He was awake long after she had cried herself to sleep. The words may have meant nothing to him, but the tears did. She had been trying, desperately, to communicate with him, and she had used magic to try to help. She had been excited at first, then desperate, and then despair had shone in her eyes.
He was used to his sisters’ tears, enough of them that they could have filled the pond on the back of their property. When she had cried, the one they made him leave, he had told himself that he would never feel again. What good was happiness when it could be wrenched away? What good was making plans when they might not work out? What good was anything?
So when he put his arms around his wife, the one they made him marry, he had told himself that it was merely to get her back to sleep so he could, too. It was caring for her like he would a child or company in his home, or a stranger that he owed a humane response. It was duty, and he had promised her that.
He had also promised her love, but he had none of that to give her. Not that kind between husband and wife, and that didn’t bother him. Duty was a form a love, and he had seen marriages with less.
As she lay under his arm, he wondered what she thought. Maybe she didn’t love him. Maybe she had left love behind, too. If they were on the same page about the relationship, then it might be easier. And if they weren’t, then at least they would both know how the other felt, and there would be no cruel expectations between them.
He had worked nearly everyday on his project. Tomorrow he would stay home. He wanted to see more of her magic, and he was intrigued by her idea of using magic to communicate. Maybe there was a spell about language in one of his books.
She turned over in her sleep. She was pressed up against him, her breath falling on his neck. She shivered. He adjusted the blanket around them and pulled her closer. Duty. He was keeping her warm and safe and happy. It was duty, and nothing more.
The rain splattered down on the roof of their home. His eyes grew heavy. He settled himself better into the bed, shifting the tiny woman so her back was against his chest again. She murmured something in her sleep. He tucked his legs under hers and whispered to her. Duty. This was duty. He closed his eyes and slept.