"perhaps, this falling may start to show"
Genre: Romance, General
Time Frame: Missing Scene
Characters: Mr. Rochester/Jane Eyre
Summary: God forgive him, but this little enchantress would be the death of him . . .
Notes: So, I actually wrote this one quite a long time ago. But just seeing the trailer for the upcoming film (dear sweet awesomeness above, but Michael Fassbender for the win as Rochester! Have you heard that man's voice?) made me unearth this and clean it up. And here it is now.
This is set before the eve with the gypsy and Mason's arrival, somewhere in chapter 17-ish. I hope you enjoy my humble offering to an amazing work.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine but for the words.
"perhaps, this falling may start to show"
There was nothing more sorely missed as much as a silent house at times when one's said dwelling was filled to the brim. This was a fact universally acknowledged by those of his more unique temperament, and those undoubtedly more loquacious and outgoing in manner.
While he understood the necessary evil of having his home overrun by the more daft of the wealthier rings of country society, he did appreciate the early mornings in which he could hide away in his corner of the library and let his guests sleep off the activities of the night before. By this hour, he reasoned that he still had a good three hours until his peace would once again be invaded, and he would be put in the roll of charming host once again.
This peace, and the relative solace of a good book compared to his company, was broken not even a half an hour in by the high, tinkling tones of his ward and the more somber lilts of her governess.
His back immediately stiffened against the plush cushions of the chair that he had taken refuge in. His fingers stilled in the process of turning the page as he narrowed his eyes and peered between the volumes of the shelf that separated him from them.
A flash of gray was the most that he could see. Jane, he presumed . . . Miss Jane Eyre. His mind loitered over the syllables of her name, pleasurably occupied past where he was contemplating flight or fight.
Adèle could be heard commenting on this and that as Jane pointed out various volumes that would be of interest to her. The child, understandably, was far off from the books that her teacher spoke of. The whole of her conversation was on the gathering that she had been able to attend the night before. She would speak of nothing else for some time, he would wager.
"Adèle," was the cool voice of Jane speaking next, soothing compared to the child's excited tones. "You may speak to me of lace and dancing as much as you wish as soon as your studies are completed. Now here, try this one."
She passed a thick book with red binding to Adèle, who looked at the book with considerable disinterest. He expected the pair to leave after that, and counted that as a small mercy, when they unexpectedly turned towards his part of the library. He eyed the chairs that surrounded the center area with a petulant sort of gaze, as if their enticement were the whole bane of his problems.
He had a scant moment to brace himself before hearing: "Monsieur Rochester!" the child exclaimed upon seeing him. He dredged up half of a smile for her, knowing that she would not be sated until seeing otherwise from him. It was rare for him to be in the girl's presence this early, he knew, and was not surprised when she continued in asking, "Oh, we were going to read for my studies today, and I would love for you to stay with us."
Jane spoke before he could. "Adèle," her tone was admonishing. "You know that we cannot bother him so. We will leave Mr. Rochester to his peace."
Any other time, he would have been grateful to her for her insight. At the moment, he was more intrigued by the studious way that Jane was refusing to meet his eyes. The whole of her manner was stiff and cold, fluttering as if she would flicker away with naught but a strong gust of breath. She was uncomfortable, he knew. Disconcerted, even. From what he had seen of her, she was never anything more than supremely confident, her head held high and posed to meet everyone and everything.
He was intrigued now. And so he said, "No, please. Your company does not inconvenience me in any way."
"Please," Jane returned. "I would not think to -"
"I insist," he cut her off, his voice pointed and his eyes bright. She knew this tone from him – he would have his way.
Adèle, too, knew this tone, and wasted no time in sitting down at the couch across from him before looking expectantly up at Jane. Jane gave him a hard sort of look before stiffly crossing over to sit next to her charge. In her hands she had a bit of needlework that she no doubted intended to turn her attention to. Whatever would give her an excuse not to meet his eyes . . . She would have to look at him eventually, he knew.
Adèle's attention was naught at the book of sonnets in her hand. Instead her conversation turned to, as could be easily predicted, the festivities of the night before.
"I have not seen such shades of dresses since Paris!" she was saying now. "And the lace on the ladies gowns . . . They looked like angels dancing, so very beautiful . . ." The little girl stood, book discarded, and started twirling around, her hands waving in the air as she spun her feet in dainty little circles. "Do I look like an angel, Monsieur Rochester?"
"I think that you look like a silly little girl," was his brisk reply, as always.
Adèle laughed merrily at it. Jane looked up from her needlework to give him a sharp sort of look.
He leveled a great sigh at her glare, no doubt still cross from the few nights prior. She had a low opinion of the company, to be sure. One that he could not entirely fault her for. It would only be for a few nights more, and she would manage, he knew. She would manage and continue on with her head held high, and her eyes upturned, refusing to let him pay witness to the tears that dwelt there.
Something uncomfortable twisted in his gut at his thoughts, and so he closed his book at it, and turned to the child who was twirling about the room like a ballerina struggling in a new pair of slippers.
"And the dancing," Adèle was still continuing, her voice a reverent sigh that she normally reserved for a new doll or a pretty hair ribbon. "They looked like the dancers on my music box, so perfect, so graceful. I shall dance just as well as them when I am older, and everyone shall think me graceful as well." She came to a stop by him, a frown on her pretty face. "Can you show me how to dance like you did at the ball, Mr. Rochester? You looked like a prince with Miss Ingram. I wish to dance like that as well!"
A prince? Hardly. More like the dragon, whose scales were softened by the promise of a pretty sum . . .
He heaved a mock sigh, deciding to humor the child. He got to his feet, and held out a hand to the little girl. It seemed as if these past few evenings had done much to sharpen the vain edge to the child that he knew Jane had been softening.
"Now, you hold my hand like this, right here," he held the girl's hand. "And put your arm on my shoulder, yes, like that." The small child had to struggle awkwardly to suit herself to his much taller frame, but she held her head up high with affection and excitement glinting in her eyes.
Behind her, Jane was watching them both with a soft sort of smile on her normally downturn lips. Her hand had stayed at her needlework as she watched him interact with her young charge.
"Is this correct, Monsieur?" Adèle was asking, her nose scrunched up prettily as she held her pose.
He frowned down at her, his eyes betraying the smile that he refused to let out onto his lips. "I fear, child, that you are much to short for this to work properly." And that was the honest truth, to be sure. They must have looked a most ridiculous picture.
Adèle put her lower lip out in a pout before standing on the tips of her toes. "Is this better, Monsieur?"
He laughed lightly at the impish little girl. "Better. And yet, I daresay that this would be more aptly preformed were you a woman my equal."
Adèle's eyes turned down in dismay before they brightened as she cast them about the room. "Mademoiselle Eyre?" she questioned hopefully. "She is much closer to your height, Monsieur. Could I see you two dance?" her accent thickened in her excitement, the vowels swirling on the lilting cadence as she turned her sparkling eyes on her governess.
Jane had gone very still, her fingers around her needle pausing in the air.
Something inside of him spoke before he thought. "If Miss Eyre wishes to," he said, something like a smirk and a challenge both in his tone as he caught Jane's eyes.
Adèle was quick to be his ambassador. "Oh, please, Miss Eyre!" she pleaded, dropping on the couch next to her governess, everything about her perfectly childish and entreating. Jane, it seemed, was not the only one with magical abilities in the house. "I very much wish to dance the English way, and it would be much easier to copy if you were to instruct me."
She played the teacher card. His young ward was quite the minx already.
Jane frowned, hesitating. Adèle's eyes became more beseeching.
For some reason, her slow coming reply prompted him to hurry it along. "Come now, Jane, I may not be a young man – or an attractive one, but I daresay I should have enough persuasion on my side to sway you for just one dance with me."
He waited for but a second for a reaction – a slight dip between her brows, and the tightening of her pink lips that spoke of her understanding his challenge. There was a small spark in the calm pools of her eyes. Where the brown turned to black, they were endlessly deep like his best brandy, the shade proving to be a most dangerous allure to him at the oddest of times . . .
"Perhaps one dance," she said softly, her eyes on Adèle, rather than him.
He stood, and offered her his hand the way any young man would bid a young lady to dance . . . Only, he was no longer young, and never offered what he could take. She herself had a sort of ancientness about her that would make any branding of young fall away from her like morning dew from a summer bloom.
Her eyes flickered up to meet his as she took his hand. Her hand was small in his, so very tiny . . . he remembered holding one of hers in both of his that night after the fire. She had been trembling . . . fluttering about as a shade trying to break free of the mortal coil underneath the weight of his cloak. He found that he liked the texture of her hand in his. It was pleasing. Soothing, even. He could feel her long fingers twitch once before completely surrendering to his touch as he helped her to her feet.
There was no music, but that didn't mater. "You see, Adèle," he said, his voice calm as if he were speaking about the weather, "When you dance properly, you hold your partner's hand here." He kept one of Jane's hand in his while he put his other on her waist. He could feel the heat of her skin through her cotton dress. "And then place your hand here," Jane put her own hand on his shoulder. It trembled for a moment before calming.
"And then you move like so," he started dancing slowly, deliberately, so that Adèle could see the pattern in his steps. "You let your partner guide you. You receive your cues from him, and choose to follow in kind," he whispered gently.
Adèle was watching them, enraptured, a large smile on her lips as her eyes glinted wistfully.
Here, in a forgotten corner of the library in the sharp light of the new morning, he remembered the night before, dancing with Blanche Ingram . . . She was, by society's standards, a beautiful woman, with perfect blonde curls and siren's eyes set into an angel's face. Her form was both slender and voluptuous by turns, made all the more pleasing by silks and lace, and a coy smile that knew just how to grin and when . . . And yet, hers was an empty painting that captured no warmth, her shell a porcelain beauty that held no house to the tender soul he now saw looking up at him with wide and hesitant eyes.
Jane . . . Jane was no epic beauty. There would be no poems penned in her name, no ballads sung in her honor. She was a small thing, thin and willowy, looking for all the world as if she could come and go with the wind if she so desired. While not unpleasant to look at, there was nothing remarkable about her features, nothing striking about her countenance . . . And yet, there was something pleasing about her that was all just simply her, and nothing about preconceived notions of beauty. Her eyes had been the first thing he had noticed about her – a fairy's eyes that had promoted him calling her a witch who had bespelled his horse on the moor. Her hair was the color of the rich earth itself, twined up primly without a thought for fashion and every thought of practicality, set against skin that was moon pale and untouched – like a fresh cover of snow against the hills. Her form was too thin, but there was something birdlike about her that gave her a graceful quality that he didn't know he preferred in a woman until he met her . . .
And then there was the way she held onto him, as if he was an anchor to her as she blew adrift at sea. Her hands, small and ink stained, fit well in his own callused and hardened ones. She did not dance amazingly well. There was no fondness for the art in her steps that would lend to a true proficiency, but there was a studiousness to her dance that said that she had committed herself well to the task of learning the steps to be as accomplished as she was now.
She was hardly a breath's distance from him. Where ladies of society would coyly use the distance to their advantage, she simply turned into him, trusting him to lead her. She did not fear for holding his gaze longer than would be considered proper, instead she held his gaze boldly, and something inside of him found that he could not look away.
He enjoyed dancing with her, he realized. Very much so. As they moved, he could feel himself treading on dangerous ground so very well.
A moment later, Adèle broke out into an ecstatic clapping. "Oh, you dance so very well, Jane," she praised. "Like a fairy! You are so beautiful when you dance!" he could hear the surprised and quieter sort of awe on the child's voice at seeing her governess closer to who she truly was.
Jane had blushed at the compliment. "I do not dance terribly well," she admitted. "You shouldn't praise me so."
He smiled crookedly. "Seeing as how my skills are much to be lamented, your own talent must seem great indeed in comparison."
She raised a brow, that fond exasperation in her eyes that he so enjoyed seeing there flourishing. "You are too hard on yourself, sir."
"Any more so than you are?" he countered.
Her cheeks flushed pink, but she did not back down. "I would not say that."
He shrugged elegantly. "Let us just say that neither of us put much stock in what is generally enjoyed by those around us. You find favor and beauty in other tasks, do you not?"
"Yes." She was looking at him in a way he could not decipher.
"Of course," he whispered. He twirled her slightly, dipping her gently at the end. He enjoyed the surprise in her eyes at the movement, enjoyed the way her breathing quickened and her cheeks flushed with color. "And yet, this always leaves for improvement on our part, does it not?"
"Indeed," she said, her voice a low sort of exhale more than any spoken word.
He drew her back up, and released her.
Adèle clapped vigorously. "Bravo!" she cried, "that was splendid. Really, you must teach me to dance so, Jane!'
He cleared his throat at Adèle's clapping, and was pleased when it desisted. When he realized that he was still holding Jane's hand, he dropped it as if burned. He refused to look down at his hand and search for a mark left behind by her touch.
Jane, at least, seemed as flustered as he felt. "Perhaps, if you do well in your arithmetic," she said gently. "Then we will consider dancing."
Adèle was quick to utter promises to work hard at her maths. In doing so, he reflected that Jane may have just accomplished the impossible.
There was still that look that he couldn't decipher in her eyes when she turned to him. He felt himself frowning at it. He clenched his hands together. "Miss Eyre, the hour continues on, and my guests will be roused soon. Perhaps it would be wise to make Adèle presentable." The dismissal was clear in his voice.
"Yes, sir," she said softly, but he was not oblivious to the jump in her tone, the slightly ethereal quality that invaded it . . .
She and Adèle took their leave, and he watched them walk down the hall for longer than would be considered appropriate. His eyes tangled with the way her gray dress fell about her steps and the way her small little pixie's hands tangled in the fabric as if to wash away the sensation of his . . .
She turned once to look over her shoulder, her gaze conflicted. As soon as she saw that his eyes were still trained on her, she quickly snapped her eyes back straight ahead to where Adèle was chattering on a mile a minute about the night's impending festivities. But her damage was done, that one flicker of a gaze was enough to scorch the emotions running through his veins permanently on his soul.
Biting back a curse, he turned resolutely away from her as he passed his hand violently through his hair. He let out a breath of air through his tightly clenched teeth, disgust with himself eating at his bones. Control . . . it could not be such a far off concept around her, just a mere slip of a girl . . . And yet, it was so very hard to grasp at times. Impossible even.
God forgive him, but this little enchantress would be the death of him . . .