"It still feels a bit strange," Carrot tells her sleepily. They've been staying up late these days, 'til noon or worse, because rest feels less important than telling her everything in his mind and hearing all that's in hers.
He touches Angua's smooth cheek. "Kissing someone without a beard."
Her eyes open wide. "Without a beard?"
"Not that I've kissed a lot of people, of course. Only you, and Minty back at the old mine. He had quite a beard for his age, and I suppose I got used to it." It was a lovely beard, too, chestnut-brown and soft, but Carrot knows better than to mention this to Angua. No one likes feeling compared.
Angua has pulled away a little to look him in the face. Her expression makes him think that perhaps he oughtn't to have mentioned Minty at all.
"Don't worry," he says. "It was a long time ago." It was, and he doesn't love Minty anymore except as a memory. Angua doesn't need to know that he and Minty might have got married if Minty's fathers hadn't been so old-fashioned.
For a moment Angua looks unsure, then a relieved smile curves along her pretty mouth. "Back at the old mine, right? And you always spoke in Dwarfish then?"
"Yes, but - "
"I forgot that dwarfs call everyone he. But of course you knew Minty was really a she."
"I didn't know any such thing! Minty was a respectable dwarf. We don't - dwarfs don't find that out about each other until they're married." Angua looks thoughtful again, and Carrot lets the words roll through his mind. He likes them rather less this time around. Sometimes it's harder to talk to Angua than to other people. Shouldn't it be easier? "Er, it's different for humans of course, and that's perfectly fine." Light through the curtains picks out the curve of Angua's strong shoulder, turns her skin golden, and Carrot thinks it's better than perfectly fine. It's perfectly perfect.
"Carrot, how many dwarf couples never have children?"
"How many . . . I never thought about it. Quite a few. About half, maybe." He'll never understand how her mind works. Sharp as anything--even Captain Vimes says she's a good copper--but very different. Perhaps it's because she's a woman. "And a good thing too, or there wouldn't be enough gold to go around. Not to mention the crowding in the tunnels."
She smiles and runs her fingers over his cheek like he did to her. "You don't have a beard."
"It never grew in properly. Just funny little patches."
"Did Minty mind?"
"I don't think so." Though he had occasionally looked sidelong at Dag Anvilcarrier in a way Carrot hadn't much enjoyed. "'There's more to a dwarf than his beard,' my da used to say."
"I think I like your da."
"He'd like you. Pa too. I mean, if you were ever to meet them." They say hello to Angua in every letter, and don't seem at all bothered that she's not a dwarf. Or even that she's a she.
"Do you miss it? The beard, I mean. Do you wish you were kissing someone with a beard?"
"Of course not." He still admires a nice beard, and once, before he met Angua, he had a dream about Lord Vetinari that's too embarrassing even to remember. If Angua somehow grew a beard, maybe by walking too close to the university walls and catching a drift of magic, he wouldn't be sorry. But none of that's what she meant. "Someone with a beard wouldn't be you."
"Well," she says, and smiles, and rubs her smooth cheek against his stubbly one. "That's all right, then."