"you wished to see this stretch of blue ahead"

Genre: Romance, Humor
Rating: G
Time Frame: Post Novel
Characters: Jane/Rochester

Summary: "Cheer up, old man," she whispers, her hands soft and fairy formed as she let her hand rest where his should have been. "There are far worse things in life to be without."

Notes: For dollsome's "Shiny Happy Comment Ficathon" over at LJ. Her prompt was Jane/Rochester, "Cheer up, old man." And the bunny bit, and bit hard. ;)

Disclaimer: Naught is mine but for the words.

From the beginning, this had become a routine of sorts for them.

Words could not express how difficult it was for a man to dress in the morning with neither eyes to see, or both hands to aid him. He, who had been self sufficient for as long as he could remember, now found himself in the aide of others for the most mundane things – from fastening a button to lighting a candle to telling him which was water and which was wine.

For dressing in the morning, he was more than pleased to have the task switched from his valet, however well meaning, to his wife.

The task, instead of demeaning and frustrating as now something soft and to almost be looked forward to. A weakness was not impossible to overcome while in her presence, but something to gently chisel away at, like an artist upon a block of stone. He felt close to her in these moments, close enough to imagine the straight fall of her hair and the fairy flutter of her hands as she assisted him. She smelled of something wild – like pine woods and mountain flowers. Like autumn cresting and leaves falling before winter. He shook his head at his thoughts, wondering, as he always did, how they managed to take such a spin when he was in her presence.

As she would help him, she would speak. Today, the rainclouds that had sat over their corner of the world for the last several days had lifted. He could no longer feel the thunder in his bones, and so he took her word that the sky was blue and endlessly so. He had enough images from a lifetime to sustain his mind's eye, and with her words, he felt those memories sharpening and clarifying into something that he could almost see again.

He tries to tell her this once, and though he could not see it, he imagined that she was smiling nonetheless.

With her, he had a vast repertoire of remembered gazes, indeed to draw from. His Jane had a face not accustomed to smiling, in the beginning. Indeed, it was as if the tired muscles of her face were learning to live again when she was with them . . . He had enjoyed placing that spark in her eyes; that curve to her lips . . .

His thoughts were interrupted as she helped him place on his shirt. The motions were simple, arm in, turn once, then other arm in. She smoothed the sleeves down, and as her hand trailed down his arm, her hand rested on the mutilated end of his own, right where his hand should have been. Her fingers were soft over the angry flesh; beauty granting the beast with a moment of acceptance. He stared stonily ahead at the touch, as he did every day when she assisted him. Sometimes, being without sight was as much a blessing as a curse. There was as much as he wished to look on as he didn't care to see again.

Her other hand raised to touch the corner of his frown, as if her touch alone could sooth the harsh lines into something soft again. "Cheer up, old man," she said, a playful timbre to her voice. "There are far worse things in life to be without."

Practical Jane. His Jane . . . and he knows her words to be so. He holds a hand over hers for a moment, needing the contact of skin and skin to serve his where his eyes failed. "Of that," he whispered in reply to her words, "I am most acutely aware."

He wished he could see her blush as well as feel her skin warm under his hand. Thankfully, he has more than one memory of that to serve his mind's eye. Before, he had taken every moment he could to challenge an emotion from her – be it perplexed curiosity, vexation, or even modest embarrassment. All had been gifts she had been unconscious in giving; and gifts that he had cherished as treasures.

His vest was next, and he took a moment to ask her, "You are quite sure that you aren't dressing me in something horrendous, are you, Jane? I believe that there is at least one or two pair of eyes in this house that haven't been bewitched by yours. They would tell me truly if I came out looking a fool."

"Your wardrobe is in perfect order," she assured him. "I have no reason to jest with you so."

"Ah, so I have good reason to keep from inspiring your ire to keep from further retaliation?"

"It is a fact that I would not contest," she said teasingly. Her hands tugged gently from where she was tying his cravat. She had become an expert in manners of his wardrobe in the past few months. For which he was grateful for. For weeks he had Thomas retie his cravat for him after Jane departed, which he never precisely told his wife – even though he was certain she knew so anyway. She was remarkably astute, his Jane.

She helped him don his waistcoat next, and he let his eyes follow the sound of her as she fretted over him like a dragonfly over a stream. Some days, he liked to think that his vision was improving, however slightly. And that ideal of a dream was easy to visualize when she was with him as she was now . . . When he could open his eyes to image again, he wished for her to be the first thing he saw.

Today, he likes to think that his sight is better than days prior. He thinks that the dress she is wearing is blue, but does not ask for fear of being wrong. Was that white on her sleeves? Lining her neck. He rested a hand on the crook of her arm rather than help her fasten the buttons to his waistcoat, feeling lace line the sleeves, and trying to line the vision up in his mind. His efforts, however, yielded little. There were only shadows, passing and parting but still bemired in dark things . . .

"There," came Jane's satisfied voice, oblivious to his train of thought. "You once again look like a presentable member of society."

He knew that she was looking at him; holding his blind gaze as if he was with sight. He could feel his skin tingle with the knowledge in the way of things were merely known rather than seen.

"If it makes my visage more acceptable to my lady," he said, his tone teasing as he gave a mocking bow. He looked to where her voice was, hoping that he was meeting her gaze.

"It does," she said. Her voice held a mock haughtiness, light and pleasing to his ear. Somehow, it was completely becoming on her.

"Still completely hideous?" he asked her, as he did every morning.

"Unfortunately so," she returned, as expected.

When he chuckled, the sound was low and rusty; but over time it was becoming less and less so.

Her hands were still clasped in his, ready to lead even as they offered support. The tightened, however slightly at the sight of his disposition. In his mind, he could imagine the contentment in her eyes . . . the memory of her glowing countenance is enough to supplant his lack of sight. The memory was so tangible, that for a moment he could believe that light shone where her eyes should have been to his gaze, parting the shadows, and making them as inconsequential as mist. It was that light amongst the dark of his vision that gave him hope.

His heart clenched at the form of sight, and while the knowledge of what recovery may have been impending curled his lips into a smile, he kept the knowledge from his wife for the moment in order to lean down and kiss her. She was smiling against his lips, and the hand that curved daintily against the back of his neck was a warm counterpoint to the gentle weight of her as she pressed herself into his arms. She was something ethereal to him at times, almost mythical as he held her; his sense of touch insisting that she was there and so even while he remained blind to it. He wondered if the marvel of holding her would ever wear off as the time passed by them.

He blinked as he pulled away from her. And before him, he liked to imagine, the light of his sight merged with the blue and the pale tones of hers, becoming something poignant with a shade akin to hope in his mind.