He feels the brand being burnt straight onto his skin, hot in a way nothing has ever been before. He was too sensible a child to go close to the fire and too hard-working an adult to be touched by the sun (that, and if he doesn’t go in the sun he stays paler than his mother’s skin, but that is an irrelevancy next to the work he must do.)
It’s so hot it’s cold at first, this springtime day that he’s spending behind a desk, sudden freezing across his chest, like nothing he’s known.
It’s not the first pain he’s felt that wasn’t his but it’s the first he hasn’t been able to ignore and push aside. He has no interest in things like that. Little scrapes and cuts that he could almost call his own, if he spent more time chasing criminals and less studying to be able to do so. Often he feels a familiar biting hunger that he only realises belongs to someone else after he’s tried to sate it.
It’s so hot it’s cold. And then it isn’t. And then he’s burning.
(And he knows what it means, that the burn is there, that the burn is all at one, that the burn is in lines he can almost see from the flaring red heat in his – mind.)
He wonders every time a prisoner passes him what they might feel from him.
(And then he sneers at them and know it to be disdain, and only ever that, for France is full of criminal men and the only ones who are anything to do with him are the ones he watches over.)
The first warning is the ache in his shoulders. He nods because he has been working hard and the weight of it is heavy, and then he ignores it.
And then he sees the mayor lift the cart.
(And, oh, how he’s admired Monsieur Madeline these past months. His truth, and his honesty, and his kindness, which is not a thing he has ever been known to admire before; but in Madeline it almost pains him, how kind he is.)
The way Made-Valj-24601 stares at the whore, Javert almost wonders if he can feel her dying. The thought, unexpectedly, twinges.
He feels the burn of the ropes and the sting of failure and not the old heat from the brand or the strain in the shoulders or the ache of age or the desperate beat of his heart as he sees his old nemesis again and knows that he is going to die tonight in a way he hadn’t known when the student had held a gun to his head.
He feels Valjean’s fingers skin his wrists as he cuts the rope and lets it fall, and it burns the same way the brand had so many years ago.
He looks at Valjean’s face in embarrassment and whatever witchcraft is going on inside him, whatever curse he’s been left with from his blood, the convict seems to feel none of it.
(Which he knew, of course, already.)
In a way, it’s nice to know that Jean Valjean will not feel him die.
He thought he might make it; even through the heartache of losing Cosette, he’d brought the boy back, and the boy was alive and Cosette was happy and there was a great gaping hole inside of him that he’d never felt before and could not fill and he thinks he must be dying but it must be the pain of knowing that Cosette will never want to see him again once she knows his past, it must be, it must be,
It must. He’s never felt anyone else’s pain before. Not once.)