Aber wenn ich könnte wie ich wollte würde ich gar nichts wollen

FIC: Ecce Homo [Les Misérables]

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Loes Valthen

FIC: Ecce Homo [Les Misérables]

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So there was this kinkmeme prompt that looked at me, and I was half wondering if I could pull it off, and then I just tried. It's really more of an experiment and (ahem) takes Hugo’s religious imagery to a new level, but I think that experiments are always good. The prompt asked for Javert with self-inflicted stigmata, so, beware all the symbolism.

Ecce Homo (3040 words) by Esteliel
Fandom: Les Misérables - Schönberg/Boublil, Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
Rating: Teen And Up Audiences
Characters: Javert (Les Misérables), Jean Valjean
Additional Tags: Kink Meme, Stigmata (Freeform), Religious Imagery & Symbolism, Blood, Alternate Universe - Javert Survives
Summary: That night in Paris, Javert does not jump. Instead, he tries to grapple with the notion of mercy, compassion, a God above the law in typical Javert-fashion.

There is darkness above and below him. Above, the sky; vast blackness without stars. Below, the cold waters of the Seine. There is a loud roar in his ears. The wind is already reaching out with greedy fingers for his soul.

He is hollow, an empty container. No soul resides in his chest. For the first time he is aware of that emptiness as a stain instead of a commendation.

He climbs onto the parapet. The stone is firm beneath him; upon that firmness, he trembles. Above himself, he feels a terrible presence, something greater than the law, something his mind cannot grasp to understand. He is slowly crushed against a mercy as hard as diamond, until his body dissolves, forced against a grate that tears away flesh and blood until his soul alone kneels there in the darkness, a small, shameful thing that trembles in its nakedness beneath an ever-seeing eye.

There is no resignation when you are pinned beneath the gaze of your superior. If there is no resignation, what path is left?

Penance, he thinks numbly. Punishment. If it is he who broke the laws of this superior, then he should suffer as any criminal he has brought to justice. To resign from this existence would be to try and flee his conviction.

Existence is a hot breath tearing cruelly at his raw, new soul as he strides the empty streets of Paris with the resignation of the chaingang. The wood of his raw heart is green; a life sentence. The doors to the cathedral are unlocked, he does not question this. He kneels on the cold stone, his bare head bowed; within, he is filled with terror at the gaze of the man on the cross above him.

He does not understand, no more than he understood when he stood there, between the river and the sky, pinned in place by God's unfathomable mercy, far grander and more cruel than the convict's mercy had been.

He tries to pray, but although his lips move, he cannot produce words. His soul curls up inside him in fear, newborn, infant-soft skin flinching from the lashing of his conscience. He cannot pray. He can only kneel, deaf and mute as his soul writhes within him. For a moment, he wishes it could be torn out, a bleeding heart cut from a corpse, a child torn from the mother's womb. The birth-pains ripple through him, and at last he is prostrate, praying without voice, lost in terror and fear as his soul tries to eat itself.

There is darkness. He has always known it; the filth he crawled from is the garden of Hell. He has seen darkness in every face, in every theft, in every murder noted down orderly in ledgers. Now, he sees that he himself is a thing of darkness, shrivelled and empty inside, charred with the tar of the Hell he had sought to guard society from.

There is no wrong, no right. There is the hand of God that holds him, squeezes until he cannot breathe, and he looks up, pleading, tears falling from his eyes like the blood that runs from the wounds of the man on the cross above him. Still he prays, not for forgiveness, not for redemption, not even for death. The soul within him screams, a new-born without the breast of a mother. There is nothing but the plea. To live, when he knows he is the demon, when a convict is a saint! When a hundred, a thousand voices begged at his feet, and those were not demons but condemned by him to Hell nevertheless! To think himself above God, above the law; to judge and condemn and think himself virtuous when he was Pilate, never to be washed clean from the stain upon him!

The man above him watches. The eyes beneath the crown of thorns are the eyes of a convict, the eyes of a saint, and Javert feels himself judged, and found wanting, and again and again he stretches out his hands in a wordless plea, trying to think of where he could have gone differently. There is no answer, just the unbearable mercy of a God who will not accept his death, a saint who will not accept his surrender.

He has no defence against the torments that pierce him. The roar of the wind is still in his ears; it seems to him it is the sound of the fires of Hell. He reaches out again, grasps at unfeeling stone, raises his head that has the weight of the world to stare without understanding at the man above him, who seems more terrible than anything he has ever beheld. A saviour, but he cannot be saved. He is not lost; he turned his back on the flock of sheep. He is no lamb to be carried to safety; he is the watch dog, doing the shepherd’s bidding; when he fails to do his work, there is no further use for him.

He shudders under that gaze of merciless compassion, feels the awareness of his sins gain ever greater weight until the air is crushed from him. He cannot breathe. He tears at his cravat, imagining his hands the claws of the wolf, stained red with the blood of sheep. No basin for Pilate to wash this blood from his hands; the sin that crushes him is his own, and mercy is for the lamb, not the dog that took such savage joy in the downfall of the flock it was to guard.

He sees Valjean emerge from the bowels of Hell, carrying the cross: that bloodied, dirtied lamb he has dragged through the sewers safe in his arms.

He raises his hands into his hair, tears at it in torment, knowing himself damned: it is Valjean on the cross now, his faced twisted in agony, Valjean with blood dripping from his brow where a cudgel hit his head. There is Valjean tied to the post in Toulon, Valjean suffering; there Javert is in his uniform, holding the lash, holding the spear that pierces his side; there is the blood staining his hand, there is the sin that can never be washed away, and through it all, Valjean's eyes watch him steadily, infinitely gentle, and Javert who cannot lie cannot bear the truth of what he sees.

He raises himself to his knees. His body is shaking; his heart is raw and new, and the old, withered wood inside aches with the green sap that forces itself through bone-dry veins. He looks at his hands. His skin is worn with age, grey with dust, and the small wrinkles and lines seem as numerous as his sins. There is no blood, he thinks numbly, but he does not need to see it to know the truth of the blood that even now is dripping from his claws. The man above him sees it, with his eyes that are those of a convict, with his pierced hands and feet and body that bleed until Javert feels himself drowning in that man's innocence, and his own guilt is like lead in his veins that drags him downwards until he knows he will choke on his own sin.

He raises his hands in front of his face. He sees Valjean suffering, and with him the face of every man, every woman, every child that suffered because of his deeds. There are many: hundreds, thousand, and always, always, the faces transform back into that worn, gentle countenance of the man he hunted. That same exhausted gentleness looks down at him now from the cross, and he bows his head under the weight of that gaze, clenches his hands.

A sob breaks free at last, and he clenches his hands harder, tries to clench around that aching, raw heart that cannot stop feeling, that even now threatens to shatter at the way it is ground against the unyielding diamond of mercy, and he does not know how to stop himself from feeling. How does one feel like this and yet live, with this unbearable agony that makes every thought, every decision a nightmare of uncertainty, a step in the darkness with a chasm looming deep and dark before him?

His hands take hold of his knife. It is cold and hard against his skin. This is the physical and the certain that once kept his mind safely shut away from that unfathomable infinity hanging above him. Steel forged by man, it is the iron driven into that man's hands, and Javert raises his face to look at him, shuddering beneath the gaze of the convict as the blade penetrates his skin. The pain as it pierces his palm entire is almost enough to overcome the roar of his sin in his ears. His hand does not tremble as he pulls the knife out again, though there is darkness at the edge of his vision. Blood drips slowly from the wound; the hilt of the knife is slick with it as he clenches it in that pierced hand. He is very calm as he drives the blade through his other hand. The pain is warmth spreading through his blood, and it is a little easier now to meet the man's gaze. He pulls the knife free; it falls to the floor, forgotten, as his blood flows freely. He holds his hands out, feeling lighter with every heavy drop that splashes against the cathedral's cold stone; he knows it is not his sin that flows out of him, for his hands will forever be stained, but there is a certain peace in contemplating that man's suffering now, in thinking about Valjean going to a thousand martyr's deaths.

He kneels before the cross, facing the impossibility of an infinite mercy and compassion that cannot be escaped – he, the dog, forever outside of society, is not outside of this, though by his actions he has long tried to prove himself untouched by it. This superior who stands above the only superior he has ever known, who will not accept his resignation, who raises those he had thought eternally damned to the gutter, who condemns those the laws of society told him to bow before, this superior towers above him, fills his entire vision, and if he prays, it is now simply a child's plea for understanding as it is tossed into a world it does not know.

Javert knows that this is no superior to grant him answers, laws, orders and guidelines. He has watched Valjean all his life. There are no laws that guide Valjean's actions. There are no answers that can be demanded of him. He has seen Valjean suffer; he wonders if there is an answer in that. His own blood keeps dripping from the wounds in his hands, and the scent of it is familiar, coppery and thick. There is no answer in it, but a moment of respite, the roar in his ears is dulled by the warm throb of his veins, and although it is not the stasis of order his mind was once used to, after the terror that sheer existence has been for his new-born conscience, existence, awareness is almost bearable now.

He does not think of the future. It is all he can do to bear the weight of the present, to find a way to balance beneath the weight of a universe of sin that weighs upon his shoulders. It crushes him still, but somehow, he keeps breathing despite the agony of a mind torn apart by doubt, he keeps feeling despite the way the notions of mercy, compassion, redemption bury ever deeper into his heart like shards of glass.

He knows then that it is his heart that bleeds, that these are the nails that pierce his hands. He does not understand; he does not wonder if understanding will come later. He allows himself to bleed; he allows his heart to weep; he cannot understand mercy, but he knows that it is. It is enough, for now, to be.

Time passes slowly. He feels himself pinned in infinity by the eyes beneath that crown of thorns. He sees the blood drip eternally from the wounds. Many faces look down at him, but always, always there is Valjean. When at last the first light of dawn paints the stained glass in brilliance, someone kneels by his side, and hands take hold of his with a gentleness he has not known before. He is not surprised when he sees that Valjean has come to kneel before him, though he bows his head and trembles to see his Saviour leave the cross to touch his hand. He cannot speak. He cannot move. The fingers touch his wounds with infinite gentleness, and he weeps.

He knows he cannot make amends for his sins. All his life he has erred. That soul-crushing awareness weighs on him as heavily as the cross, but when his Saviour speaks his name, he shudders to hear pain in it at the pain he himself bears.

It is too much. But he can no longer deny compassion. He has rejected it in his pride when Valjean held his life in his hand and released him, but still his shepherd has come to look at him with gentle eyes. He knows now that mercy cannot be rejected, and when his Saviour speaks his name again, he looks up at him with the quiet surrender that is all he can offer now in response to such unfathomable mercy.

“Javert. Javert, what happened?”

His pierced hands rest in the hands of Valjean. He does not need to put his finger into the print of the nails to know that it is not his own blood that stains those hands. He has no answer to the question; instead he takes hold of Valjean's hands to press a kiss to those palms in reverence. His eyes are closed; he finds that he is still weeping. For a moment, he is drawn closer, resting against that dear chest, lost son returned at last to be met with unquestioning love.

Later, cloth is wrapped around his bleeding hands; he does not resist, just watches with quiet wonder as this man weeps for him. The fabric is white, but soon stained red with blood. The stigmata are blessed with a kiss, and he trembles at the thought that this man should kiss his wounds.

“Forgive me.” His voice is soft and rough, as if he has knelt here for years. Yet that is not right; he should not ask for this. He has come to realise this one thing, at least. Forgiveness is not something he need ask for. It is there, that mercy has always been offered him. It is easy to ask forgiveness, he knows at last; the difficulty lies in accepting it when it is so freely offered.

“When I stood upon the bridge, when I realized the weight of my sin – when the very notion of redemption, of mercy seemed to crush me, when I knew at last that there was no escape from it, for you were everywhere, above the order I had sought to defend, when I knew that I had defied you, that I could not go on defying that Superior, and yet could not fathom a way to serve you as I once served a lower authority – I thought to commit another sin then, to resign from this existence I could not understand, where a convict is a saint, where a police spy walks the path of Hell.”

There is a distant shame in that confession still, but greater is the shame at seeing pain in those eyes that even now watch him with almost unbearable compassion. He does not run from it; he forces himself to suffer it now like the marks of the nails. Even now, his terror at this world is hard to put into words.

“I did not resign. I left the bridge and came to your house, and I looked at your face, and your wounds, and in my own torment at last I realized that I could bear it. That I could not understand your compassion, that with every breath I take, doubt tears at me like the claws of wolves – but that it is still possible to live in such confusion and pain, and that I cannot refuse to bear this pain after seeing your own suffering.”

A hand rests gently on his head in blessing, blood warm and sticky against his brow. Anointed, he bows his head, allows himself to be drawn close again. A kiss is pressed to his brow; he who has walked outside of grace is held and hushed like a child. This is mercy, he thinks in wonder. Even now he cannot accept forgiveness, but he knows it is there. He need but reach out to take what is freely offered.

“Come home, Javert. Sleep. Rest. Tomorrow we shall talk.”

Obediently, he allows himself to be raised. He follows the man through the quiet streets of Paris. The light of the sun is young and pale upon them, drops of blood glisten where the crown of thorns has pierced the man's brow. The sun rises higher, the light ages, and so does the man next to him. When they stop in front of a house, Valjean looks at him with quiet worry, his hair white, his skin unblemished. Javert's wounds throb warmly with an insistence he is starting to realize is pain. Valjean takes his arm, rests a hand against his cheek. Javert closes his eyes at the touch. His fingertips are rough; yes, this is Valjean. Has it always been Valjean who came to save him?

“Forgive me,” he says again, realizing too late that once more, forgiveness is offered unquestioningly with the touch. “I am still lost. I have always been lost.”

“No one is ever lost completely,” Valjean says, and he smiles, and Javert looks at the wrinkles that line the corners of his eyes and draws a deep breath. Yes. This is Valjean. Just Valjean. Humbly, he bows his head before the man, then follows his shepherd inside.

Entry originally posted to DW: http://esteliel.dreamwidth.org/427713.html (comment count unavailablecomments). Comments are welcome in either place.
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