Theirs is not an ideal marriage, she knows. He is not good husband material, nor is she the best of wives–she realized this after keeping company with him for several months. After marrying him, she is reminded of this every time he comes home late, or with new injuries, or both.
Regardless, there was a comfort and fit to him in her life that pleased her immensely.
Tonight he comes home tired, with a pronounced limp to his walk. She puts young Sam in his arms and draws him in with a kiss to his cheek. When he sits, it’s with a groan and an audible creak in his knees; there is street grime on his shoes and lines of black dirt under his nails; there has never been a man more out of place in her house, or more at welcome.
She asks what he wants to eat, and he makes some freverant noises that sound vaguely like toast and soldiers. On his lap, young Sam coos, as though in agreement.
When she brings it out, with the toast burned and the yolk runny (as he likes it), he’s fallen asleep. Young Sam blinks at her with his eyes–their milky blue color has faded into a steely gray, and it pleases to see his eyes and her nose in the same face.
“Let’s leave your old dad alone, my love,” she says to him, and he only regards her solemnly. She picks him up, and his father makes a grinding noise in his throat before settling deeper in his chair. She lays a hand atop his head, on the grizzled and coarse hair, counting heartbeats. Young Sam shoves a finger in his own mouth and gums it.
Under her hand, her husband moves his head, and in his sleep says her name. It doesn’t surprise her, nor is the way he shifts and keeps on snoring faintly, as though she wasn’t there at all. Her Sam may not be clever as Havelock, but he knows who’s there to his right when he sleeps.
In her arms, young Sam gurgles something that may, in years to come, be a question. She smiles at him and bounces him once, twice, on her arm, and carries him off to bed. Later, she comes back with a blanket, and this she puts around her husband’s shoulders, tucking the corners in so that they will not fall if he moves, but will not constrict him otherwise.
“Good night,” she says, and does not call him darling or love or anything like that. Sleep is a time for being honest, and those words are too fancy and elaborate for what is calm and settled, warm in her breast. He does not stir, and that in itself is trust.
Briefly, she ducks to kiss his temple, then leaves him to rest.