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Not wood, nor stone

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Janet lay wakeful and contemplated the stranger who was her husband. Of his face, his form, she knew a little; of his heart - not wood, nor stone, but beating flesh - she knew next to nothing. And yet something in her had been moved to pity by his fate, and to lust by his looks. It was not simply a girl in trouble's need to find her baby a father - she could have found a man willing to swear that much for the privilege of being thought her lover, for her father's wealth and lands, for her own fair body. Any knight of her father's court might have served, but she had not wanted them or their greedy, grasping hands. Tam Lin had not needed her, nor known aught of her aside from what he saw, and had desired her for that alone.

She had been worried that, after all she had fought through to gain him, she would have to fight her own father as well, but it had not gone as badly as she'd feared it might. He had been so relieved that Janet had found someone she was willing to wed, a man who looked handsome and well-bred even if his parentage was a mystery, that he had agreed they should marry as soon as possible, even going so far as to secure a special dispensation that allowed them to overlook the fact that the banns had not been read for three weeks in succession, and that no one knew from what parish the groom hailed. It all happened so quickly, Janet's head was still whirling. Perhaps that was why, three nights after her wedding, she could not sleep. That or the growing babe inside her, which made it ever more difficult to find a way to lie that did not make her back or her hips ache like fire kindled within them.

Her new husband (how odd the words sounded!) stirred as she rolled over in their bed. "Are you well, love?" he murmured softly, and reached out to her across the wide gulf of the mattress.

"Only restless," she told him, still unaccustomed to hearing him call her his love. "Does this all seem as strange to you as it does to me?"

He smiled and laid his hand on her hip, where its warmth helped to ease the nagging pain there. "It is beyond anything I could have imagined."

From the tales she had heard of the land of Faery and its wonders, she was sure he must have seen many things that were beyond her own imagination. "How do you mean?" She worried that her father's hall with its wooden walls must seem very dull after a Faery castle, and herself plain as undyed wool after the rich silk of the Queen of Faery. Would he grow weary of pottage and ale and good brown bread one day and go off to seek brandywine and roast peacock?

His face grew thoughtful, even troubled perhaps, as if he was lost in thought and the thoughts were not all pleasant ones. "Here, my will is my own, and I see with unglamoured sight. I know that what I see and feel is true, not an illusion." His eyes were grey and solemn and for a moment she imagined them as pale, sea-smoothed stones set into his sockets instead, and shuddered at what might have been.

Seeing her tremble, he drew her closer. "Janet," he said, and her name on his lips was sweet music indeed, "I would not have you fearful of me. What is it that troubles you?"

"Tell me," she whispered, wary of the answer, "why you chose me." There had been other girls before her, she felt certain, or else the stories of what would happen to maids who went to Carterhaugh would not have been known far and wide.

He looked bemused. "You chose for yourself," he said, as if this was self-evident. "You were the one who returned, and took it upon yourself to do what had to be done."

"Oh." Janet did not know whether that meant he had asked other girls for aid too, and none had provided it, and did not want to ask. "How came you to Faery?" she asked, seeking some other thread of conversation. "You were a mortal man, you were christened..."

He shook his head. "A mortal man, yes, but not christened. When I was young, the monks from Ireland had only just begun to preach in Iona, and few yet heeded their words."

Janet did not know how long ago that must have been, but she knew it was far longer than anyone could live. He must have seen the look on her face, for he smiled and said, "Time flows differently in the fair lands. To me it seemed but the passing of a few years, perhaps, no more. Yet now that I have been ransomed, I see I was sorely misled." He tenderly stroked her hair, a few strands escaping from her plait. "Will you teach me all that I must know to get by in this year of yours, fair Janet?"

"Not all, for I do not know it all myself," she said, and kissed him. He rolled her towards him, big belly and all. She came to rest seated atop him, straddling his hips and resting her hands on his chest, her shift hitched up about her waist. "Anything I can teach, I will teach you," she promised.

"You've taught me much already," he said, helping raise her up so he could guide her onto him. She gasped, still startled by the initial plunge, and then sighed with happiness as they settled together. "Of courage, and trust, and hope." He slid his hands up beneath the linen shift to caress her rounded globe of a stomach, her breasts that had grown swollen and heavy. "My brave, beautiful Janet," he called her, and rocked his hips beneath her until she could do nothing but match his movements, holding on as tightly as she could and reveling in the newfound freedom to give and take such pleasure.

She bent forward and Tam Lin rose up to meet her halfway for another kiss, rougher this time, with tongue and teeth against lips. Janet knotted a hand in his fair hair and held him to her, tasting his cries, until he trembled beneath her and sank back. He did not stop there, though, but brought his thumb to the cleft between her thighs and stroked her as smooth and steady as she could have done herself. She leaned back against his legs to accommodate him better, and for the support as she felt her own desire building to its peak. At last the fire blazed bright within her and she felt as before the white heat of the burning brand that was her love, fading away until he was only a naked man once more, safe in her arms.