A/N: This story takes place the day after Jane and Mr. Rochester get married. If you're looking for a plot, beware; this is from a mind could not bear to put our favorite characters through any more angst.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoy the story!
For the first time in over a year, Jane woke to complete serenity. Such a fact was rather puzzling at first until she opened her eyes and saw the slumbering form of her husband.
The word seemed foreign, as if it were from a language she had once known, but long since forgotten. Once she had dreamt of sharing her life with this man, but that dream had been shattered like glass dropped upon an unforgiving stone. What she thought to be a glorious form of reality had crumbled around her.
To find herself, one year later, wed to him at last, their union sanctioned by God, the bond indissoluble, seemed too wonderful to be real. She looked at him, smiling as she reached her hand out to gently trace the planes of his face.
The lines in his skin, etched by age and misery, had disappeared, giving his skin an almost youthful appearance. His hair, black as a raven's feathers, was tousled, a few locks falling upon his forehead. His chest rose and fell with each peaceful breath.
His muscles twitched as her fingers moved to caress his hair. Only the small smile upon his lips betrayed the fact that he had woken. She too smiled upon realizing she had inadvertently interrupted his sleep, but continued running her fingers through his hair until he spoke.
"Good morning, Jane," he said, his eyes still closed. He lifted one hand and held it out expectantly, waiting for her small, fairy-like fingers to grasp his and reassure him that this was not a dream.
She held his outstretched hand and leaned in to place a gentle kiss upon his lips. "Good morning, Edward," she said quietly. His name also seemed strange upon her tongue; so accustomed was she to call him sir or Mr. Rochester that to call him by this endearment seemed almost to take an outrageous liberty.
"How is Mrs. Rochester upon this fine morning?" he asked. His eyes remained closed; why should he take the trouble of opening them if darkness was all that would meet his gaze?
"I should not call it a fine morning, Edward. Dark clouds have hidden the sky from view; it will surely storm today."
"If you are here, Janet, it is a fine morning indeed."
She smiled and pressed a kiss to his forehead before resting her head on his chest, unwilling to leave their bed and abandon this carefree moment with him. His fingers gently released her hand so that he might stroke her hair. They simply lay there, in silence, for several minutes. Both were content to merely be in the arms of their spouse; their love was so strong that words were unnecessary.
Her mind began to dwell on how, had she not heard Edward's calls, she might even now have been Mrs. Rivers instead of Mrs. Rochester. She winced at the memories of her separation from Edward and knew that he had suffered more than she; she did not dare consider the true depth of his pain. Even now, his blindness and crippled arm were a source of despair for him; she knew he dreaded not being enough for her, feared that she would become restless and regret binding herself to him. Would he have had such fears had not the fire changed his life so dramatically? The answer was one that only God knew.
"Edward," she said softly after a moment, "what was it like?"
"I beg your pardon?"
She felt him wince at the memory of that time when he had been devoid of his Jane, devoid of all hope of happiness.
"Why would you want to know about that?"
"I see the effects of it every day, Edward; I wish to know what happened that I too might understand the scars you bear. Do not fret," she said hastily, seeing him tense. "They do not frighten me; when I see them, I feel only sadness at what you've endured."
"I do not remember it as clearly as I used to," he answered. "The memories were too painful; my mind softened them so that they might not wound as sharply. What I recall most clearly is the heat. Unbearable heat oppressed from all sides as flames ravaged Thornfield. The screams of servants as they rushed from the inferno pierced the eardrums and gave one the feeling that not all would survive the night." His body had stiffened; his voice had become detached, as though the memory in his mind's eye was so painful that to express the emotion through vocal inflections would be to stir agony in the heart of the listener. Jane gently caressed his arm comfortingly. To her relief, he relaxed and held her tightly to him, as if to lessen his grip would be to allow her to escape from him. "I could not let her die." He did not have to specify whom he was now speaking of. They both knew. "Much as I abhorred her, she did not deserve the painful death that fire bestowed. But, in the end, she perished regardless; by her own hand, she died, leaping from the roof of Thornfield and falling to the merciless ground below. I went to hurry from the building; the structure seemed to sag, revealing that it would not be able to endure the fire much longer; it would soon collapse. I thought myself safe when I had almost escaped, but, at that moment, the roof fell. I was pinned to the ground, the scent of my own burning flesh stinging my nostrils. In that moment, Jane, my one regret was that I would never see you again before I died."
"It is behind us," she whispered. "Think no more of it."
"That is impossible," murmured he. "I dream of the inferno, of the pain and heat when the house collapsed upon me. I can still recall –"
"No, Edward – I shall not allow you to wallow in despair. Is our union not enough to show that God has tempered judgment with mercy? Are we not bound to one enough for the rest of our lives with a cord gloriously permanent and unbreakable? We have both lived lives of sorrow and injustice, but it has been righted. We have been blessed at last."
"Yes." He clutched her closer. "And I thank God daily that he has spared me the more severe judgment that I know I deserved."
To contradict him would be to cause an argument regarding his past deeds; Jane, therefore, was silent.
Soon they would have to rise, to begin their first day as man and wife, but, until then, they would simply cherish each other's presence in the gentle peace of the bedchamber.