Author's Note: In the spirit of the upcoming premiere, I thought I'd finish this one off, finally! Happy Reading.

Disclaimer: LRTC belongs to the wonderful Flora Thompson and the LRTC adaptation to the wonderful BBC.

Dorcas Lane

Dorcas sat in the chair by the small fireplace trying to warm herself against the chill that she knew no fire could possibly remove. The iciness seemed to emanate from the centre of her being; her heart, and ripple outwards.

Her gaze fell to the dress on the armchair at the far side of the room. A small sob escaped and her heart constricted with another spasm. Her mother's beautiful wedding gown that had been so carefully restored by the sisters Pratt after Minnie wrecked it. The gown that she had taken out to try on, her head filled with giddy girly thoughts after he proposed. And now she saw it all as it truly was; a hapless daydream. She remembered the first time she had laid eyes on James, she had had the dress pinned against herself in foolish fancy. Her heart wrenched again at the thought of James.

Suddenly stifled, she stood up quickly and crept down the stairs as quietly as she could. She paused on the last step and sank down onto it remembering how the two of them had sat together here when he declared how magnificent he thought she was, that she could do no wrong in his eyes. She rocked herself gently trying to quiet sobs wracking her breast. The will to move came slowly.

She sat down in the parlour and poured herself another finger of brandy. Her eyes instinctively strayed to the chaise longue that she had been resting on when he had come running in to check on her during her illness. No! Why was she doing this to herself? Tormenting herself with thoughts of him. It seemed she couldn't even escape him in her own sanctuary – her home. The decision was made in haste and not given another thought as she all but ran out the house only to be confronted by the Candleford clock.

That blasted clock! She muttered under her breath, stumbling backwards in the dark. It was under its ticking face that she had declared herself to be his. That bastion of love that he had built especially for her. She covered her face in her hands as if that would shut the memory out. She scurried away and stumbled down the road.

A few metres on, her foot caught on something, sending her sprawling to the ground. She felt a sharp pain in her palm as it was gashed open. Bewildered by this and lost for a moment she looked up only to be confronted with the lighted sign of the Golden Lion Hotel with her father's silver thruppence sparkling in the candlelight. It couldn't be! she thought. This was the same place that she had fallen from the bicycle and into his arms. No! it couldn't be!

She was suddenly flooded with everything......

His touch,

His gaze,

His scent,

His kiss,

His love…

She wanted to get out of there before the last of her sanity was shredded into mere nothingness.

Love had never hurt so much…even her beloved Timothy hadn't hurt this much! She experienced a moment's anger, at Sir Timothy's seemingly lackadaisical love, which gave her strength to get back on her feet and ignore the physical pain she felt from her fall.

After passing the Golden Lion she felt a cool breeze ruffle her now loose curls. She knew she was out of Candleford now. She turned her head to the breeze and walked to the orchard nearby knowing the night would soon be over and the coming morning would bring far more pain than this night. She managed to reach the edge of the orchard before collapsing with a sob against one of the broad, strong trunks. She wrapped her arm around the tree trunk, feeling the sky lightening through her closed lids.

Her mind was exhausted and her body ached…that chilliness had not been soothed. Her sobs became more frequent as her tears flowed more freely now that she was free of the restraints of Candleford. She wasn't sure if she was imagining the footsteps but suddenly she was flooded with sensations of him again.

A strong arm closed around her waist and warm lips were tenderly kissing the back of her neck. She felt a delicious tingle of warmth and happiness course through her as she sank tiredly back into the haven of the warm embrace.

"Sweet nothings." She said wearily, scared to open her eyes in case this was just a dream but not sure if she wanted it to be reality either.

"No Dorcas, no my love." came the soft reply, "I love you too much to see you in such pain. I cannot bear it Dorcas." There was a change in tone as the voice became more pleading "Forgive me, my darling. It was wrong, I was wrong. I can bear anything but your anger. I love you Dorcas, it is you, it has always been you. I am sorry for the pain, I cannot bear to know that it is I who make you suffer so. Dorcas? Dorcas?"

He turned her around gently in his arms so that he could see her. She opened her eyes and gave him a smile; that mischievous smile that had captured his heart the first time.

She saw all the truths she had ever needed to see in James Dowland's green eyes in that instant. "I love you James, with all my heart. I don't know if I can bear to live like this. It hurts!" she cried pressing his hand against her heart, "It hurts so much."

"Forgive me my love, forgive me." He whispered, his own eyes welling with tears as he felt her tears dripping onto his hands. He pressed her hands against his breast "It is killing me Dorcas, it is killing me." He lowered them both gently onto the ground cradling her in his arms like a child.

"Hold me James," she whispered closing her eyes again as his lips brushed against hers. She opened her eyes and held his tired, loving gaze as he gently attended to her wounds on the outside and the inside. Their hands remained entwined, each trying to soothe the other.

The dew was forming and a chill settled the early morning but neither Miss Lane nor Mr Dowland felt the iciness that had consumed them in the night, now that they had made their way back to the place where each rightfully belonged; in the arms of each other.

- END -