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we are all of us defined by our actions

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Valjean's first thought was that the resemblance was stunning - his second, that there was a perfectly simple explanation for this seemingly so inexplicable phenomenon.

Unfortunately, by that time, he had already sat down and gestured at one of the 'waitresses' to bring him a drink. And so am I justly punished for my hastiness.

Javert looked ill-pleased to see him, which was unusual. Dislike, yes, always, but it generally came mixed with something hot and fierce; the hound having caught the scent of the fox once more.

Not that I am feeling especially fox-like at the moment.

"Inspector," he said, and Javert's hand grasped his wrist, and there was something in his eyes now.

"Jean Valjean," Javert said, nearly whispering. It lent his voice a strange tone of intimacy. Also, it would appear he is, in fact, capable of addressing my by my name, rather than by a number. "If you value your life, you will not refer to me by that title."

The iron of his chains had been cold and heavy; Javert's hand, by contrast, was warm and light. Doubtlessly, Javert considered his grip to be firm, and strong, but Valjean knew he might break it as easily as an egg.

"Not here in an official capacity, then." It filled him with an odd mixture of disappointment and contentment, this discovery that Javert, too, was human. Flawed. One who frequents places such as this one, looking for a night's company.

Best to leave early, then; Valjean had no wish to struggle against a desire to commit violence against another man simply for the offense of having caught Javert's eye.

"Why else would I be here, but for duty?" Javert released his wrist as the 'waitress' deposited their drinks in front of them.

"For pleasure?"

Javert sneered. "I am looking for a man."

As is everyone else here. "Not me."

"I don't need to look for you," Javert said. "Sooner or later, you always pop up. Until then, I am content to occupy myself with others who have broken the law and need to be punished for it."

You are not a very good liar. "Well, I wish you the best of luck, and good evening." No one here knew his address; that should buy them a day, at least. Some time to pack and plan.

Javert rose, his hand on Valjean's shoulder this time. "Sit down."

Several people were looking at them - fights being somewhat of an unusual occurence, due to the nature of the establishment. The somewhat less than legal nature of this establishment.

Were he to spill the beans, so to speak, Javert should consider himself lucky if he were to reach his office alive. I should not speak if I value my life? I do not believe it is mine that is in danger at the moment.

Valjean sat down. "Who are you looking for?"

"It is no affair of yours," Javert said. "You only need to sit, quietly."

"This is not a place where people come to sit quietly." This is not a place where two men will sit at the same table quietly. Without touching one another. He had laid hands on Javert only once, during their fight. He imagined doing so now - Javert would hardly dare to protest, given their circumstances.

And how much more might I do, with him unwilling to speak out for fear of being known for who he is? An ill-tasting notion; Valjean attempted to dismiss it from his mind.

"You sat down at my table," Javert said. "Your expression - your familiarity with me will make it easy for people to assume you are involved with me in some way."

"I will not - " Valjean started, then reconsidered. I will not see an innocent men dragged to the gallows, or put in chains. "This man you are looking for - what has he done?" Would I see a guilty man treated so? Would I stand by and let such a man get away?

"It is no affair of yours," Javert said, again.

"Did he steal some bread?"

Javert made no reply and pretended to sip from his drink.

This is also not a place where people come to drink. "I will not aid you, unless you tell me."

"I do not require your aid," Javert said. "Merely your company. For the moment."

"Why not someone else? There are others here; they might serve your purpose as well."

Someone entered, before Javert could make a reply. Correction: two someones. One of them seemed only half-conscious at best, and in somewhat poor shape. The other seemed likely to be responsible for that. The room at large appeared to be at peace with this state of affairs, or at least disinclined to step in.

Javert's face tightened. Merely my company. For the moment. "Someone you know?"

"I am armed," Javert said, rising slowly. "Do not get in my way."

"You are alone," Valjean said. Javert's shoulder felt comfortable under his hand. "There are many people here who are armed." I am not one of them, alas.

"Then what do you propose? That I stand by idly and do nothing?"

That would kill you as surely as a bullet. "Wait," Valjean said. "Have some patience."

Javert grimaced. "Remove your hand from my shoulder."

"Make me." It was such a small thing. Nearly insignificant. Valjean wondered how many people touched Javert every day, without getting this sort of reaction. Perhaps none.

Perhaps, in his own way, for his own reasons, he is as touch-starved as I am.

"Remove your hand," Javert repeated. Perhaps he is simply much better at hiding it.

"Sit," Valjean ordered, somewhat taken aback when Javert did, in fact, sit down.

The man who had come in walking on his own two feet spoke to one of the 'waitresses' who giggled and then nodded, disappearing upstairs. The man who had been dragged in curled up in a corner and seemed in no danger of getting worse violence inflicted upon him.

"Sooner or later, they will know who I am," Javert said. "This will not end well for you."

"Thank you for the warning." As if I needed it. Still, it was a courtesy. A gesture. Javert likely meant nothing by it - in much the same way he meant nothing by anything he said or did.

Everything is fraught with meaning for him. No small crimes, no small-time criminals. You are either a respectable citizen, on the right side of the law, or you are a criminal. Pure and simple.

"I do not wish you dead," Javert said.

Does that count as a confession of affection? Surely not. "Nor I you. Hence, my recent actions."

"Death is not the punishment the law has determined for your crimes. Hence, mine."

Because God forbid that I should assume this is anything at all personal. "Your man may be in need of a hospital. Or at the very least a doctor."

"You are not telling me anything I was unaware of before," Javert said.

"We need a distraction."

"Again, I am armed," Javert said. "Your brute physical strength paired with my pistol may well suffice to allow us to depart from here mostly unscratched."

"Leaving your man here." There was the rub, of course. Not that I'd have given a sou for our odds, previously. Nor would Javert, clearly; he'd not be behaving so meekly, else.

"You can carry him," Javert said.

"Not if someone's stabbing me in the back while I do so," Valjean said. Javert's face flushed red. "Or the leg, or the shoulder," he added. "Or some other part of my body." He'd hardly intended to suggest Javert would betray him; what would be the point? Especially if he'd be carrying one of Javert's agents.

"People leave here for two reasons." And come here for only a single one. "They've either found someone, or they haven't."

"Aside from the obvious, that still leaves us with the problem of taking him with us," Javert said.

"I'm sorry, what is the obvious?"

"I am not a professional actor," Javert said, apparently forgetting the part where he had come here pretending to be something other than a loyal servant of the law. "Neither are you. I doubt we might convince anyone that we are experiencing some sort of intense, uncontrollable physical lust for one another."

"Abstinence works wonderfully well to sharpen one's appetites in that region," Valjean said. "Or so I have found. Hardly uncontrollable, I grant you, but still."

Do you think of me, at night?

"You would do well to control them, indeed," Javert said. His expression was disapproving.

Does my face haunt your dreams, the way yours does mine? Javert's was the face of the law, of course; it was only natural that Valjean should feel haunted by it. Hunted.

Desired. "I am all control."

"Good." Javert glanced over to the corner where his agent lay. The man appeared to have passed out, which might make carrying him a great deal easier.

"Do you have a plan, then?"

Javert lifted his drink to his lips. "You will take him outside. Pretending his weight is too great for you to do anything but drag him - which you will do carefully. After, you will come back inside. We shall appear to leave together; once outside, you will pick him up, and we shall head back to my offices."

Where I will be arrested for my good deed? Javert would not see anything strange in it, naturally. It's unlikely he'll even thank me.

"Is this plan clear to you?" Javert asked.

"Crystal," Valjean said, rising. "I'll simply tell them that I want to take out the trash, shall I?"

That got a few laughs, at least - if not from Javert, obviously. Valjean did not know if Javert ever laughed, or even smiled, happy at the sight of a particularly beautiful dawn, or a flower, or a young girl, running wild as young girls might.

Javert rose as he returned, his face betraying annoyance, impatience. He reached for Valjean imperiously, as if it were his right. As if he has me in chains again already. The thought should have made the action repugnant, but somehow failed to do so.

Valjean assumed it might be because Javert chose to kiss him at that moment - an annoyed, impatient kiss from an annoyed, impatient man. And yet it warms my blood.

He imagined Javert would want to break away quickly, and get to his man; as a result, he very nearly tripped over Javert's feet which were not moving nearly so quickly as Valjean had expected. If anything, Javert seemed to linger, to take an unusual, nearly unconscionable amount of time to cross the distance from their table to the door, which they eventually passed through, spilling out into the cool night.

Javert shivered, once, as Valjean left him to pick up the wounded man, who was still unconscious.

Well, and why not? It's a chilly night. "Whereto?" Valjean asked, and Javert blinked once, as if waking from a dream, then nodded curtly and turned to lead the way.