasped, picking up his bag as he heard the carriage pull up.
Jean wrinkled his brow. Javert’s voice had not sounded so rough earlier in the week, had it? A wave of guilt roiled through him as he realized that he had basically ignored Javert since his insistence of villainy. There was no good reason for it – Jean’s knee was not greatly wounded, and he had not been surprised when muscle memory caused Javert to be more forceful than maybe initially planned. Anger simmered just below the surface at the uneasy feeling he had about Javert understanding that Gavroche had pneumonia, but that he didn’t try to treat it in any way, or tell anyone else about the ailment. None of that sat right with him, and blended with his grief the emotions created a bubbling sensation like a pot about to boil over.
“Javert I don’t think it’s wise for you to leave,” he said.
Javert paused. Casting a glance at his loved ones he frowned. Cosette’s eyes were wide and pleading, and Jean’s were deep and confused. It dawned on him that his family truly didn’t understand what he was going through. “It would be less wise for me to stay,” he said, walking out to meet the doctor.
Chapter 6: Murderer
Javert makes it clear how he views himself.
Colin watched as his grandpere Javert got into the doctors carriage and rode away. His heart was heavy and he felt as though he missed the man an immeasurable amount even though the carriage was barely out of sight.
Cosette and Jean walked into the kitchen where Marius was reading a few money notes. He was concentrating through the thin black wire reading glasses that were resting on his nose. Thick curls framed his forehead as he stared, unblinking. “I heard the door. I’m certain that no one would be crass enough to visit today,” he muttered, looking up.
“No,” Cosette responded with a shake of her head. “Javert was called in for a cold case,” she said, walking over to the stove to make tea.
“What?” Marius asked, shortly. “Why does he have to be like this? Can he not just grieve as the rest of us do?” He didn’t believe for a second that there was a cold case in town. As much as he enjoyed the older man’s company, he did not care one bit for these spurts of drama.
“Because he is not like the rest of us,” Jean explained. For a man who proclaimed himself a villain, he knew Javert felt things very deeply, with a strong imposter and guilt complex. “Marius please explain something to me,” he said, sitting down.
“Anything,” Marius said, taking off his glasses to give Jean his undivided attention.
“When you spoke with Javert, and he said he knew of Gavroche’s ailment… did he explain why he had not administered any sort of treatment?”
Marius squinted at the older man for a moment. “He did administer treatment. Ipecac and the like. That’s how I knew that he knew precisely what it was.”
Jean closed his eyes against the information, attempting to take comfort in the absence of the world. That was why it hadn’t made sense that Javert had not administered medication. It was because he had done so. Thick fingers pressed against his mouth, Jean opened his eyes. “So, he did not neglect the child,” he murmured mostly to himself.
“No, he did not,” Marius snapped. He didn’t wish to have this conversation again.
“Papa, didn’t Javert tell you that what happened?” Cosette asked, trying to break the tension that was filling the room.
Guilt washed over Jean like waves crashing upon rocks. He hadn’t been talking with his partner, nor has he been sleeping with him. He was so wrapped up in his grief and the supposition that the vindictive animal that he had been in the before times. It was a horrible assumption, and he should never had made it.
Now Javert was dealing with whatever horrors of a cold case and burying the feelings deep down. It had taken him decades to make Javert feel secure enough to show his caring side. He cared for that child emotionally and physically. Javert’s admission of villainy rang in his soul. Was that really how his partner viewed himself? Even after all this time?
“Papa?” Cosette prompted, her soft voice full of concern.
“No,” Jean answered softly, putting his hand down. “He did not. I did not give him the opportunity to.”
At Cosette’s confused look, Jean shook his head. Standing he embraced his daughter gently and went upstairs. As a grieving parent, she didn’t need to deal with his grief as well.
Soft foot falls entered the children’s play room, where the other children were sitting, still in their mourning clothes. They were whispering quietly to themselves. Once in a while, one of them would make a funny face and the rest would giggle quietly.
“What are you doing?” he asked quietly.
All of the children looked at him wide-eyed, as though they had been caught doing something bad.
Coming into the room, he made sounds of strain to sit down on the floor with them. “You’re not in trouble. Your laughter was a very pleasing sound. Please don’t stop.”
Victoria looked at her grandfather, somewhat afraid of his response, but knowing that it was her place to shield the younger ones. “We were remembering what Gavvy looked like when doing certain things. Like when he made a joke, or tried to put on his shoes, or dance.”
Jean’s brow furrowed and Victoria shrank back from him. He did not notice. Rather he was lost in thought about what an interesting way it was for the children to remember their youngest brother. He smiled. “Show me,” he whispered, allowing himself to get lost in the coping mechanisms of the children.
Thick coughs that crackled in his chest emanated from Javert. Poorly muffled into his fist, he had a hard time drawing in air and felt weighed down by the veracity of his illness. He felt that if he could get enough force behind the cough, the thick liquid that felt as though it was beginning to drown him would expel. But, drawing in that clearing breath was quite laborious and he felt himself giving into the illness.
Attempting to find a comfortable sleeping position was all but useless. The creaky bed whined under his weight and startled him awake every time he moved. He had not realized how much solace he had taken beside his partner, nor how much comfort he took in the solitude of Cosette and Marius’ grand estate. Here he was vulnerable. Worse yet, he felt as destitute as he had been growing up. But, this is the death I had always assumed would come, should I live old enough, he thought. He had always thought he would die in the field, but knew that –unlovable as he was – the only way he would die as an old man was alone in his bed or sick in the hospital. I should consider myself lucky that it turned out to be the latter.
Another prickle in his chest. Another harsh, thick cough which sounded like it was bottoming out in his chest. Another crackle of breath and wave of dizziness. He started to allow himself to drift, vaguely aware of voices. But, not coherent enough to know if they were of good or of ill repute, and too ill to care.
“Now, girls, I know that you’re new to the convent, and even newer to the hospital but there are a few rules for you to follow,” the doctor explained to a new group of young ladies who had been turned over to the convent by the Province. Wards of the state that had aged out of the system. Girls who became women far too soon. He never particularly liked the idea that these young women were so soon given the opportunity to work with the ill. He didn’t know if they had come to the convent secure in their intentions. But, these were not his rules to make, nor his place to judge, as he had been so frequently reminded by the Mother Superior.
“You’ll treat every one of these patients with the utmost respect. You will not ask for information about their lives, but you will listen patiently and respectfully should they wish to give it. And, listen up girls for this is the most important – you will care for each of them no matter what they reveal to you. As you know, it is your employ to comfort the wretched, and in this hospital we take that vow very seriously.”
The young women all gave him a sign of understanding either in a curtsy, head nod, or utterance. Most were focused on the doctor, but one, a young slip of a girl with a curry mop of hair which stuck out from under her wimple in bushy bangs took notice to Javert, as he sputtered with each soft snore. When they had been dismissed, she made her way over to him. A gentle hand was placed on his forehead, causing him to jump most violently.
“Easy, easy,” she muttered. “Just rest yourself, your fever is quite high,” she said, wishing that there was a bowl of water nearby. She would have to work to lower his fever, but in the meantime, she would see about getting him comfortable enough to sleep well.
“Are you to care for me then? Leave off,” he chastised. “Some people are not worth helping,” he grumbled. An attempt to turn away from her became a trial as he coughed harshly, but to no avail. The congestion in his chest sat heavily on his lungs like the guilt of young Gavroche’s death sat on his heart.
Gentle hands turned him, so that he was on his back again. “Never you mind about the choices I make, dear. You just rest here,” she said, folding his pillow so that his head was slightly elevated. Observant brown eyes noticed the fine weave of his night shirt. This was not the quality generally given to the poor upon their admission to the hospital. Rather this was someone of consequence. She wondered how he had ever come to this.
Several hours later, Javert was in a position that he was finding quite tiresome. Both hands clasped over his mouth with a handkerchief between them, he gasped through deep and resonating coughs. His sinuses felt as though they were going to burst with congestion and he idly wondered if he was going to be able to maintain what little composure remained. He didn’t have to wait long however, as his body seemed intent on shaming him to the core. “Eh-YEH-EFFSHHH!” he sneezed wetly, thanking the stars that he had the handkerchief. A wet cough followed and he took the chance to rid himself of a bit of the head and chest congestion.
“Oh dear, that was a bad one,” the same young woman said, coming into view. She handed him a fresh handkerchief, but said nothing otherwise. She had found herself quite taken in by Javert, the man of mystery who certainly needed their help, but neither acted nor dressed like so many of their other charges.
He nodded his thanks, a few lesser coughs burbling up as he sneezed a stuffy sneeze into the handkerchief. His nose started to run and he dabbed at it with the handkerchief, unwilling to sniffle it. Not only was the noise disgusting, but he knew it would only cause him to cough more and he was quite tired of such things. “Thank you,” he whispered, wishing that it was Cosette rather than this… other woman… providing care. But, he had done the unthinkable and was no longer deserving of the care of his angel. The thought of never seeing her again became a real fear in his fever-ridden brain. His breathing became thick and his nose started to run anew.
“Now, just rest your mind,” the young woman said, sitting on the edge of his bed and wiping his sweat soaked bangs back.
He flinched away from the touch. He didn’t want her touch. She hadn’t earned the right to touch him. Hawk-like eyes narrowed as he arched his back away from her, rather like an alley cat whose territory had been invaded.
They sat like that for a few long minutes, his breathing becoming more labored as time went on. A pause of breath and swiftly his handkerchief was brought back to his face. “Kerssshhh!” A few deep coughs sounded like they were scratching his chest on the way out. He pressed against his chest, feeling as though the muscles were becoming overworked.
“À tes souhaits,” she offered quietly. He was a fine looking man, beneath the weight of illness. Were he clean shaven, and with a fine suit, he would clean up quite nicely. There was something familiar about him, although she couldn’t quite put her finger on what. “Here you go,” she said, handing him another handkerchief. “That’s better, yea?” she asked gently.
He looked over her. He didn’t figure that she was over twenty, even with her deep lines of worry. Her eyes held the solidity of someone who had seen too much. But, she was soft spoken and gentle. He wondered what had caused her to take to life in the convent. What had befallen to the young lady before him? He nodded and grunted his thanks. He closed his eyes with a wince as a ripple of malaise moved throughout him.
He wished Jean was there. But, that was a fool’s errand. The man had not spoken to Javert since his falling out with Marius. A pity, but not a surprise. Javert always knew that if Jean was pushed to choose, he would choose his family. How could he not? He had already lost one family, and to expect him to do otherwise was ridiculous.
“Can I help you?” a young woman’s voice asked. The domestic simplicity of the statement made him think of Victoria, his eldest female grandchild. Often she would ask him how to help. Although he had originally thought the request preposterous, it was explained to him that she was being polite since taking care of someone was not necessarily an inborn trait. He never really appreciated how lucky he had been with Cosette. For a man whose survival and employ directly related to his observation skills, he was appalled at how much he missed as he became older.
“Why would you want to?” he huffed, a small smile turning up at his lips. If these were nuns, he knew precisely how to turn them away.
“Because you’re ill,” she said softly, tenderly.
In a flash he reached up and grabbed her wrist, pulling it towards his chest. His grasp was strong enough to control her, but not strong enough to hurt her. He felt her fight against him, her eyes widening in shock and… there was something else lurking there, darker, just below the surface. Again, she piqued his attentions. Leaning in close to her, he whispered, “I’m a murderer,” before releasing her.
Eyes widened with fear, the darkness gone, she stood up and walked away, rubbing her wrist. He felt pleased that he had taken control of the situation. But, as he sat in the dim candle light of the windowless room, he felt a bit lonely as well.
The nun with the bushy bangs rushed up to the doctor. He had instructed them to treat all of the inhabitants the same, and as she had shown some favoritism towards Javert, he had allowed her to care for him. Well, he was not an easy or tolerant man. If she could handle him while ill, he was more than willing to let her do so.
“What is it Emily?” he asked, noticing the way she rubbed her forearm.
She looked over towards Javert, who seemed to be resting well enough for now. Leaning in towards the doctor, she whispered, “He’s a murderer…”
A smirk rose on the doctor’s face and he snorted in response. “Is that what he told you?” He shook his head in disbelief, his jovial eyes covering the sadness that the admission caused him. He knew that the man grieved deeply for the loss of his grandson. But, as the autopsy had confirmed, the boy was far more ill than the rest of the household. And, Javert would have been coming down with the same ailment, as evidenced by his admission to the hospital. The fact that the man had tried to get the young lad to ingest ipecac had been far beyond what many may have known to do. He could not have been expected to do more.
Another thing that chilled him to the core was that his family had not come looking for him. Cosette, Madeleine, Marius – these adults were not without compassion. Had they really turned their back on him so completely that they would not care to see him like this? Javert’s cough had been severe even in the ride to the hospital. Even at the funeral, he stood apart from the others to keep them safe from his affliction. And yet there was no care from the family unit to him. ”They have more important things to care for ,” Javert had told him during that ride. “They do not need this to worry about as well.” The statement had not sat well with the doctor, and he wondered how the family could have missed how ill their family member was.
“He is no murderer, and don’t let him convince you otherwise,” the doctor replied. “Sometimes grief manifests in mysterious ways. That man is no more a murderer than I.” Of course patients had died in his care, but it had never been his intent to cut off their life force prematurely. In the many years that he knew the man, he never had cause to think that he could not reconcile himself with death. Were he calling himself a murderer, the doctor assumed it had to be due to the death of the Pontemercy’s youngest.
“Then why would he say such a thing?” she asked, her still quiet; her arm no longer bothering her.
“To keep you away,” the doctor answered simply.
Javert gasped and strained for air as the coughs seemed to get lodged in his chest, even as his core muscles struggled to free them. The doctor stood over him, rubbing his back slowly as he held a stethoscope to the man’s chest. The prognosis was not good.
“Move!” Javert commanded breathily as a wet and unrestrained, “EhSSSHHA! Hah-eh-AttchhsSHN!” exploded out of him. More coughing, wetter this time, as he reached for his handkerchief and tended to himself.
His cheeks warm after such a messy display, and he found it difficult to look the doctor in the eye. He took a deep breath, the air causing his chest to ache. He thanked his lucky stars that the doctor was there to see it and not Jean or Cosette or, worse, the children. Cosette had been allowing the children to assist in the care of the others in the household. He felt his breathing become tight at the thought of Colin seeing him like that. The young man would never leave his side again.
The doctor handed him another handkerchief. “We’re going to start dosing you with ipecac,” he informed him. “And if that doesn’t work chloroform.”
A burbling cough and then, “No. No chloroform. If this illness is to take me, I want to be in complete control when it happens.”
Sad brown eyes took in the man who had once been considered the most respected – and feared – in all the province, if not all of France. The illness was taking its toll. The man could not stomach food and water was difficult to coax down. Large bags had appeared under his eyes, and he was sprouting several days’ worth of facial growth. The well-manicured policier didn’t even seem to be fighting the illness anymore. It was as though he had gone and died right along with that young boy.
“Your family should know,” he suggested.
“No! No… nobody tell them. They have enough to worry about – enough to grieve without worrying about this. I’ll be well in just a few days more,” he tried to reason. He didn’t like to lie. But, he didn’t have much hope left. The reality was that he was going to die, to follow young Gavroche. He knew this. It was what he deserved – his penance for depriving the family of something so special.
“You don’t think they’ll notice you’re gone?” the doctor asked incredulously.
“They didn’t notice I was there. What’s the difference?”
Maudlin was not a term that the doctor would use to describe Javert. In fact, the idea that his grief was affecting him this hard was causing him to have to rethink his opinion that the man felt no emotions at all. In all their years of working together on cases and autopsies he had never seen the man be anything but professional. Perhaps a failing on his part to see the man whose past had forced him to relinquish all feeling. Feeling… “And what of the Pontemercy children? Will they not miss you as well?” It was a bold move. But, he had seen Javert and the oldest boy about town from time to time, and there was no denying the connection between the two.
Javert’s chin fell to his chest, as though an imaginary string that had been holding his head up had just been cut. Placing a hand over his eyes, the man struggled to breathe through the emotion that was overwhelming him, causing him to feel a familiar prickle in his sinuses. “Huh… uh… Eh-FressCHOO!” The sneeze tossed him forward and made him wince. He tended to his nose and tried to make himself cough. But, it hadn’t been one of those sneezes. He wanted to tell the doctor, a man that he had worked with for many years before his retirement, that the children would not notice or care. But he couldn’t bring himself to lie. “Julian, what will I do?” he asked, looking up at the man. “I can’t tell them now. I don’t know how.”
“Let me tell them,” he said, putting his hand on Javert’s shoulder. “As your friend and professional ally give me this courtesy.”
Chest prickling with emotions that he could not name and eyes prickling with tears, he put his hand on the doctor’s arm and nodded.
Chapter 7: Words Better Left Unsaid
The doctor speaks to Javert's family when he is too ill to do so himself.
The doctor took a deep breath as he arrived at the Pontemercy estate. He could only imagine how the news that he had to give would be taken. Were it his own family, he knew that they would not take it well. For goodness sakes, were it he and the coroner finding out this way, they would be mad as hell at Javert for not reaching out. They may have only been professional allies, but they had over thirty years of working experience together.
He had expected the butler to answer the door and was quite dismayed to see Cosette, her bright blue eyes shining with hope. “Is Javert home? How did the case go?” she asked, looking around him expectantly.
“Cosette, let the doctor in,” Marius said, pulling her away from the door. Shaking the doctor’s hand, as he guided him through the door. “We hope that your cold case worked out for the best, Monsieur. If anyone could solve the case, Javert could.” The days that Javert had been gone had been difficult. The family had started to try to make their way in this new world. But, there was a gaping hole in the adult support structure. Javert.
Cosette always had one extra place set, as though she expected him home at any moment. She missed the comfort and security that she felt whenever he was in the house. Having grown up with him, she never really noticed the feeling when it was there. But, now that he was gone, every noise outside set her mind on edge.
Marius missed his friend to have a nightcap with. Although neither of them drank very often, after a long day they would share each other’s company and generally have a brandy together. They didn’t talk often, but perhaps that was the way that they bonded – in their need to just take a break from the day, without being truly alone.
Jean had been nearly silent since he was able to draw the whole story out of Marius. While still heavily grieving for his grandchild, the grief he felt for his partner was far more dehibilitating. He couldn’t even walk into their rooms without wondering how Javert had lived in there alone, grieving, and likely positive that he was to blame for the young boy’s death. Jean’s grief was compounded when he had found the ipecac bottle broken on the floor, the goo stuck to the insides of the amber glass like dried molasses. He could imagine a grief stricken, panicked Javert throwing the bottle at the wall in utter frustration.
Colin, although not an adult, had told them about Javert’s failing health the night that he had declared his villainy. He didn’t buy into the story that he was helping on a cold case, since Javert had told him that he would speak to the doctor and then left with him. But, he didn’t tell the adults about that part. He didn’t feel that it was his place to do so. If Javert hadn’t told the others, it was because they didn’t want them to know.
The doctor stepped in, removing his hat as he did so. “Ah, no. Javert is not here.”
The shocked look on Cosette’s face would have made angels weep. Her features fell, and she let Marius lead the doctor into the sitting room, while she went and got her father. Returning with him, she became greatly concerned when the doctor refused to sit down, and fidgeted with the brim of his hat as he made idle talk with Marius.
Making sure her father was settled comfortably in his chair, she went to take her place beside Marius on the sofa. The tension in the air was thick, and she took a deep breath trying to stay her feelings, when all she wanted to do was demand where Javert was.
“I won’t stay long, but I do have an important matter to discuss with you,” the doctor started.
A creak at the doorway caused the group to turn, their focus shifted at Colin, who stood in the doorway well dressed, looking like a miniature of his father, with the body posture of Javert. “Come on in,” Cosette said, patting the seat next to her. The young man was the child who had bonded the most with Javert. If this news was as ominous as she was feeling, she wanted him to be part of it. Since he had taken an active interest, he was old enough to know.
Colin walked in, but instead of taking a seat next to his mother, he stood at ease next to his Grampere Jean. He regarded the doctor with a curt nod of his head, the spitting image of his Grampere Javert.
The similarity was not lost on the doctor, and validated his decision to come. He returned the salutation and took a step back to regard the room assembled. He had practiced what he would say over and over, but he wasn’t speaking to a family that he didn’t have ties to. This was Javert’s family. And while he had only ever known them in the most professional of capacities, he had known Javert longer than most of his own family.
“First of all, I would like to extend my deepest sympathies for your loss. I understand and appreciate that you are still in your time of mourning, and will not keep you long.” He paused, appreciating the cordial nods that were given to him from everyone in the room, even the young gentleman. “It is with the greatest seriousness that I tell you that Javert has taken ill. He has been brought to the hospital, where I am overseeing his care.” He paused as he watched the adults deal with the news. Cosette gripped Marius’ hand, as he glared at him, as though he were directly responsible for Javert’s current predicament. Monsieur Madelaine had closed his eyes for a few moments and took deep breaths. And, Colin’s features didn’t change at all.
“How is he?” Cosette asked, her voice thick with emotion.
“Not well,” the doctor answered. “We started administering ipecac treatments today. He has refused the use of chloroform. It is in my best opinion that those who wish to visit him now.” The implication of the last word let it remain unsaid that there may not be much time for them to delay.
“Chloroform,” Monsieur Madelaine asked, his low voice rumbling the word like thunder in the distance.
“Ipecac,” Colin interjected, not letting the doctor respond. “That’s what he was trying to give Gavroche. What is wrong with my grampere?” he demanded.
The doctor nodded once and drew in a deep breath. “He has pneumonia and a cold. It’s settled in his chest.” He felt inexplicably cold. While he didn’t know exactly what he expected, he did expect more of an emotional response than simple questions. Perhaps Javert had been correct and his family was better not knowing. He could have made up a lie about what fell him, one that stayed within the parameters of the story Javert had given.
“Take me to him,” Colin demanded. “Mama, I’m going to go be with Grampere Javert. Just as he has been there for us. Just as he was there with Gavroche. If his health is failing then he shouldn’t be alone.”
“Colin!” Marius barked, trying to get his son to restrain his emotions. “There may not be a place for you at the hospital. Where would you stay?”
The doctor knew that social propriety would dictate that he stay quiet. But, to do so could cause Javert to die without his family at his side. That he could not abide. “He could stay in my office. I have a cot in there for myself. I can pull in another for him. He’ll be under my care and my supervision.”
The room became eerily quiet as the others turned to him. It was as though they had forgotten he was there for a few seconds.
“I’ll go as well,” Jean stated, standing up with a groan. “I will not allow Javert to die alone.” While that was the right reason to state, it certainly wasn’t the only one.
“I can’t make the trip,” Cosette said, tears starting to fall down her cheeks. “I can’t imagine being in a hospital right now. I couldn’t do it. I can’t.” She took a few deep breaths and started to cry.
Marius put his arm around her and pulled her close. Kissing her head he whispered something the rest of the room could not hear. Looking back at the doctor, he said, “My apologies, Monsieur Doctor. We all know that Javert wasn’t taking the current situation well. We had no idea that his health was failing.” His glance turned to Colin, and the look within it made it clear that the young man was not to debate his father’s statement at this time.
The doctor worked not to show emotion, but he had been shocked. Javert had been bedridden from the moment he was admitted to the hospital. How the man had stayed the symptoms was beyond him. Moreso how the family had so actively him – for they would have had to – made his blood boil. Javert was cold, stoic, and sometimes a little too emphatic about the way he wanted things done. But, he was loyal, trustworthy, and one of the best officers he had ever had the fortune to work with in any capacity. “I understand,” he heard himself saying. But, he did not. Perhaps Javert was not regarded as highly as he had made it seem, at least not in his own house. That was appalling. “I know what I have told you must come as a shock.”
“I knew he wasn’t feeling well when he left,” Cosette admitted. “He was feverish… I can tell these things, you know. I grew up with him. I can tell when he’s being strong for others. I just… I just figured it was a cold, like the rest of us.” It was a lie. She knew when he was leaving, that it wasn’t only a cold. But, she had not let herself live with that realization. She had pushed it aside, put it away. She convinced herself that he would come home… that he would be well when he did. Or not. And they would care for him. She had not allowed herself to believe the fact that he could have been so ill that he would not come home. Turning to her father, she said the only thing that she could, “Bring him home, papa.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” the doctor interjected. “He can’t be moved at this point.”
“What?” The quiet question came from Marius, brown eyes widening with the realization that Javert’s leaving had nothing to do with him grieving. He thought back to their conversations… those irritating little noises that he thought were repressed laughs… What if they were repressed coughs? Or sneezes? If Javert was ill, it was no wonder that drunk as he was, he said the horrible things that he did. He thought about the shocking revelation when Javert demanded to the family that he was a villain. He realized that Javert had created himself in the image of a villain so that the family would have someone to blame. And blame him they did. Blamed him. Neglected him. They had bought into the story that he weaved and, in the process, neglected to see the truth.
“The reality of the situation is that he cannot be moved, monsieur. In fact,” he weighed the consequences of stating the next part. How much of the truth to reveal was always a consideration when dealing with a grieving family.
“In fact?” Jean prodded gently. He put his hand on both of Colin’s shoulders as he mentally cataloged what they would need to pack.
“In fact, if he does not take to ipecac treatments, he is unlikely to live out the week.”
Cosette dissolved into a fit of tears, and Jean’s hands tightened around Colin’s stiffened shoulders.
“He has denied the chloroform treatments, hasn’t he?” Jean asked, knowingly. He knew that were Javert to die, he would want to do it under his own strength. The man had always thought that he would die in the field. Having not had been difficult for Javert. He didn't know how to be a mature gentleman. He had never prepared himself to live that long. If Javert thought he was alone in the world, that he had nothing to hold on to... The thought nearly drove him to his knees.
“Yes,” the doctor answered, honestly.
Without another word, Jean turned the young man toward the doorway. “We’ll pack immediately, and we’re going to leave tonight.”
Javert gets two unexpected visitors
Sweat dripped down Javert’s body. He was amazed that his body was still trying to cool itself, his heart pounding sharply and echoing in his ears. He felt as though he were slipping away. The young nurse came by now and again, but it appeared that he had terrified her enough to stay away. It was better this way. He had always imagined that he would die alone. At least this way he would follow someone whom he cared deeply for. Maybe Jean would look for him when he followed, someday in the distant future. He wondered idly which family Jean would look for. He wondered if he would be part of it.
Another thought crossed his mind… would he even go to Heaven? He tried to be a good man, to follow the laws of man and balance them with the laws of God. But, it wasn’t until much later in his life that the softer rules like compassion and valor meant something. He had ruled with stridency. Love was something that was only shown at home, and even then more rarely than he now knew was common.
Living with Cosette and Marius – seeing how they raised their children – it made it abundantly clear to him what an awful role model he had been. Never exceptionally kind, awful with any sort of words that weren’t biting an hurtful, he had caused Cosette more harm than he was certain he could ever atone for. She bore them with the grace of her father, but the fact was that this ailment was something of a good death. It would take him swiftly as it had the child before him. And he would not hurt Cosette or her family any more.
“Life’s funny, ain’t it inspecta?” a far too familiar voice asked. It spoke to him as though he were an old friend. The voice crept at the edges of his dimming mind, and reminded him of something that he only heard in his dreams.
Dry eyes cracked open and looked in the direction that the voice had come from. A very familiar blonde boy with straggly hair and a dark blue outfit. “Gaveroche?” he whispered, the sound barely able to float upon his fevered breath. He recognized the boy from his dreams – well his nightmares. Sleep and dreams did not bring him rest, and had not in many years. This was the first time that he was vaguely aware that he was awake and seeing the young boy, however.
“You have somethin’ uv mine, an’ I ‘ave somethin’ uv yours.” Turning away he waved someone over to him. “Come on. I said I won’t hurt ‘cha.”
Javert’s breath caught as his grandson came into view. He was wearing the suit that he was buried in, his eyes alight with the sparkle of life, but a bit of fear in those wide orbs of innocence. “Gav…” His breath started to come in pants. Had it been the past week, he would have assumed another sneeze was upon him. But, he hadn’t the strength to sneeze, so the pants were painful and tiring, with the thickness of emotion strangling him as it cut off his air supply.
He reached towards the boy, his hand barely moving off the bed.
“Found ‘im,” the older boy said. “I ‘eard he was Marius’.” He huffed a laugh. “Funny how things work out, don ‘cha fink?”
A harsh cough made its way out of Javert. “Name your terms,” he whispered, figuring that no matter what the terms, he would be joining the young boy soon enough.
“I’ll take care of what’s important to you, if you take care of what’s important to me,” the young man answered, fiddling with the tattered hem of his faded jacket.
“What’s import- important…” His respiratory system finally winning out, a harsh short sneeze made it’s way out. “Hepuh-chhh!”
Completely uncovered, the older boy jumped at the sound and wrinkled his nose as though Javert had just sneezed at his corporeal self.
“You watch over Marius and ‘is family, and I’ll watch over your until you get here. Savvy?” he asked, putting his arm around the young boy.
Javert had never realized how much they looked alike. Life may have been much different for the older boy if he had a chance. The reality that he was at least in part for both of their deaths was not lost on him and he felt himself slide deeper into the inky blackness that threatened to swallow him whole.
He nodded. “Boys,” he forced out, afraid that they would go too soon. “For what part I had in your deaths… I’m so sorry,” he apologized, his heart aching with guilt.
The older boy looked at him confused. “You didn’t have nufink to do with my death. You wasn’t even there, as I recall.” A pause. “’av you carried dis guilt all these years, inspecta?”
A slight nod, before a small voice said, “I love you grampie.” The youngest hadn’t been able to say the whole ‘grampere’ word, and had always cut it off prematurely. “No be sad. I love you.”
“Love you,” he responded, taking a gasping breath. Eyes closed abruptly and he curled in on himself as his whole body spasmed with barking coughs. When he opened them again, the two boys were gone, but another two figures were walking in.
Certain that he was hallucinating, he did nothing but blink at them. What on earth would Colin and Jean be doing there?
Jean and Colin administer the care that Javert was refusing at the hospital
Javert swallowed, his dry throat feeling much too thick and try to perform the action without a wince. “What are you doing here?” he rasped, not certain that they really were there. After all, merely seconds before the two Gavroche’s had been there. He was just as sure about their corporealness as he was about Jean and… Colin.
His gaze drifted over to his grandson. “You shouldn’t be here. Not like this.”
“How else would you have me have it, grandpere?” Colin said, coming to sit on the edge of Javert’s bed. He ran a hand over his grandpere’s forehead, and felt a surge of panic at how warm and dry it was. “You said that justice was to be tempered with mercy, did you not? What is happening here is not justice, and you are in need of mercy.” He stood up. “I’m going to go find a nurse. You need fluids,” and with that he left the room, earning a squeeze on the shoulder and a very proud look from Valjean as he went past.
“You’ve done well with him,” Jean said, coming up to the bed. He didn’t dare sit on it, certain that the bed could not hold the weight of both men.
“Bah,” Javert huffed. “I’ve done so very little. There is no evidence that my influence has,” he huffed as air forced from his lungs, giving way to crunchy then dry barking coughs.
Jean said nothing. This was not the time to debate – or be right. “My apologies for not seeing what you were going through,” he said, as the coughing subsided.
“You had your own weight to bear. No need for you to carry mine as well,” he whispered.
“Except that I love you,” Jean countered.
“Heh. Love. Love won’t save me, Jean. The end is near; I’ve seen it,” he said, thinking of the visit from the two Gavroche’s.
No forgiveness would be given, then. The reality hit Jean like a brick to the chest. “I have a note from Cosette. She grieves that she can’t be here,” he said, handing over a carefully sealed envelope.
A memory softly entered Javert’s mind. “Do you remember when she used to seal these with kisses?” he asked, trying not to laugh because he was worried about coughing again.
“And she’d get so indignant if we couldn’t guess how many kisses were made,” Jean said, contributing to the humor of the memory.
Javert sighed, saddened by what he had lost. Carefully he unfolded the letter and read, his eyes moving slowly over the flowing style of Cosette’s handwriting. He sniffled as the gentle forgiveness of her words broke through the harsh edges of his emotions. “She forgives me, Jean. She implores me not to follow her son.” He put the letter down, the paper crinkling slightly as it came in contact with the bed. “How can that be?”
The raw honesty of the question struck Jean to the core. “She loves you. We all do.” And they hadn’t all known the story. And they had believed the story he set forth instead of the truth.
Javert looked down, causing tears to drop from his eyes. “I killed her son.”
“I found the ipecac bottle,” Jean said in response. “Why didn’t you tell us the whole story?”
Javert looked up quickly, eyes wide and feral as though he had been caught doing something wrong. “I didn’t feel well,” he admitted. “And I wanted to create a diversion. Almost worked too.” He brought his hand up to his mouth giving a few harsh coughs.
Colin came in before Jean could say anything, the nurse Emily trailing behind. “He’s dehydrated, ye say?” she asked, smiling at Jean.
“Yes, and he needs to be given something to help his breathing.” Colin stared pointedly at Javert.
“Well the ipecac should ‘ave helped with…” she looked around for the bottle. “Where did ye put it when you were done with it?” she asked, Javert. She had not been there to see him since his confession to her. But, now, seeing him with other people made her wonder if the doctor was right.
He guiltily removed the bottle from under his pillow. It was still stoppered, the thick liquid having not been disrupted.
“If you cannot be trusted to take it yerself, I’ll hafta spoon feed it to ya. Is that what ye want?” she nearly snapped at him, as she took the medicine.
The young man and his grandfather looked at her as though she were chastising a wolf.
“Now see here, miss,” Colin started. His blood was boiling as he was ready to put her in her place. No one spoke to his grandpere like that. Especially not someone who was a servant!
He felt a large hand on his shoulder, a gentle heat radiating from it. “We will make sure he takes his medicine, miss,” he said to her. His voice was low and measured, as a more controlled rage boiled within him than that of his grandson.
“You be careful with that one,” she said, pouring a glass of water for Javert. She knew it was a useless thing to do, that the ipecac would cause him to lose whatever water they were able to coax down him. “This one has quite a temper on ‘im, yea?” she asked a bit more tartly than would be considered professional. She watched as he drank the water in small sips, and finally handed the glass back to her when he finished.
With a tired groan he turned away from them. “WumFsshhoO!” he sneezed wetly into the palm of his hand. Crunchy coughs stifled his ability to breath as he turned back and attempted to clean himself up. She handed him a handkerchief and pat him on his shoulder before giving the bottle to ValJean and leaving the room.
“Colin,” Jean’s voice was taught. “This will not be a pretty sight. Your grampere… he will not respond well and will be harsh. We will both understand it if you don’t want to be here for this. Your help will be appreciated in other parts of the hospital.” There was no need to subject the child to more of Javert’s cruel statements. Nor did he want Javert to have to deal with molly-coddling that he was certain that the young man would have picked up from his mother.
“I can handle it. I came here to be here. Not to be elsewhere,” Colin said, his posture straightening. His arms clasped behind his back, and for a moment, Jean thought he was looking at a younger version of Javert.
“So be it,” Jean said, uncorking the bottle. His stomach nearly lurched at the acrid smell and the assault of memories that flooded him thereafter. This was a vitriolic and harsh remedy. He wished that Cosette was here. She would know of an alternate remedy, he was certain. Pouring the thick mixture onto the spoon, and made eye contact with Javert. He tried to look strong, even though he was shaking slightly.
Javert looked at him, eyes sad as he tried not to make a spectacle of himself in front of his grandson. The young man was so much more of a gentleman than Javert was at his age. Were it just he and Jean, he would be responding with a hissing, spitting temper with the goal to hurt the other man – to get him to leave. But, with Colin there… he couldn’t be so shameful. Having been seen in such a state was about as much shame he could take, even in his feverish state.
Javert opened his mouth, and allowed Jean to feed him spoonful after spoonful of the horrid tasting medicine, until he broke out in a cold sweat. His stomach cramped, and he felt himself begin to drool as his esophagus opened. He saw Colin start to move as if in slow motion, and Jean hold a hand out to keep the boy away, as Javert began to lose what little contents were in his stomach into a basin that Jean was able to get to him just in time. A wet cough ripped from his lungs, seeming to free the mucus that had built up there.
Javert felt a hand behind him, resting between his shoulder blades, and then a cold cloth on his forehead. Colin. He tried to shrug the boy off, but another spasm gripped his stomach and he lurched forward violently. “Kessheeww! Hutchoo!” Two hard sneezes exploded out of him and into the same basin. He blinked back the waves of dizziness and nausea that gripped him. As he took a deep breath, he felt another spoonful of the vile concoction thrust into his mouth. The cold sweat intensified, leaving a cold feeling on the back of his neck, which complimented the cold cloth Colin still held to him. With a gag he released the rest of the content, causing a productive wet cough which expelled the substance which had been slowly choking him over the few weeks prior.
In the end, Javert lay back against his pillows, taking the first deep breaths that he had in weeks. He smiled meekly at the two men who had tended to him and drifted off into a calm sleep.
A/N: Set to the Ordinary Fear of God’s Song: Testify, which happens to be sung by Russell Crowe
The sun blazed against Javert’s already sun-scorched skin. He gazed up, squinting against the blinding rays of the sun. His body too dehydrated to sweat, he huffed a quiet cough against the torture that his body was being made to bear. Slowly, he realized that there was a heavy burning sensation in the flesh around his wrists. Looking down, he gazed at the rusty iron handcuffs which shackled his sunburnt hands together. He walked forward, as he felt he needed to. There had to be shade, somewhere. Water was a necessity as well. He had to get out of the tortuous sun before it dissolved him to dust.
He felt a deep aching in his soul, as though it were crying out for redemption. The memories of those whom he had wronged flashed through his mind. He recalled himself younger, more fit of body and mind. Every wrong had been right at the time. But, times had changed around him and his thoughts were outdated. People didn’t think like him anymore. They didn’t understand the era – the law. He had suffered alone for the unjust things that he had done. Never had he sought forgiveness from anyone but the Lord. And the Lord provided him with forgiveness, fearlessness, and strength. He lived a solitary life, with nothing to lose and nothing to give.
He trudged along, the sun winning out the battle of wills as he fell to one knee. The sand grated against his paper thin skin cutting it. The heat rose off the sand with rivers of steam, and through them he saw a tree with a noose. He sucked in a burning breath, positive that the noose was meant for him.
A sob broke forth as he realized that everything that he had done in his life had brought him to this point. Everything that he had ever thought was right and just was not. Not without the balance that he counseled Colin to have. He bowed his head, praying.
“Let me testify,” he gasped out, his voice dry and hushed. A shadow cast over him, causing him to look up. The pale face of the priest in front of him calmed him, and followed where the man was pointing. Down the sandy slope, there was a river. The water within it was raging, and it looked delicious – cool and refreshing.
He went to move towards it, but his legs gave out. His chest hit the ground and the sand scraped his chin, getting caught in his beard. “Heffchhh!” he sneezed as the hot flecks of sand burnt his skin and he tried to gather his balance. Stumbling more than walking, he finally came to a standstill as he splashed into the water. He startled as the priest who had been at the top of the hill was now before him in the water.
He shivered as the cool water engulfed his heated skin. He felt as though he were steaming, melting in the water. He shivered violently, feeling his legs give out and stomach lurch as the priest pushed him under the water. He was held there for so long he had no choice but to take a gasp of air, which caused him to come out of the water coughing violently. No sooner had he taken another breath than he got plunged back down into it. Only then did he understand that he was feeling the weight of his sins and the priest was washing them away. He hoped it would work. Giving in, he released his spirit into the hands of God.
** Les Miserables**
“Hold him down! Hold him down!” the doctor demanded, as he tried to get a clear pulse reading on Javert. Jea held him up to his chest, trying to hold his arms down as well as his head back. Javert had started to shake violently and his eyes had rolled up into the back of his head.
Sleepily, Colin entered the room, but upon seeing the two men, he ran to the other side of the bed. “Give me the washcloth,” he said, pulling the wet cloth from his grampere Jean and pushing it to his grandpere Javert’s forehead.
With his second arm free, Jean was able to get a more secure hold on Javert. “Come on, Javert,” he whispered. “Don’t do this to us…”
“We have to get his fever down immediately. Nurse!” he barked. “I need ice immediately – don’t even put it in the tub. Colin go help her. The bricks are heavy, but she’ll show you where they are.”
The ‘bricks’, as Colin soon learned, were two foot cubed blocks of ice. As quickly as he could he brought one in, setting it on Javert’s bed as requested. The doctor and Jean rolled Javert onto his side, and placed his body awkwardly around the ice.
** Les Miserables **
Javert shrieked as pain shot through his body, crippling and paralyzing him so that he plunged back into the river. He was certain that he was going to die, and then hoped that he would. The pain sliced through his head and made it hard to focus. As the priest pulled him out of the river, he was unable to take a breath. His ears ached with a ringing that he could not place… something like a bell – like when the remaining tone of a handbell hung on longer than the rest.
He fell to the side limply, and lay on the bank of the river.
“What say you, my son?” the priest asked, standing over him.
“Forgive me my sins. I have learned temperance,” he huffed.
“You let a small boy die,” the priest accused. He pointed across the river.
Javert closed his eyes. He could not look at the multitudes of small boys he had let die over the years.
“You will face that which you allowed to slip into oblivion. The only child whose death you are solely responsible for.”
Considering the demand to be a gift – the gift of being able to look upon his grandson one last time, he opened his eyes.
** Les Miserables**
Javerts’ eyes began to open and the those assembled gasped. “Colin now!” the doctor demanded.
Colin opened Javert’s snuff box and blew the tiniest bit into Javerts face.
The man’s eyes closed, instinctively. “Heffcchh! Esstcschhh!!” he sneezed wetly. He in no way was aware enough to try to cover it and wound up quite unceremoniously sneezed on his grandson’s hand.
Colin withdrew it with a flinch, but picked up the handkerchief to tend to Javerts’ nose.
Another gasping breath and then “Essshkkesshho!” into the handkerchief that Colin continued to hold there. Again he winced at the spray, but didn’t withdraw.
“Let him breathe, lad,” the nurse said, pulling back on Colin’s shoulder a bit. He nodded and pulled back. The hope had been that the sneezing would wake Javert. But, it didn’t seem to work Javert’s eyes started to drift closed again.
Feeling the dead weight of Javert in his arms, Jean swallowed nervously. In all of their years together, Jean had never seen his mate so close to death as this.
** Les Miserables*
The boy across the river was about ten with straggly brown hair that passed his ears and was cut uneven. He wore a blue shirt and gray wool knickers and vest. His socks were torn and shoes scuffed. His features succumbed to sadness as he looked at himself as a young boy. He was a ward of the state by that time, trying desperately to work his way into a place of respect.
“This child died, slipped away…”
“I needed to be an adult in order to survive,” he explained.
“Do you forgive yourself this crime? For allowing this young man to pass into time without so much as a mention?”
“Yes, of course.” This young man was why he felt so desperately responsible for the other young men in his life. The two Gavroches, for Colin, and even Marius and the revolutionaries. All of them were trying to make their mark in the world, and he couldn’t let his own self do the same. It was a different time. He was a different person – not yet a man.
“The passing of your own childhood was not lost to the wind, my son,” the priest said. The kindness, responsibility, and even your inability to allow them to stray from the path as you see it...”
Javert looked at the priest, but he was not there. The river had stopped rushing past, and he was cast into darkness.
** Les Miserables **
Javert’s eyes opened wide and he gasped.
“Again, Colin!” the doctor demanded.
Colin repeated the trick with Javert’s snuff.
“What th-uh, Ekksshooo! Esshhhooo! Ek-ah-Shoo!” Javert sneezed roughly, trying to free his arms. He made a sound of frustration when he could free his arms. “Huh-ehh-Esshsooo! Heh-Eh-Hasshhoo!” His breath came in desperate gasps and he actively tried to get away from Colin when he pressed a handkerchief to his grandpere’s face.
“Jean release him. Colin, let him do it,” the doctor ordered the two of them.
After a few more clearing sneezes, Javert set to clearing his nose and moving his jaw to relieve his ears of the uncomfortable pressure. He sniffed and snorted, trying to get his bearings.
He looked at Colin accusingly. “Why would you do that?” he asked, anger tinging the edges of his voice.
“I told him to. We needed to make sure that you were breathing and the sneezing helped you wake up,” the doctor said, putting his hand on Colin’s shoulder.
Jean and Colin shared a smile. That was more like the Javert they knew.
Jean slipped himself out from behind Javert. “You gave us quite a fright. I didn’t think you were coming back.”
Javert nodded. The self-hatred, self-loathing, and guilt had dissipated. He missed his grandchild, but felt lighter than he had in the longest time. “I wasn’t sure myself.” His voice was rough and he started coughing hoarsely. But, it was not the barking cough that had made him feel so tired and ill.
The group assembled smiled a bit, sharing in the knowledge that the worst had passed.
Javert returns home, but is uncertain about how he will be received.
The final chapter in this snippet. I don't know if tissues are needed, but I'd like to think that they are.
After the darkest night, Javert started to improve – his fever broke, his cough eased, and his appetite returned. Beyond all of the physical responses, however, his will to live seemed to return to him. He was starting to converse with his partner more, and even asked a few ethics questions of Colin. The doctor looked in on him less and less, and before the end of the next week, the doctor had proclaimed him ready to go home.
It was a gray day, not unlike the one where he went into the hospital, and Colin was assisting him with his coat. The coat that had fit him steadfastly since his young life hung awkwardly off of his frame. He had a steady headache and his throat was still sore. He shook as he stood, his muscles tired from disuse, and the physician had fashioned him with a cane.
Jean looked over his partner, whom he had never recalled looking so feeble. Even – maybe especially – in their youth, when he was more slender, he had also been more toned. Never had Jean considered Javert to be a weak man, not by any stretch of the imagination. No matter how many tears were shed; not even with the realization that Javert was a sensitive man with a nearly impenetrable exterior. Not even as ailments stole his strength, or emotions he didn’t know how to handle ravaged his mind. Not even as he gained weight with the comforts afforded to him in his mature years. But, looking at his thin frame, barely able to withstand his own weight, Jean couldn’t see him as anything but that.
He recalled a time when he had lifted the man and carried him like a babe when he was too near death to be handled by anyone else. But, now, he was aware and to do such a thing would embarrass him greatly.
“You’ll talk to your grandpere regarding what I showed you, won’t you?” the doctor asked, walking into the room and addressing Colin.
“Only when necessary,” Colin said, taking Javert from behind the elbow.
“Why are you speaking of me as though I am an invalid? I can hear you, you know,” Javert chastised both.
The physician laughed. “Yes, but your grandson is so protective of you, I had an ethics issue of my own to discuss with him. It’s just a practical application of the work you’ve done with him. Surely you wouldn’t begrudge me that,” the doctor said, shaking Javert’s hand firmly. “Don’t scare me like that again, my friend.”
“Thank you, Julian. I couldn’t have asked for a better doctor, or care. Do tell Emily that I apologize for scaring her.” Javert said, pulling his elbow away from his grandson.
The doctor nodded and clasped his hand over the outside of Javerts. “And, should I come up with a cold case, you’ll be the first I call on,” he promised.
“I expect no less,” Javert said, leaning in slightly.
Ever so slowly, he made his way to the carriage. He passionately hated feeling feeble. And the concerned looks of his family made his heart ache. He wanted to grumble at them, and snap. But, he didn’t have the energy that he once did. He didn’t know if he ever would again. And, they had come to tend to him when he needed them most. Who was he to chastise them, when he would likely be doing the same thing?
Coughing huskily as they got into the carriage, he looked at Jean. “I suppose it’s a good thing that I took ill and not you. I couldn’t have done such a good job caring for you. And I thank you for it. I know you did not want to come.”
Jean swallowed hard against a wave of emotions that came crashing down on him. His eyes flit to Colin, who looked anxiously between the two men, and knocked for the driver to go.
“Of course I wanted to come,” Jean said, clearing his throat roughly.
“You were angry. You wanted someone to punish. I took that blame. I even hurt you a bit in order to bring that anger to the surface,” Javert responded. His voice was steady, calculated.
A pause and then, “My knee. You hit my knee on purpose.” His voice was weak with understanding. He had been played like a harp, having fallen into every trap, gone down every road that Javert set him to. He had always known Javert was brilliant. When they were younger, he loved watching the man puzzle out a case. When they were much younger, he had struggled to keep ahead of the man, often feeling like prey being sniffed out by a wolf.
A nod, which easily blended in with the bouncing around that happened in the carriage. “Don’t feel bad, Jean. I had a lifetime of experience making people think exactly what I wanted them to.” Javert brought a fist to his mouth and coughed harshly into it.
“But, why, grandpere? Why make him think that you’re a villain?” Colin asked innocently.
“Guilt,” Jean answered easily. “Children are allowed to cry to get through their emotions,” he started to explain.
“And men can drink. And grandpere was doing that,” Colin said, with the emphatic innocence of a child.
“Alcohol can take away the pain, but only for a while. And it doesn’t take away the memories,” Javert explained.
“And you were ill on top of it,” Colin whispered.
The whisper concerned Javert and he looked over. Putting a weak, but steady, hand on the lads leg he tried to smile. A sigh. “Colin, I want to thank you for the loyalty you’ve shown me since your brother’s death. You’ve acted more like a man than a young man, and I look forward to writing your letter to the naval academy… when you’re ready.” Bringing the same hand to his mouth, he coughed several times into it. The cough was dry, but harsh.
“Yes, your dedication to your grandpere has been commendable,” Jean agreed, buying Javert a little bit of time. Despite his best intentions, he had no idea the implications of his words.
Colin was going to say something, but thought the better of it. He desperately wanted the past to stay there. And he was too young to know that the past rarely stayed there.
Javert took a deep breath and blew it out hard as the carriage came to the front of the mansion. He never thought that he would be back, and noise sounded hollow in his ears as he was helped out of the carriage. A gentle push at the small of his back had him look up at Jean. I can’t do this, he thought.
Jean smiled as though to say that he could, and gave another small push.
Colin opened the door. “Mother, we’re home, “he called, just right. There was a way to call through the house that he and his siblings had found. A whisper could travel through the house if spoke just over the right floor board.
His mother came in from the dining room, his little sisters in tow. They had grown even though it hadn’t been very long. His father came out of his study, his boots clacking on the floor and spectacles in his hand. One of the arms of his spectacles had folded shut, and he was still holding the letter he had been reading.
“Welcome home,” he said, hugging his son. “How’s your…”
The word died on his lips as Jean helped Javert into the house. The man had lost most of his retirement weight and had nearly come down to the size that Marius remembered him being when he had protected Paris in their respective youth. His jaw dropped open slightly and his mind went blank as he looked at the man that he was certain he would never again see alive.
“Javert,” Cosette’s not quite question floated down the hallway as she moved past her son and husband to embrace him. “Javert you’re home.” Tears of joy flowed down her cheeks, as she hugged him as tightly as she thought he could handle. She pulled away and put her hands on both sides of his face. “You’re still a bit peaky, but you’ll keep,” she said hugging him again. “Children come. Welcome your grandpere. He’s home.” She stepped away as the young ones hugged him around his legs and midsection.
Even as he patted their heads, he looked at Marius. “I apologize for what I said to you Marius. I was not myself.” He stiffened and pulled himself up to his full height, as though he was expecting reproach from a commanding officer. “Am I still welcome in your house?”
The family turned to look at Marius, expectantly. “Of course you are,” he replied graciously, putting out a hand to shake. “We wouldn’t be a complete family without you.”
Javert grasped the hand and nodded, a smile appearing on his face for the first time in weeks.
Chapter 12: Epilogue
2 years and I thought about this frequently. I wanted to close it well... especially since my muse for this fandom waxes and wanes...
Javert winced in his sleep. He could feel the slime of the disease ridden spit touch his cheek. He recalled how disgusting that he felt, and how annoyed he had been at… Jean… yes, but Cosette had thought it was her… He winced again, the fear of Cosette being gone… his fever dreams that he had harmed herself… grandchildren. There were grandchildren, playing… one less. He was … cold… dying… but no when he had been dying, he had been so hot, so warm… dripping sweat and full of sadness for failing, although he was nothing of a medical man, but the family… he twitched again. A hand on his shoulder… his face… the spit.
“No!” Javert exclaimed as he startled awake, throwing an arm out to ward off that bastard Thenardier. It didn’t connect and he looked around, wide-eyed, until his vision focused enough for him to relax. “Jean… are you all right?” he asked, out of breath.
“Yes,” Jean said clearly, as he leaned up on his good arm. His primary shoulder had started giving him trouble as of late, but not enough to worry about. Although Javert had quite recovered from his illness, the family still worried about him. He had become quiet… tired. He had always valued his solitude and secrets, but he would fall to sleep at the dinner table. He struggled to keep up with conversations. It was as though he was closer to the veil of death than he would ever admit.
Their grandson, Colin, had brought up that the doctor thought that Javert would be best suited for a wheelchair. He had approached the family, quaking at the knees, afraid of his grandpere’s wrath. The fact was that for longer distances, it made perfect sense, and in a matter of weeks, Javert could get around most distances with a cane.
Colin nearly never left his side until recently when he had made good friends with a young lady down the lane. The family was healing from their loss, and Javert was learning to forgive himself.
“What was your dream?” Jean asked, leaning back onto the pillows, and reaching out to allow Javert to rest his head on his shoulder.
“Thenardier… when he licked his handkerchief and touched my face… it was,” smelly, dirty, “disgusting.”
“Thenardier? They’ve been dead for many years. What made you think of them?”
A small shake of his head. “It wasn’t a pleasant dream. I don’t want to think on it.”
“You’re safe. The family is safe. Think on it… if someone were to break in… how far do you think they would get? Marius? You? Me?”
“We’re not as spry as we once were…”
“No, but I’m strong, you’re loud, and Marius is a damn good shot.”
“I love you,” Javert whispered. Words that he very rarely said. But, this was his family, his life, and he wouldn’t trade it for all of this world… or the other. He’d made a promise after all.