[community profile] fandom_stocking fic for [personal profile] dellessanna.

Fandom: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Characters: Jonathan and Arabella Strange
Gen, 766 words

Reading In Bed

Arabella's upbringing had not prepared her for life married to a magician. A parson perhaps, or a farmer. A teacher, a doctor, a minor politician. Instead she found herself surrounded by potions and powders, and mirrors that reflected odd things in the corners of her eyes. She found the house filled with odd smells, and smoke of strange colours; and seemingly every surface of every room was littered with scraps of parchment, crackling scrolls, or sheets of paper bearing scribbles in her husband's increasingly illegible handwriting. Phials bearing liquids gleaming in every imaginable hue lined the bookshelves, and behind them lay a hodgepodge of books, piled up in whatever odd patterns would fit more of them into the space. There truly were books everywhere; and matters came to a head one night, when she retired to their chamber having returned late from a visit to a friend, in her confinement following a complicated delivery. Jonathan sat upon a heap of pillows, a candle burning in a saucer atop the coverlet, and the rest of the bed awash with open volumes. Her entry caused the flame of the candle to flicker, and although Jonathan did not look up, he smiled at her arrival.

"Good evening. Is Mrs Lambeth in good health?"

"I believe so. A trifle bored, I suspect. I might have suggested reading, but I think perhaps my husband is doing enough of that for the rest of London combined."

"What? Oh." He shut the book upon his lap with a sharp thud. "My apologies, my dear, but it seemed foolish to waste the time. I have quite mastered Euphrixus, I think. The Greek magic is of a different shape, but the influence of Greek upon the English language provides a fascinating basis for our English magic."

"Indeed." She was amused, if a little exasperated. "And might perhaps I have a bed to sleep in tonight? Or am I expected to lie atop your entire library?"

"Ah. Yes." Leaning forward, he blew out the candle – the flame flashed a brilliant blue for an instant before it was snuffed out – and then began to collect up the multifarious volumes. He was careful to keep them all open, she noticed, and could not help but smile as he left them arranged in a teetering pile of arrested labour, like some curious statue beside the bed. He restored the pillows to their proper place, and then beamed at her, if a trifle distractedly.

"There you are. As good as new."

"Thank you." They climbed together into the bed, settling down upon the comfortable mattress, staring together up at the dark ceiling. There was a distinctly peculiar smell to the thin trail of smoke drifting from the extinguished candle, but Arabella chose to ignore it. She was becoming adept at that. Strange smells were a part of the study of magic, it seemed; strange smells, odd flutters of feathers, and shadows that fell in unexpected places. She supposed she was lucky that there was not also an abundance of frogs' legs and eyes of newt. Oddly contented, she laid her head upon Jonathan's shoulder, and stretched her tired body. One foot struck something warm, scratchy and recognisably leather-bound. She retrieved it, and held it aloft with a sidelong glance at her recumbent husband.


"Yes, my dear?" His eyes were closed. She was quite sure that he was reviewing his evening's study.

"Why do we appear to be sharing our marital bed with an interloper?"

"I–– What?" His eyes snapped open, and then warmed into something close to contrition when he saw the book. "Oh. Yes, I had wondered where that one had got to. My apologies."

"Theories And Principles of English Magicks In The Pre-Christian Age, by Thomas Collings. The pre-Christian age? Am I to be dangerously corrupted by a Pagan influence acting upon my husband?"

"I would never seek to corrupt you, Belle. I merely––" She stilled his words with a finger upon his lips, before gently laying aside the book.

"I would not object to a little corruption, Jonathan. Just a little, of the right kind."

"I... indeed." He smiled at that, and settled more comfortably beside her. "The... right kind?"

"Should I elaborate?"

"I am often distracted, my dear. I am not an idiot." His smile changed shape, turning somewhat bashful. "Or at least, not that much of one."

"Good." His attention was hers completely; a rarity these days, and something to be savoured for however long she managed to make it last. "In that case, might I suggest that we begin?"

The End



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