A/N: I manipulated the series a bit. But I think it works this way too. ^_^

Disclaimer: I do not own Little Men—the book or the TV series.

Tears of Shame

As Bess ran from the river, a thousand thoughts swirled in her head. Why had Grayson tried that? Why had she agreed to walk with him? Why had she allowed herself to get into that position? She knew it was improper for her to be there alone with him. The tears fell so hard that she was unable to really see where she was going. All she knew was that she was going home—to Plumfield. When she came within distance of the house, she turned into the woods, unwilling to be caught by anyone in her present state. Sitting upon a fallen log, she buried her head in her lap and sobbed.

Dan was outside with Nick helping to mend a fence when he saw her. Still upset by her earlier words, he turned back to the fence, an angry scowl coming upon his face, but paused when he thought he heard a sniffle. Turning to watch Bess, he was startled when he saw her run into the woods.

"Can we take a break?" he asked, knowing that it was past time to do so.

Drawing a deep breath and turning his face to the sky, Nick replied "Sure," and began walking toward the house. But Dan didn't stay long enough to see. He bolted for the woods and was gone before Nick could turn to see if he was following.

Bess twisted around, startled to hear footsteps rushing toward her. Upon seeing Dan, she hastily tried to wipe away her tears. He slowed to a walk, and came to sit beside her. Not quite knowing how to handle a sobbing girl, he waited. When she seemed more in control, he asked "Is everything all right, Bess?"

With his gentle words, her walls crumbled again. Turning to him with a tearstained face, and moisture still clinging to her lashes, the words just came tumbling out.

As he listened to her tale, he felt an immense rage well up within him. The next time he saw that Gerald...Gerard…George…whatever his name was…he would… And then he realized she was sobbing again. Placing a calming arm around her shoulders, he soothed her. Years on the streets had taught him that her ordeal was not as bad as what couldhave happened. But in Bess's sheltered life, it was much worse than what should have happened. When her tale was finished, he pulled her into a hug. "It will be all right, Bess. He won't do it again. I won't let him."

Startled by the sincerity in his words, Bess looked up. At the soft sparkle and fierce determination in his eyes, she ducked her head again and buried it against his chest. These feelings were fairly new to her. She had only felt them for Grayson before. But with Dan…the feelings were much stronger.

"Bess," Dan began, cupping her chin and tilting her face up, "You should tell Mrs. Jo. She, and your parents, should know what kind of scum this guy is." He wiped away the last of her tears as she nodded her head.

"Will you come with me?"

He nodded and stood, offering his hand to help her up. Once she stood beside him, he grasped her hand in his own. "Let's go then. And remember, I'll protect you."