There was an obscure pain that lingered, despite everything. Jenny's good sense told her that she was happier than she had any right to be. Her baby was flourishing, her father was bursting at the seams with delight and good health, and her husband loved her. Yes, it was love to look at her so smilingly and to sleep so easily with his head on her breast. But still the faint pain lingered, a mere trace of the bitter heartache of the first year of her marriage. Adam shifted and murmured in his sleep and she looked down at him and was briefly dazzled: he was only dear Adam, but he was that golden soldier of long ago too, exquisite and utterly remote from her. She didn't dare to touch his face, though her fingers twitched with the longing. That impossible foolish pain, for something that she couldn't even name, deepened and nagged at her heart.
"What is it?" he said, his voice rough with sleep, and she saw that his eyes had opened while she stared and, terribly, that she was looking at him through a blur. Through tears. One spilled just as she was about to lay claim to a cold and Adam's face sharpened into shocked alertness.
"Jenny," he said urgently. "What -"
"I had a dream," she said hastily. "A bad - a foolish one. It's over now."
Her voice cracked as she spoke, and he pulled her into his arms, murmuring foolish words, stroking her hair, the tenderness breaking the awful knot in her throat and making her almost sob aloud. She was frightened and half disgusted at herself. Even Julia could never had made such a grand fuss about nothing in particular.
"I'm sorry," she said at last, when she could speak. He said nothing, only handing her a handkerchief and watching quietly as she blew her nose and scrubbed her inflamed cheeks. She could only imagine how ugly she looked, puffed from the tears and with her nose raw. He didn't seem repulsed, though, only worried and she felt a sudden violent burst of courage.
"I love you," she told him, hearing her voice tremble and not caring. "I love you, do you understand?"
There was a puzzled line between his brows.
"I know that, my darling," he said. "You're my wife and -"
"No," she said harshly, hardly believing her own folly but suddenly too desolate to care. She was destroying everything she had so carefully built, all his comfort and her own, but there was nothing to be done about it now. Somehow, somewhere in her, something had been wearing away over all the months of endurance. This raw bitterness was the thing underneath that she could no longer hide. "I love -" Like Julia, she wanted to say, like you loved Julia, but the thought of saying those words stopped her with a cold shock. It was too appallingly incongruous; it would make him want to laugh to think of her round plain face looking up at his with that sort of adoration. She could not bear it if he laughed.
" I don't know what I - I'm being so - I'm sorry, I'm being a shrew," she said, trying to get her own voice back, the quiet sensible voice of the quiet sensible Jenny he loved with his quiet sensible love. She wouldn't be this harridan, this absurdity, whom he could only pity. He was looking at her oddly, his face very still.
"Say it again," he said, after a moment of awful, unreadable silence had passed. Her face went hot.
He put his hand on her cheek.
"Say it," he said, his eyes intent on hers. She couldn't. She stared dumbly up at him and his thumb swept slowly over her mouth, pressed a little. She was suddenly scarlet as if it was the first time he had touched her, as if she hadn't already carried and birthed his child, as if he hadn't courteously pressed into her in the dark a hundred times already. There was light, that was the difference, the dawn breaking through the curtains and his eyes looking into hers as she shook under his touch like a girl fresh out of a schoolroom.
"You love me," he said.
"I love you," she agreed helplessly, hearing her voice tremble, and he bent to kiss her with a shocking fierceness that was unlike anything that had ever been between them before. It was rough, abrupt, after that, her nightgown shoved above her waist, and Adam's fingers on her breast, teasing, squeezing, and she cried out his name in a voice that gave away all her secrets.
"I love you," he said in her ear, afterwards, when she was still breathing hard and flushed. "My Jenny, my wife," and it wasn't how he had ever spoken to Julia, but it was - more fiercely delighted, she realised slowly, disbelievingly, his voice satiated and warm with desire. His hands were in her hair. "My darling crosspatch."
"I," she said, and halted. She was suddenly ridiculously shy, and ridiculously happy all at once. He was smiling lazily down at her and there was a lightness in her stomach that she had never felt before.
"I'm not a crosspatch," she said severely, and he laughed as she knew he would. She loved his laugh. She said, impulsively, "I used to -"
She turned her face into his shoulder, and laughed herself.
"When you were ill," she admitted. "I used to imagine nursing you back to life. I'd take an infection myself and fall deathly ill, and you and Julia would come to my funeral and cry buckets."
He laughed, as she'd wanted him to, but a little more painfully than she expected.
"Poor romantic darling," he said tenderly, and kissed her temple. "I've hurt you, haven't I?"
"Yes," she said, her throat tight, and it felt better than anything, lightening her whole body until she thought she might float away like a feather. She'd not realised that getting things off your chest meant something so physical. "I loved you so."
"I ought to be sorry," he said reflectively. "But I'm too selfish for that, my love. I'm a perfect fool over you, you know."
It was so exactly what she wanted him to say that she couldn't believe him. She gave him an incredulous look and he laughed.
"I am," he said. "I have been. You're always so - I've wanted -" he kissed her mouth again and she shut her eyes, drowning. She was dreaming, she thought. Adam. Adam. The light was brightening in the room and he pulled away from her and groaned.
"Old Noakes will be here in twenty minutes," he said, glancing at the clock. "Damn those pigs."
She wasn't dreaming. She began to giggle and he mock-scowled at her and left her there, warm in the sunlit bed, thinking disjointedly of pigs and Adam's eyes and how Giles needed his hair seen to and Adam, Adam, Adam. His eyes were like a touch across the room when he found her in the nursery, a few hours later, and she knew her smile was wide to the point of foolishness but she didn't care. Adam loved her and she could be as foolish as she liked.