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It happens most often on the rare bright afternoons. Jane takes her basket and gloves outside and a wide-brim straw bonnet and bends over the roses, snipping here and there, bringing in perfect just-opening blooms, petals just beginning to unfurl, so her husband can smell them. They were a present on the first anniversary of their marriage, the rose-bushes, lovingly transported and planted, and a present by which she was exceedingly pleased. If she takes too long, Edward strays outside, walking slowly, and when she just glances at him, so quick she doesn't see the scars, she feels, so fleetingly, like they're playing a game of blind man's bluff, like the hand held wardingly out in front of him will find and fist into the warm fabric of her dress, and then his deep, expressive eyes will open and gaze into hers. That he will see her, clear and perfect, as he did the first day they met.

And they will not. She is his eyes now.

And much better, she thinks sometimes, when she places her palm over her sleeping husband's heart and lets its reassuring pulse lull her back to sleep, Edward's eyes than St. John's hands.

She is never so cruel as to let him wander without the reassurance of her voice, but the way he can find her is uncanny, as though he is following that string he once claimed was knotted between their ribs. It has survived fire, madness, and heartbreak, survived the circumstances of his former life and his lies and her own wandering in the wilderness, when she wanted nothing more than oblivion. He claims he can feel her like a glow against his skin, even when they are rooms or entire stories apart, and in a way she feels his own absence from her side, like the strange pain he sometimes feels in the hand he has lost.

It is the spring, and the weather is just as temperamental as Edward. Clouds rush across the sky, casting patches of the grass in bright, almost painful sunlight, other patches in perfect deep shadow. Jane finishes her collecting and slips her gloves off to open the back door, and when one of the roses begins to slip out of her basket, she reaches for it without thinking.

A thorn pricks her squarely in the pad of her thumb, and her brow knits as she watches a drop of deep red blood bloom on her flesh.

She slips her thumb between her lips and there's something almost smoky in the taste of her blood, and she shivers.

--

Jane prefers no frills or frippery, but when last Mary mended a tear in her plain linen nightdress, Edward somehow persuaded her to add some lace at the neck and sleeves. Mary, knowing her mistress, chose a sturdy band of lace for the project, not the silk or satin or gossamer Edward pretends to imagine her in.

But she understands. He sees most often with his fingertips, and lace is not color or embroidery; lace is as easy to understand as her breathless voice when she whimpers his name, her body wrapped around his in the dark comfort of their bed. And it is for that reason alone that Jane, on their last trip to London and the regular visit to the modiste, requested a finespun chemise along with her usual utilitarian dresses, and the one formal gown Edward demands of her, despite their relative seclusion. The expense made her feel extravagant and vulgar, and putting the frivolous chemise on for the first time required winning a small battle with herself, but the expression on her husband's face when his fingertips had stroked her through the fabric, finding the ribbon and lace trim the modiste had insisted on including and Jane had nearly ripped off in trepidation—the look on his face made it all worth it.

I would have given it all up for you, she whispered one night soon after their wedding, in a darkness so deep it kept them both sightless. I would have bound myself to you, would have languished with you in some tropical clime until you grew tired of me. I would have grown wings for you and flown us to that solitary moon.

And he just stroked her hair, silent until she thought he was too exhausted to have heard her.

And I am so selfish, my love, that I would have bound your tender heart in a birdcage and kept it for my own.

She closed her eyes and thought of St. John, another man who would have claimed her heart to keep as his. But, she can't help but think, at least Edward had never claimed to hear God for her. Jane is his eyes and she is his penitent; he has won her now, and no punishment that leaves the two of them whole and together can hurt him anymore.

Then Edward's lips found her neck, the bristles of his mustache and his stubbled cheeks brushing against the pale tender flesh, and it was her turn to lace her fingers through his hair, her cheeks warming as she imagined the rough texture of his stubbled chin rubbing against even more tender flesh.

--

But tonight, though she waits as long as she can to succumb to sleep, the rhythmic pulse of her husband's heart in the cup of her ear still pulls her there anyway.

She dreams of Thornfield, and she is so far from the naive decorous girl who responded to Mrs. Fairfax's advertisement for a governess—she's half-naked, in her husband's arms, after all—but that quiet laugh in the dark, the smell of smoke, still sends a terrible shiver down her spine. She knows Edward's there but she can't find him; his room is empty, hearth cold, bed made as though it has never been touched.

Slowly she turns, her gaze rising to the ceiling, to the direction of the laughter, and her eyes widen, her heart grows sick. He's up there. She knows he's up there, that the feral raging woman in the attic has him again.

But Thornfield is empty, save the three of them, and every door to the attic is locked. In a panic she opens a window, clawing up the rough stone, her heart in her throat, and the pale moon of a snarling face appears in the windowpane once she pulls herself level with the attic story. She almost loses her grip, but Edward, Edward's there and he will be lost to her forever, she came so close to losing him forever.

Her fingers are sore and aching, her nails torn and bloody, once she pulls herself up and over the windowsill. She's in the room where she nursed Mason, pressing against the torn flesh of his shoulder, waiting for Edward to return and certain that whatever injured Mason would come for her first. She finds the door again, the one he made her swear not to open.

And when it swings open, she's in the red room again—

Jane opens her eyes and immediately sits up, barely able to strangle the hysterical scream rising in her chest down to a desperate whimper. She doesn't wish to wake her husband or the rest of their household, not with something so foolish as this. The panic of her nightmare lingers, even as the vision of it fades, and she compulsively drags the pads of her thumbs over her smooth, unbroken fingernails. Her brow knits, and she hisses quietly in pain when she inadvertently rubs against the scabbed-over wound on her thumb.

Edward moves, stirring slowly beside her. "Jane?" he murmurs, his voice thick with sleep.

"Here," she murmurs, trying to slow her heart before she relaxes back into his arms. She tries not to hate or fear her dreams, but on nights like tonight, it's hard to pretend they don't hurt her. Just thinking about the red room when she's perfectly calm and entirely conscious, in full daylight, is enough to send a shiver down her spine. On a night like tonight, when the darkness around them seethes with formless wraiths, it leaves her distracted by such irrational panic.

The usual trace of smoke lingers in the house, from the cold fireplaces, the candle at their bedside. She can still taste it, though, like ashes in her mouth.

"Jane," he whispers again, more tenderly, and she only notices the fine tremble in her limbs when he cups her cheek. Everything else begins to creep in again: the masculine scent of him, of his musky sweat and soap and the cotton of his nightshirt. The vase of roses she left on the small table nearest the window, so the sun's rays could fall on them at first light, a subtle note in the air. The water from the pitcher and basin at their bedside.

Mustiness. Mold and dust, the sour smell of mice the cat hasn't yet caught.

She is still a woman in the grips of a dream, and that alone explains what she does. She sits up again, gently extracting herself from his arms, and as soon as her skin loses contact with his, her heart's thundering against the cage of her ribs again. She leans down and kisses him close-mouthed, fingers lightly stroking down his arm before she tosses back the covers.

She can't be inside. Not right now, not tonight. Oh God, the smoke, the damned smoke...

She opens the window and Edward follows her wordlessly. She guides his good hand to the windowsill so he can judge the distance and when they both climb through, out into the night air, her bare feet are chilled but she doesn't mind it. Digging her toes into the grass and earth seems to ground her.

A rough-hewn bench was placed near the edge of the garden for her, wide and long enough to accommodate them both, and she leads him there by the brilliant moonlight alone. She's thankful that tonight she wears her longer gown; not that Mary would be any less scandalized at the sight of them in the garden in such a state, but the short chemise would certainly mark her as wanton.

She is wanton, for him. She denied it a long time, but oh, this man, he makes her reckless.

A few wisps of hair have come free of her long braid, and the wind blows them against her cheek, ticklish as she sits down. Edward feels for the arm of the bench before he lowers himself; he's very cautious, and both of them are moving like sleepwalkers. He sits with his good hand palm-up between them and she takes a breath before she matches her palm to his. Her fingers look so slender and delicate against his much larger hand.

In naked starlight Jane feels that her body, her consciousness, all of her swells to fill the quiet stillness around her. She is vast, ineffable, and while her husband shares the night with her, in the depths of this silence they are each alone.

Then, once she's closer to her equilibrium again, Edward laces his fingers through hers. "Moonlight," he murmurs. "Of course my dear fairy-woman is in her element in the moonlight."

Jane shakes her head. That unrest in her remembers endless nights on a freezing moor, so desperate and desolate, her stomach a lump of grief and ravenous hunger. It is a part of her life she doesn't like to remember, but one she can't quite bring herself to forget, either. She walked away and he did not find her, and she was both grateful for and devastated by that failure.

But now, they have both passed through the test and emerged. Just like that knotted string between them, their lives are inexorably entwined, and she knows now, just as she knew from the moment she admitted to herself the depth of her feelings for him, that this is where they were meant to be.

Especially now. The courses she expected two weeks ago have not come, and she has mentioned it to no one, not even the man beside her—and if he noticed, he has not mentioned it to her either. If they are blessed with a child, he will be able to feel petal-soft skin under his good fingertips, but he will not be able to truly see the son or daughter he has engendered within her. He will not be able to see the delight on their daughter's face whenever he brings home a petit cadeau, or the toothless grin of glee on their son's face as he takes his tottering first steps.

But maybe he will. Through her eyes.

Jane takes a deep breath, lacing her fingers between his. "But, my dear Edward, we are not in moonlight," she murmurs. "We are on the moon."

"So we have finally made it here, my love?"

"Mmm," she nods. "It has been a very long journey, and we are the first."

He blinks clouded eyes at the silvered, shadowed garden around them, as though imagining that blasted pale landscape. She knows that only the moon would be distinct enough to his obscured vision, from what he has told her. "Tell me about it, my witch-woman."

"It is all white and grey here, and the strangest flowers grow. They crumble to dust at the brush of a fingertip. Where we have landed the air is still and distantly we can see the earth, very small."

"And what do the moonlings wear?"

"They are very shy; they hide in their caves."

"Where shall we live, Jane? Beside a field of stone roses, snug and secure in our cave? Because it is cold on the moon, and we have no luggage; and I shall need something to keep me warm..."

Edward's face is turned toward hers, and she lets herself imagine, for just a brief second, that he sees her. He did not see the joy on her face, so terrible it nearly cracked her in half, on their wedding day; he did not see her on their wedding night. He has never seen Jane as his wife.

And they are clothed in night, and utterly alone.

But she has to swallow hard before she marshals the strength to do what she does next. She slips her gown up and rests her hand on his shoulder as she swings over him, her knees on either side of his hips.

"Then I will oblige you," she murmurs, bringing her hand up to cup his cheek.

Though his expression can occasionally be an impassive mask, she has learned to find the cracks in it—and she sees the quick flash of mischief before he slips his fingertips up under the hem of her gown, up over her thigh. "Yes, very warm," he murmurs, and she brushes the tip of her nose against his so he can find her mouth if he so pleases. And he does.

The sound of her heartbeat seems to carry in the stillness, and when Edward pushes her gown up further, until she can do nothing more than break the kiss and tug it over her head herself, her trembling owes little to the light breeze. He may say he needs her to keep him warm, but Edward radiates heat and always has, and the tender tight buds of her nipples brush against the warm front of his nightshirt as he tips his head the other way, deepening their kiss.

She is naked in the moonlight, straddling her husband. This is terribly improper. The former governess and her master, the blind man and his ever bolder wife.

Her master.

She buries her fingers in his thick hair, pushing herself up a little so their faces are level, and his thumb finds the hard tip of her breast, brushing her nipple. With her other hand, her cheeks burning in the dark, she tugs at the hem of his own nightshirt. His manhood stirs beneath, and when she tugs his shirt off, they're both naked and she's panting softly, her sex warming in anticipation of joining to him.

They should go inside. This should be inside. This...

He tugs the tie out of her hair and runs his fingers through it, leaving it a soft wavy curtain down her back. When his fingers continue down her spine, then lower, her flush deepens further, and she lowers her lashes as she pushes forward, her legs fully parted, the join of her thighs stroking against his erect manhood.

She had no one to explain to her the mysteries of the marital bed before their wedding night, and learning with him, at first, flustered them both; she was very nervous and he still angry and embittered by his condition, upset that she had to assist him at all, that the delicate girl he married had to learn to touch and please him, to guide him to her.

But it feels more intimate this way, she imagines. As though they are partners. And he may be her master, in the past in title and now as part of their vows, but knowing how to make him pant and tremble and beg her for release... he may be her master but in those moments she is his mistress as well.

He pushes his hips forward and parts his lips to hers when she kisses him again, moving back a little so she can reach between them, and she rubs her palm down the underside of his shaft, feeling the slick trace of her arousal there. Edward nips at her, his breath coming in harsh pants as her touch drifts further down, between his legs.

"Enchantress," he murmurs against her lips.

"Husband," she whispers, grasping him so she can angle him to meet her.

And her knees part, her lashes fluttering as she mounts him, as she guides the tip of him into the slick hollow of her sex and rocks her hips down, and as soon as he's seated inside her she slips her arms around him, taking him slowly, savoring the feel of it as he fills her completely. Edward tips his head back, and she's free to stare at him, to study the way the silver light plays against the familiar planes of his face. This is all he has left, all that is immediate and real to him: the feel of his wife's skin against his, the cool breeze and warmth of sunlight.

When her hips are flush against his she kisses the side of his neck and he buries his fingers in her hair again, his other arm, his wounded, scarred arm that only he and his physician see, touching her side. She kisses his collarbone, the tips of her breasts brushing against his chest, and when she circles her hips, Edward lets out a soft pleased groan.

"Oh yes... yes, love," he murmurs, tipping his head back up. His touch is rough; the rest of the time he is tentative, always afraid of a misstep, of falling, but with her, he's safe. His hand closes around her breast, index finger and thumb finding her nipple, and she moans, rising so she can sink down onto him again.

There are no bedsprings to creak here, to give them away, and since there is no disguising or hiding what they're doing anyway, Jane gives herself over to the wonder of their coupling, tilting her own head back so her hair sways behind her, her skin glowing with exertion as she rides her husband, shuddering as the thick length of his manhood parts the slick warmth of her sex, building an unspeakably glorious tension in her core.

He told her once that since salvation was beyond his grasp, he would have pleasure. He saved her, and he taught her pleasure too; he begrudges her none of it, and she can see from his expression that what they're doing, what she's doing with him, delights him just as much and always has.

She moans softly as her hips buck, his hand slipping down, stroking her side and her hip. She has to stifle her cry when he splays his hand over her belly, his thumb finding the curls between her legs, then slipping between.

"Edward," she whimpers, shuddering when he finds that tender place within her and rubs his thumb against it. "Oh, Edward, please..."

"Yes," he murmurs, rubbing harder as she rides him frantically, her sex clenching around his stiff manhood. She buries her face against his neck, sobbing in pleasure, and he's tense under her, his hips rocking to drive him against her when she's sinking to meet him again.

She does not find it, does not reach it every time they join, but this time the ecstasy of her release crashes over her, and she sinks to him and he groans as he reaches his own release. She clings to him, panting, and he wraps his good arm around her, holding her close to him.

She wonders, if her courses don't come next month, if she must tell him... if the doctor will forbid them this, if she'll have to give up one of the most pleasurable acts she's ever known until their child is born.

But then Edward has never much been one for rules, and she can easily imagine him sneaking into her bedchamber in the dead of night, finding his way to her unerringly, drawn to the beat of her heart.

She isn't sure how much time passes before Edward kisses her temple. "I received a letter today," he murmurs.

Jane frowns. She was from the house when the mail came, when Edward was drowsing in his chair beside the fire. "Oh? I can read it for you, if you wish..."

"I do wish, but I do believe Mary was able to give me the gist of it." His sightless gaze is trained into the distance. "The specialist we saw in London..."

While the majority of his wounds have healed as best they probably will, Edward is still skeptical of those physicians who claim they may be able to restore at least some of his sight. At this point he doesn't have much to lose, despite the improvement he noticed the week before. Any hope he's had that they might one day succeed will crush him if he loses it, and it's easier to resign himself to living the rest of his days in partial darkness, than hoping it will some day abate.

"He says he has consulted on my case and has a treatment he wishes to try." Edward sighs heavily, even as Jane runs her fingers through his hair, her gaze trained on his face. He's still trying to remain impassive, but that almost imperious curve of his lip—he's trying to tell himself it can't be true. "Doubtless just wants more of my money."

Jane brushes her thumb against his lips. "Then we shall go see him."

"Just to go through some undoubtedly expensive, most likely fruitless attempt?" He shrugs. "I know I am already a terrible burden to you, this way..."

She stops him, pressing her thumb against him again, and he kisses her, the wound left by the thorn. "You are no burden," she tells him, her voice low and clear. "And if you remain this way the rest of our lives, so be it, but Edward... whatever we can possibly do, we must try."

"Even though you have resigned yourself to this ruined shell of a man."

She shakes her head, stroking his brow, soothing away the tension left by his anger.

"Because my husband, the strong, vibrant man I married... may soon be a father."

And all of it fades, his brooding and frustration, replaced by a look of pure wonder. "Jane...?"

"So we will go to London," she tells him, unable to stop the smile from curving her lips. "You to your specialist, and I to mine."

"A nursery. A nurse. Oh, blast you, Jane, you are delicate now, you should be inside with your feet up, being waited upon..."

"I am as strong as I have ever been," she tells him, as he strokes the backs of his fingers low against her belly. "So you will do this for me, Edward?"

He shakes his head. "You would have charmed me into it anyway," he says, his voice gruff with mock disgust in himself. "I cannot deny you anything."

"And I am glad," she whispers into his ear before she slides off him. "Come, love. We have a journey to plan and a warm bed we're expected to be in, come morning."

She dresses them both and guides him back through their still-open window, and she leaves the curtains parted, the moonlight streaming in as they return to their bed. She nestles against his shoulder and he rests his large, warm palm over her belly.

"Oh love," he whispers, his breath ruffling her hair. "I must still dream."

She reaches up to stroke his cheek, and he turns his head to kiss her palm. "I have no use for dreams," she whispers. "Not since I have you."