It's nerve-racking to share my first attempt at AU.
I thought I'd try Bethyl set during and after WW1 in Northern England. It's a little of Downton Abbey, with Lady Chatterley's Lover thrown in!
Hershel Greene inherited Oakwood House and the Estate in North Yorkshire from his estranged father in 1892. He intended to sell the house and grounds, and never use the title of Lord Greene, however his young wife was about to have his first child and there was a delay dealing with his Father's badly managed finances, so the couple moved into the huge house, having nowhere else to live.
Shawn was born in the house a month earlier than expected. So early and so unexpected that he was actually brought into the world by Mrs Preston, the housekeeper, ably assisted by a housemaid. The old Butler called the boy 'Young Lord Greene' as soon as he was introduced to the child and, after that, somehow Hershel and Annette became Lord and Lady Greene. They sold the mining works connected to the estate but kept the house and grounds which included gardens, woods, land for hunting, a fishing lake and Oakwood village.
Years later, two daughters, Margaret and Elizabeth, made the family complete and they lived an idyllic life until The Great War which changed everything, for everyone…
Beth had taken on the job of distributing the post almost as soon as the injured soldiers arrived at Oakwood House. It had been an easy task to begin with, their home had been allocated to a few recuperating Officers, but more than a year later the Officers were billeted three or four to a bedroom and other lower ranking soldiers were in dormitories that had once been her family's reception rooms. Those that could leave their beds, ate in the large open hallway.
Beth had moved with her father to Oakwood Lodge, a smaller house on the estate but she spent a lot of time in her old home, Oakwood House which had almost changed beyond all recognition.
Even though Beth was very organised, the letters could take a long while to sort. She then handed them out and offered what other help she could to the nurses and their patients. It was her eighteenth birthday next month, maybe she would be able to help out a little more, but she wasn't sure if her Daddy would allow it.
Beth paused at the doorway of what was once the sunny Morning Room which overlooked the gardens and woods. Most of these soldiers had only been here a few days, they were servicemen rather than offices and she didn't know any of them well. The last couple of mornings she had passed the letters to a friendly man with his arm in a sling and he'd handed out the post, but he was nowhere to be seen.
Most of the men were abed, but there were three in the middle for the room being quite boisterous, especially considering that they were surrounded by injured colleagues who needed rest.
Beth chose to speak to the man in the bed closest to the door, he looked a little grumpy, but that was to be expected as he had a bandage around his head and possibly more damage beneath the bed sheets. At least he didn't seem to be trying to sleep.
"Good afternoon, I'm Beth," she began awkwardly. "I have brought your letters, I spoke to a man yesterday. Axel? He was able to help."
"He was here a minute ago, said he'd be right back."
"I can wait…I suppose..." Beth hesitated, realising she had gained the attention of the louder men in the centre of the room. Grasping for something else to say to the quieter patient, she asked, "Could I take your name? There might be something for you?"
"I'm Dixon, Daryl Dixon, but there won't be anythin' for me."
Beth knew she was often a little too inquisitive, this time she managed not to verbally ask why he thought that, but the tilt of her head clearly asked the question. Private Dixon shrugged painfully, "I've only got my brother. He's still over there an' he's not the letter writing kind. Any news from him would be bad news…"
Beth understood why Private Dixon went quiet; she had seen too many letters telling of the death of a soldier since the war started. It was in her nature to try and cheer him. "Maybe you could write to him, tell him you're safe and over here now. I could help you writing, if you have trouble sitting comfortably. I've done that for a few men who…"
Dixon raised his hand to stop her and spoke gruffly. "He's my brother, not a penpal. We'll hear from each other soon enough."
Beth wasn't sure how to reply to that, and she became quite uncomfortable as a large man, who had been in the centre of the room, came and stood quite close to her. "Can I help you, love? The state he's in, Dixon ain't much use to anyone."
"I'm fine, thank you." Beth struggled not to wince as the man put his hand on the small of her back.
"I'm not in any kind o' state. You leave the girl be…" Dixon snarled from his bed. Beth found herself distracted by the way his blue eyes flashed when he was angry.
"Tamas! What are you doing?" Axel arrived, his voice high pitched with worry. "This is Lady Elizabeth, this is her home, you shouldn't be bothering her."
"Lady Elizabeth?" The tall man, Tamas questioned with an arched eyebrow. "She's havin' you on. She's not dressed like no lady, a lady's maid maybe."
Beth scowled at the insult to her working dress and apron. Wearing good clothes while she helped out at the makeshift hospice meant that the clothes were ruined quickly, she had learnt that in the first week. She hoped she wasn't too proud to wear working clothes when she needed to.
Deciding it was best not to be drawn into the conversation, Beth handed over the bundle of letters to Axel and turned to leave, but Tamas was still stood in her way, looking down on her.
Frustrated now, Beth asked, "Maybe you would like Lord Greene to confirm that he is my father?" She was pleased that she sounded quite haughty.
"I bet he's hobnobbing with the officers upstairs, wouldn't come slumming it down here. Wouldn't let his daughter down here either."
"Our Morning Room has been used as a hospital ward for more than a year now, so maybe it does need a little decoration, but I hardly believe this is 'slumming it'," Beth retorted. She felt her face flush, she did not relish confrontation and the eyes of the whole ward were on her now.
"Wanna watch yourself, Tamas. Talk like that to a Lady and you'll be shipped off back to the front; healthy or not." Daryl drawled from his bed. "These folks take care o' their own."
Tamas grunted at Daryl and stepped out of Beth's way, with a mocking salute.
Although she wouldn't admit it, even to herself, Beth kept away from the makeshift ward in the Morning Room for a few days. Axel collected any letters from her by the door, where he stood most of the day chatting to anyone who passed.
Axel had two pieces of good news for her, Tamas didn't stay in the house for long, he was considered fit enough to travel home and Axel himself was hoping to leave soon. He had been told he may lose his arm, but the feeling had returned to his fingers and he was hoping to get away from any Doctors who might decide to remove the arm anyway.
Beth caught glimpses of Private Dixon, once he was sleeping, another time just staring wide eyed at the ceiling, she wondered if he was recovering. He certainly seemed healthier than when she had first seen him, his colouring no longer grey and his face no longer drawn. When she saw him sleeping, she was surprised to consider him handsome.
It was two weeks later that she realised with a sadness that she had to speak to the soldier again.
"What am I bein' brought here for?" Private Daryl Dixon arrived by wheelchair, being pushed by a nurse who had agreed to help Beth. The nurse looked like she was regretting being helpful, as her patient clearly did not like wheelchairs. He seemed to be scowling and grumbling all the way along the corridor towards Beth.
"I apologise for upsetting you Private Dixon, but I thought you might want some privacy." Beth said, giving a quick wave to the nurse, she unlocked a room with a heavy wooden door. "This is my Father's Study. We haven't given this room over to the hospital but we've stored a few family things in here." Beth explained as she wheeled the chair into a wood-panelled room with a large desk in the centre, the walls crowded with packing boxes and what seemed to be covered paintings stacked against a wall.
"Privacy?" Dixon looked around seeming quite uncomfortable, he sounded a little less belligerent and more concerned now.
"I'm sorry, I know you were hoping not to receive any news, but a letter has arrived for you." Beth drew the battered envelope out of her dress pocket and Daryl glared at it as if it might bite. After a moment he took the letter from her, inspecting the address and the changes written on the envelope that had ensured the letter had reached him. "I'll be outside, take your time," Beth whispered and crept out of the room.
She stood with her back to the door, offering a prayer for the strangers' brother, hoping he was captured or even injured, rather than dead. It was a long time before a soft knock on the other side of the door brought her back into the room. Beth took a deep breath before she entered, she would never get used to grief even though it surrounded everyone since the war began.
It hurt her to see any man as distraught as Daryl Dixon seemed to be. His eyes were red, his face blotched and angry. "I am sorry," she said quietly as she stepped back into the room.
"He's dead," said Daryl roughly. "Been dead a month or more."
"I'm so sorry, the letter does seem to have travelled far to find you."
"Don't matter if I know or not, he's still dead." Daryl snapped.
"I know it hurts, if there…"
"What the fuck do you know? With your big house and servants and family all around you. Don't try pretend you understand how much this hurts!"
Beth flinched at his language and angry shout, but she replied as evenly as she could. "My Father told me in this room that we had lost my brother, that was just two months after he left to fight. We lost my mother after him. Spanish influenza. I do understand hurt, Private Dixon."
Beth was shocked to see the fight leave the angry soldier, he sank down in his seat and dropped his gaze. The raw memories of her own losses had brought tears to her eyes, but she still felt sympathy for the man who had just found out about his own loss. She crouched by the wheelchair, so he could see her if he wished to look. "Please, if there is anything I can do, just ask. Do you need to inform anyone? Do you have other family members?"
He shook his head, "Parents are long gone. There's no one else."
"This won't help now, but when I felt as if my grief was too much, a friend of mine told me that the pain doesn't go away, but you just make room for it."
"A friend said that? Don't sound that friendly."
"She probably said it better than me. Lady Andrea Harrison is a friend of the family, she lost her husband... Her sister is working with my sister in London, so we try and keep each other company while we don't have our family here."
"Your sister works?" Daryl seemed to be asking questions to distract himself, so Beth was happy to answer.
"Her name's Maggie... Margaret, she's helping in a hospital in London. I worry about her, I want to go work with her and help too, but Daddy says I'm too young to go."
"How old are you?"
"Eighteen next month."
"Shit! You are too young. And I shouldn't be swearing, sorry… Lady Elizabeth?"
The soldier seemed unsure of her proper title. "No one calls me that. Only our butler, Mr Hovarth, who's very strict about that sort of thing. Please call me Beth."
"Thank you… Beth. And I'm Daryl, if you think it's right to call me that."
"Daryl, that seems fine to me. Why don't I get you something to wash up with, then I can take you back to your ward. The doctors will be angry with me for keeping you out of your bed."
The interested seemed to fade from the injured soldier as he recalled his own pain. His shoulders drooped and he looked down at his knees. "Thanks..."
I know that was short, but I've got a long story planned. This is just a taster to let me know if I should share the story or keep it to myself. I hope you enjoyed it, please review to let me know if I should continue?
For anyone who knows Downton, I promise Beth will not end up like Sybil, but I will be introducing Cameo's from Walking Dead and Downton characters.
FanOTheFang on Twitter and Tumblr ~ 7th March 2015