He wore the darkness like a cloak. It lingered around him, even when he went out into the ordinary world and talked to very ordinary people. Strange had once thought darkness was cold, but now knew better. In the darkness there were warm caresses beneath bundles of blankets and hot kisses that lingered on his lips for days and eyes that were warm only to him and pleasantly heated arguments about the nature of magic.
Even his wife's eyes had gone cold by now. Arabella suspected. Darkness held the once hated, always loved, his only warmth. He longed to return.
Perversely, he longed to push Strange too far.
"I know I haven't much hope of getting Norrell to give up his studies to teach of all things, but it was something that you always had an interest in."
"An interest in advocating, not doing."
Childermass swished his drink. "I'm sure that Norrell is thrilled. He always loved getting even me to concentrate on solely magical matters."
"Indeed?" Strange said in a voice cold, distant.
Childermass smiled slyly. "What he loved even more was getting me away from pretty women."
"Indeed?" in a voice colder still.
Childermass grinned wider.
The darkness was a film upon his face that brought to mind men in a coalmine. She tried to ignore it as she tried to ignore the way his eyes lit up when he spoke of Mr. Norrell. Or the way he longed to leave her and go back to darkness. Or the red splotch on his neck that didn't fit in with the lonely darkness of imagination.
"Don't go," it was the first time she asked it. Her voice was loud, impulsive.
He half turned. "You are making a scene, Arabella."
He saved me, she reminded herself again.
He could not concentrate on the book with the bit of candlelight falling across it. On the other side of the room, two lights shined in the darkness – Strange's eyes. Was it magic or simply his intensity, his half-madness?
"Did you miss me?" he asked, voice deep.
"Of course," Norrell flipped pages, nervously, not looking at them. He could live forever with only Strange to talk to and be happy, yet still, he shivered.
"Good," Strange arose and those two lights moved languidly in the darkness. Closer and closer he came, a dangerous nocturnal creature that must be satisfied.