"Is this a waltz?" Thomasina asks.
"It will serve," Septimus says as he stands up, not wanting to make Thomasina wait any longer. Every moment they are here is one in which there is danger of them being detected.
Thomasina jumps up. "Goody!"
He takes her in his arms carefully, and they begin the dance lesson.
As they move, he takes the moment to study her, this newly-made woman whom he has taught for years, since she was a child without even the hint of burgeoning womanhood. The realization that he desires her, clear to him for some time now, seemed almost like a shock and surprise at first. Furthermore, the firm knowledge that he loves her, that that love runs even deeper than his desire, was and is both strange and upsetting.
Septimus has never been one to refuse a willing woman; he is a cad, and likes it. But always before they were in the first women and only in the second particular women, and now suddenly it's Thomasina he holds in his arms, who looks at him with desire in her eyes which mirrors his own, who seems to transcend womanhood in order to achieve something far more perfect, even as her womanhood is no longer in any doubt.
Suddenly ought's and should's which yesterday had no force for him weigh down on him, but he pushes past them nonetheless to bring his lips to Thomasina's in a kiss. She stops dancing, but when he looks after her afterwards she is smiling, hungry for more. He indulges her by kissing her again, harder, more passionately, this time in full and unmistakable earnest. She puts her arms around him.
"Septimus," she says.
"Hush," he tells her, and rearranges her arms. They begin dancing again, with the slight awkwardness of a lesson.
In this as in all things, Thomasina is a quick learner, and it isn't long before she has picked it up in its fullness, and is moving with a grace which is only compromised by being led by someone who lacks it in her full measure. Now it is he who is slowing her down.
"Am I waltzing?" she asks.
"Yes, my lady," he answers, and suddenly the posessive in "my lady" has a force and power it never had before, not even when he found himself coming to the bed of Lady Croom.
He gives her a final twirl, bringing them to the table. He bows to her, then lights her candlestick.
"Take your essay," he tells her. "I have given it an alpha in blind faith. Be careful with the flame."
She studies him. "I will wait for you to come," she tells him. They are the same words her mother might use to the same purpose, but they are spoken with an innocent and genuine hope, a plea rather than a command, which is startling in its earnestness.
Desires and convictions war within him. "I cannot," he informs her.
"I may not."
"You must," she implores him.
"I will not," he finishes, and it breaks his heart to deny his Thomasina anything.
"Then I will not go," she informs him. "Once more, for my birthday."
He gives in, taking her him in his arms, and they begin to dance anew. They take only a few more steps before she kisses him, and he knows that he would not trade this single kiss for the carnal embrace of a thousand women. His hands migrate across her body, feeling the curves of her flesh, and at last he gives in and pulls the nightgown over her head.
If he were sane, he would have accepted Thomasina's offer for him to follow her to her bedroom. Here, the threat of detection is increased a hundred fold. But he has no choice but to acquiesce to the fact that he has already lost full control of his faculties in this moment. The house is asleep except for the two of them--and the Count, whose melodic teasing of the Broadwood still makes it way up, sweetening the air as they prepare to make love.
She is naked before him, radiantly beautiful in the dim candlelight. Her skin is soft as silk, its shade that of white cream--before this, he had believed, and had taught Thomasina, that such descriptions were trite and ought to be avoided, but now they merely seem inadequate to capture the perfection of Thomasina before him like Eve in the garden, pristine.
He takes off his shirt as Thomasina unfastens his trousers; soon he is leading her to the couch, pressing her down upon it. In a moment, he is inside her, penetrating her maidenhead. She does not cry out--the Count's piano music gives testimony that there is still one person left awake to hear her cry if she had--but Septimus runs a reassuring hand across her brow.
In this as in the dancing, Thomasina is untrained, and Septimus must teach her, with the full expectation that in this too she will quickly surpass the teacher. They press against each other, their bodies bare to each other as their souls have been for years, fellow journeymen on the path to enlightenment.
Thomasina's breaths grow heavy, and Septimus endeavors to his best to maintain his stamina, but he spends himself too early. As quickly as he can manage, he is off the couch and on his knees, resuming the job with his mouth, his tongue working to bring Thomasina to satisfaction. There is a pause in her breathing, and her body tenses; then there is total relaxation.
"That is carnal embrace?" Thomasina asks.
"It is, my lady," he agrees. "I hope you did not find it unpleasant."
"No," she answers. "Not at all."
"You will find it less so in the future," he promises, and he only means with whatever partners come after him, but he realizes after the words are spoken that he has inadvertently committed himself to a repeat performance.
"You will teach me to dance again, then?" she asks him. "Tomorrow night?"
"Tomorrow night," he tells her.