Title: The Gift

Author: Rose

Email: buffybot76@hotmail.com

Rating: G

Genre: Romance

Pairing: Col. Brandon/Marianne

Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from the movie Sense and Sensiblility. They belong to their creator Jane Austen.

Summary: A S&S Valentine fic.

Feedback: Yes, please

*It never fails." Marianne Brandon thought to herself as the first raindrop dampened the back of her hand.

It seemed she was destined to never finish a walk without inciting the wrath of Mother Nature, for everytime she ventured out for a stroll it never failed to rain.

Sighing, Marianne turned and retraced her steps, desperately trying to beat the downpour of rain. Hurry as she might, she still found herself soaked through by the time she entered the front door.

"Oh, my Lady, you are drenched!" Exclaimed the maid as she came into the foyer, taking in the sight of Marianne's dripping wet dress and cloak. "Come, let's get you out of those before you catch your death."

Marianne knew the words were not intended to sound as they had, but the reminder of the near tragic incident from the past caused Marianne to shudder involuntarily. Taking it for a sign, the maid hastened to clothe Marianne in a clean, dry robe as she searched the wardrobe. Before long, a dress of pale blue Gingham appeared, as well as the required undergarments: pantaloons, stockings, garters and corset--the latter being an item Marianne thought to be totally unnecessary, if not downright uncomfortable.

Once fully attired again, Marianne left her bedroom to enter the nursery where little Maggie--barely a year old-- lay sleeping in her crib. Kneeling down, Marianne laid her left arm along the rail and rested her chin upon it. With her right arm, she reached into the crib to lightly stroke the sleeeping infant's downy hair.

It never ceased to amaze Marianne that she and her husband had created this little miracle. Removing her hand, Marianne watched her daughter sleep for a moment longer, before rising and quietly leaving the room.

Stopping before a servant in the hallway, she asked, "Where is my husband?"

"Oh, Col. Brandon said to tell you that he had business in town and would be back later, Mrs. Brandon."

Marianne felt a wave of disappointment wash over her.

*Why today?* She thought dismally. *Of all the days to be doing business, why Valentine's Day?*

She knew it was silly to think that an older man such as Christopher would indulge in things such as bringing her chocolates and flowers. He had done so before when he was attempting to court her, and she had treated him dreadfully then. Now, when she so wanted it, she was sure he would have had enough of such trivialties.

"Thank you." She told the servant, then continued down the hall until she reached the Library.

She considered it to be her sanctuary, a place to go and read her sonnets, whether aloud or to herself was her choice. Or to think over her problems and concerns when she felt unsure of discussing them with Christopher.

Taking her favorite book of sonnets from the shelf, marianne sank down into the plush armchair and opened it.

A folded piece of paper fluttered from where it had been tucked within the interior of the book and fluttered into her lap. Picking it up, Marianne unfolded the scrap of paper and read what was written upon it.

Dearest Marianne,

Forgive me, my love, for not being with you this morning on such an important day such as this. If you would allow me to make it up to you, I am most postiive you shall not be disappointed. My business will be over at noon and by one I shall be waiting under the willow tree by the lake should you wish to join me.

All My Love,

Christopher

Refolding the note, Marianne smiled to herself, once more reassured that her husband indeed loved her and would make this Valentine's Day a day she would remember forever. Rising from her chair, Marianne placed the book back on its shelf and--taking Christopher's note with her--walked out into the hall to look at the grandfather clock set against the far wall.

11: 15

She had 45 minutes before she would meet her beloved at the lake. Smiling bemusedly, Marianne turned and headed upstairs for the bedroom. She had to get ready.

After nearly a half hour of fussing over getting her hair "just right" and pinning on the broach that Christopher had gotten her for Christmas, Marianne realized that she had better hurry if she did not want to be late. Grabbing her cloak from the rack by the door, Marianne called out to the nanny that she would be back late and instructed her to look after Maggie until she returned. When Marianne opened the door, she noticed that it had miraculously stopped raining and the sun was shining. Smiling, Marianne swept out the door to go and join her beloved husband at the lake.

*~*~*~*~*~*

She left her horse grazing on the hillside and walked the rest of the way to the lake. She found him looking out over the lake, his back to her. A smile spread across her face. She felt she was undeserving of such a wonderful man, but could not help but thank the Heavenly Father for giving her such a gift as Christopher Brandon . Quietly, Marianne came up behind him, raising up on tiptoes so that she could cover his eyes with her hands as she began whispering the beginning of their favorite sonnet in his ear.

"Those lines that I before have writ do lie,

Even those that said I could not love you dearer,

Yet then my judgment knew no reason why,

My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer,

But reckoning time, whose millioned accidents

Creep in 'twixt vows, and change decrees of kings,

Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp'st intents,

Divert strong minds to the course of alt'ring things."

Though she could not see his face, she knew that he was smiling, as he Reached up and took her hands in his and brought them from his eyes. Turning to face his beloved wife, Brandon picked up the next verse in the deep silky baritone that held enchantment in its depths.

"Alas why fearing of time's tyranny,

Might I not then say 'Now I love you best,'

When I was certain o'er incertainty,

Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?

Love is a babe, then might I not say so

To give full growth to that which still doth grow."

Bringing a hand up, Brandon caressed her cheek lightly. Marianne closed her eyes as Brandon bent slightly to brush a light kiss over his young wife's lips.

"I love you, Marianne. Say you forgive me for leaving this morning."

Marianne laughed. Of course she forgave him... how could she not? He was her savior... her lover... her friend and confidante. He was her husband.

"I love you, Christopher." She murmured, as she drank from his lips again. The sweet headiness of his kisses making her drunk with desire. It never failed to.

Pulling away, Brandon led Marianne to a blanket that had been spread out beneath the willow tree and assisted her as she sat, then settled down beside her. Reaching into his coat pocket, he withdrew a small velvet box, and for a moment Marianne was--in her mind--transported back to the day he had proposed. The words he had said filled her heart, specifically three special words.

I Love You.

He had said the words that she had longed to hear that day, and every day since, and she thought she would never tire of hearing them.

Brandon held the small box out to Marianne in offering. She took it, breaking the connection her eyes had with his own to look down at the contents held within when she opened it. Inside, she found a beautiful ivory broach affixed to a delicate gold chain. Upon closer inspection, she noticed that the likeness of the figure on the broach held a striking resemblance to her own. With tears in her eyes, Marianne looked to Brandon; the love she held for this man filling her entire being, becoming visibly apparent in her blue eyes.

"T'was made especially for you, my love. Happy Valentine's Day." Brandon murmured, as he leaned forward and placed a whisper of a kiss up on her neck.

Marianne sighed at the sensation that the contact of his lips to her flesh sent through her. Closing her eyes, Marianne smiled as she brought her right hand up to rest on the back of her husband's neck, drawing him nearer to her.

Brandon traced the curve of where her neck and shoulder met, trailing it with gentle kisses. Marianne felt at that moment as if life could not be more perfect.

But then, when Brandon moved up to capture her lips once again with his own, it did.

*~*~The End~*~*