Standard Disclaimer – I do not own Little Women, nor the characters; they are merely affectionately borrowed.
Author's Note – the small quote is taken from Chapter 35 Heartache...
Author's Note Once More – This story would be "A/U" I suppose – It's all the same up until Laurie goes away to Europe. From that point on, things are altered. He did not marry Amy and he sort of disappeared after he left heartbroken with Grandfather...
"Perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us, yesterday, separate, in the evening..." - Rilke
It had been over two years.
Two years, six months, four hours, millions of seconds...but who was counting?
And he was coming home. Finally.
He wasn't sure if that was good or bad. He would find out soon enough. His head bumped against the inside of the carriage as it swayed back and forth, keeping rhythm with the trotting horses guiding it. He rubbed his face tiredly with a large gloved hand, pushing a few strips of hair away from his forehead. Maybe he could avoid her.
He was returning to his grandfather's stately home, true it was next door, but that didn't mean he would have to be neighbourly. After all, he hadn't told anyone of his homecoming. His mind wandered to old times as his eyes gazed upon the brilliant white landscape blurring by him. Fond memories of snow angels and sled rides danced upon the frosty air and his chest began to clench with the sudden flood of emotions.
No matter how desperately he tried, he couldn't keep his mind from eternally swinging back to that one all encompassing thought...would she be there? And if she is, what would be his reception?
Jo always was unpredictable, in fact the one thing you could count on was not to know what to except – no, he thought harshly. There's one other thing you could always count on with Jo – she would never love him as he wanted...as he needed her to.
He listened to the clop of the horses' hoofs as they padded over the soft powder. There was a nervous knot in his stomach twisting and jabbing at him. He wondered if he had been too rash in his resolve to return, and thought about telling the driver to turn around and bring him all the way back to the train yard. He popped his head out of the rectangular window, turning his face up to address the driver when the carriage thudded to a halt as they had reached his their destination.
He dipped his head back in, taking a steadying breath before opening the door and hopping out. There it was – the March residence. He felt his throat constrict at the knowledge that Jo could quite possibly be inside that very house at this very second. His feet turned toward the path that he had trod so many times before, and he felt his left shoe leave the ground, about to go down that worn way again before he froze. He couldn't – he wouldn't...not yet, anyway.
He turned back round and went into the old Laurence estate without a second backwards glance, snapping the door shut firmly behind him.
Jo March was hungry and on a mission. Which, of course, wasn't unusual. Her nose was poking about the cupboards, slim hands pushing and prodding the boxes and sacks inside.
"What're ya doin, Miz Josephine?" Hannah tumbled in, a small pile of wood for the stove tumbling down as she bent over.
"We don't have anything that I need, wouldn't you know it? Tomorrow is Amy and Fred's first day back, and I want to have everything perfect for her!" Jo answered, though her voice was mumbled by the efforts of her fruitless search.
"I expect anythin' we have will be good enough for Miz Amy. She's not changed that much – she'll be pleased as punch just to be home, I reckon, after all that European froofroo..." were the sound words from the woman that had become as much of the family as any of the others.
"Well, I think that Amy needs a meal deserving of a grand homecoming and I intend to give it to her – well, I intend to try, at any rate. Oh, I need to run to the grocer's, I suppose. Will you tell Marmee and Father that I've run there to fetch a few things? Oh, and don't forget Meg and the boys will be here soon, too!" Jo rushed as she wobbled off her perch on the stool, narrowly escaping a scraped knee. She grabbed her coat off of the kitchen hook as she bounded out the back door.
Her fingers numbly fastened the hooks of her jacket, and she could feel her nose already reddening with the great chill nipping around. Her gaze shot to the house of her formal playmate, a curious pull drawing her attention. She continued walking and shook her head at her foolish thoughts. Her boots seemed to turn to lead as her mind skipped back to the last time she saw her Teddy...
'He did look round, came back, put his arms about her as she stood on the step above him, and looked up at her with a face that made his short appeal eloquent and pathetic.
"Oh, Jo, can't you?"
"Teddy, dear, I wish I could!"
That was all, except a little pause. Then Laurie straightened himself up, said, "It's all right, never mind", and went away without another word.'
She snapped her eyes shut at the mournful memory, kicking up tiny tufts of snow with her toes as her gait sped. Her gaze turned back once more towards the old familiar home as she neared the corner and for a split second her eyes had deceived her, tricking her into thinking she spotted the very object of her affliction through the frosty pane. She whipped her neck back, staring forward again, resolution filling her at pushing such nonsensical and ill advised fancies from her over active imagination.
"When are you going to call?"
Laurie looked up from his hunched position over the piano. "Sorry, sir – what did you ask?"
Old Mr. Laurence smiled kindly. "I inquired as to when you plan to pay call on the Marches."
Laurie stiffened before turning away, staring blankly at the sheet music before him. "I hadn't really thought on it much."
"I see," Mr. Laurence answered softly, wishing he knew how to best comfort his grandson. He knew it must be very difficult for this youth to return home and so close to the woman that had denied him. It troubled his aging heart to no end to know that there was nothing he could do to help. He had so hoped that whisking him away to Europe would help him forget – not forget, so much as lesson the affliction of that tender and aching heart. It became clear that there would be no so such concession and as the months turned into a year it came time for Mr. Laurence to return home. His grandson was not eager at the prospect, however, so he remained touring France, Germany, and England as the old man began the journey back.
He would never forget the day he first saw the Marches again upon his return, nor would he be able to ever erase the crestfallen face that Theodore's young partner in play wore with the news that he was not with him. Poor little Jo had tried so hard to take the news in stride, biting her quivering lip and avoiding any further conversation. He had bid goodnight to the family that he dearly wanted to have melded in with his own, and he had not gotten five steps from the door when Jo tumbled out behind him. She stood before him, not sure what to say, before finally asking him, "How is my Teddy doing – really and truly?" Mr. Laurence gave her a watery smile before replying, "He's nursing quite a wound, I'm afraid...but he's young and strong. Try not to fret too much..."
Mr. Laurence was brought back from his memories as Laurie's long fingers hit the black and white keys. He looked at him protectively, wishing there was something that could be done...
So, this is the beginning – what do you all think?
Thanks for reading, and I'd absolutely adore reviews!