Disclaimer: An elaboration on a scene from the BBC series and as an extension, Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. I own nothing, really.
AN/: This is my first submission to FF.n so my apologies for any infringements of any kind, they were not meant. I just recently discovered the BBC series N&S a few days ago and have watched it more than I care to admit. I have not yet read the novel so this is based on what was portrayed in the TV series. This is the train station scene in the final five minutes. I just wanted to view the scene from Thornton's perspective so...I did :) The dialogue is taken straight from the movie. - (constructive) reviews of all kind are welcomed and encouraged!
You're Coming Home With Me
The train was pulling into station for a brief stop to allow a handful of passengers to disembark. Thornton loosened and untied his cravat, pulling it off his neck and releasing the top few buttons of his shirt. He let out a long sigh and ran his hand down his face. Milton. He was nearly there. A brief wave of relief and comfort overcame him at the thought of home. It would placate his aching heart to be home again. He needed familiarity. And the unconditional love of his mother – though not to be compared to that of which he'd hoped to find in Helston – would be a welcome comfort.
Thornton watched the platform roll by out his car window as the train slowed to a stop. Helston. At first he'd been certain he'd gone to find Margaret. Sweet, stubborn, and passionate Margaret; almost to a fault. But no, she'd be in London at her aunt's. He knew that as well as the next person. He'd gone to Helston to suss out his thoughts, his intentions...his hopes. When he'd spoken to Higgins last, discovering that all this time there'd never been a secret lover, that the man at the station was Margaret's brother of all people! He could barely stop himself from hoping. Perhaps, just maybe, there was a chance. Could she feel now what he'd once convinced himself she did? Could he muster up the courage to ask her once more to be his wife? There was no question. Damn his pride! If there were even a fraction of regard for him in Margaret's heart, he had to try.
But once in Helston, surrounded by all that was Margaret, he'd lost his courage. Higgins had said it himself that winter. There was nothing to keep Margaret in Milton after her parents' deaths. Who was Thornton to think that she would find it possible to remain in Milton for him? A man she'd already refused. A man she had no hesitation admitting she'd never liked, let alone loved, to his face. His last meeting with her came rushing back to him. He'd willed her to look back at him as her carriage pulled out of the mill yard. If she loved him in even the smallest measure, would she not have felt how his entire being shouted out at her, how much he needed her confirmation of love in that one gesture?
Well, there was nothing for it. She was with her beloved cousin in London now, surrounded, finally, by equal society. No doubt she had already entered into some advantageous courtship with her ideal of what a real gentleman was. Thornton was a fool on a fool's mission to win the heart of an angel.
No, he wouldn't continue. He'd return to Milton, gather up his and his mother's lives and start afresh once more. He'd heal in time. He may not ever find a woman able to dim the fire in his heart, but he could live with his unrequited love if he had to. He was determined.
The train jerked to a halt and the only other passenger in his cabin stood from the seat across him, titled his hat at Thornton and stepped out onto the platform. The hustle and bustle streamed in at him and Thornton groaned, rubbing his fingers against his right temple. He wanted silence and solitude in his last moments before returning to Milton, where he'd be obliged, if only in his own mind, to put on a brave face for his mother. He leaned forward and made to pull the door shut against the noise when he saw her. Margaret. She was standing mere feet from him and looking straight at him with an expression of breathless surprise. She was an apparition, surely! Thornton was wary with exhaustion and failed hopes that his mind conjured her before his very eyes. But no, her hair was blowing in the breeze and she looked as real as the train passengers bustling all around her.
Thornton smiled slightly and stepped out onto the platform. He watched as Margaret's eyes followed him as he closed the short distance between them. She looked as if she too were in a dream. A dazed smile played at the corner of her parted lips and her lashes fluttered slowly. He couldn't help but notice the deep rise and fall of her chest as if she were at a loss for breath.
"Where are you going?" Thornton asked, stopping not two feet from her. He nearly winced at the eagerness he heard in his voice. His fingers itched to touch her. What was she doing here? Had God heard the hopes in his heart? Margaret half-glanced back to the London bound train.
"To London," she replied in an oddly controlled tone when considering her physical reaction to seeing him. "I-I've been to Milton," she continued.
Thornton let out the breath he'd been holding in a sort of silent laugh. Margaret was looking everywhere but at him. Her discomfort was palpable. He felt that she seemed confused and awkward. He said the first thing that came to him in an attempt to ease her.
"You'll not guess where I've been." Thornton looked down to the pocket of his vest, pulling out the yellow rose he'd taken as a memento of her, and presented it to Margaret. He looked down at her from under his lashes, anxious for her reaction, for her understanding. Margaret took the flower from his hand and the mere millimetres between them seemed to pulse an electric energy through his whole body.
"To Helston?" She looked wistfully at the yellow flower and smiled. "I thought those had all gone," she breathed out.
Thornton's face nearly broke into a wildly inappropriate grin. She sounded pleased, almost proud.
"I found it in the hedgerow," he offered excitedly. Margaret turned her wide eyes to his face and Thornton barely fought back a smile. "You have to look hard." She bowed her head to smell the flower and Thornton watched with longing as the velvety petals kissed her pink lips. Every minute next to her was sending his mind into a dizzying euphoria. And then her words came crashing back into his brain. She'd been to Milton. Why? To see him? Dare he hope?
"Why were you in Milton?" he asked, giving a slight shake of his head. Margaret looked back to him with an almost guilty or embarrassed look upon her. She took a quick breath and blinked her eyes as if to regain her composure.
"On business – well, that is I...have a business proposition." Thornton frowned at her flustered state and Margaret turned to the London-bound train. "Oh dear, I need Henry to help me explain," she said more to herself than Thornton, taking a few steps towards the train. Thornton practically jumped forward with panic. He took her elbow gently to stop her and she turned back to him.
"You don't need Henry to explain," he assured her, trying to make her understand without saying that he had confidence in her. The last thing he wanted was Henry to interfere. Thornton knew Mr. Lennox's intentions where Margaret was concerned. She simply stared at him, unsure of herself; so Thornton moved to a nearby bench and waited for her to join him. Margaret did and they sat together on the bench as she started to explain hesitantly.
"I-I have to get this right," she said seriously. "It's a business proposition."
Thornton watched as Margaret took a shaky breath, swallowed and turned to him, keeping her eyes downcast briefly before looking back to him and continuing in a rush. "I have some £15,000. It is lying in the bank at present, earning very little interest."
She paused as if gauging his reaction. Thornton simply leaned into her – perhaps a little inappropriately to a passer-by – and listened intently. He could not tear his eyes away from her if he wanted to. She seemed so unsure and self conscious. He had to fight to keep himself from pulling her to him and whispering into her ear that everything was alright and she need not be nervous around him. However, he was just so pleased she was speaking to him in such a positive manner that he would not interrupt her for the world. All these months of missing her and here he was sitting next to her on the frantic station platform, speaking of business no less.
"Now," she continued in a serious and professional manner, dropping her eyes to her tightly clasped hands in her lap. Thornton dipped his head just an inch to hide the smile pulling at his lips. She lifted her head back up and he caught her light eyes with his gaze, willing her to look at him as she spoke. "My financial advisors tell me that if you were to take this money and use it to run Marlborough Mills, you could give me a much better rate of i-interest." Margaret seemed to lose her brief bout of confidence and looked back down, her breath coming heavily.
Thornton felt his own chest fall deeply and then spring back up as his breath quickened. Did this glorious creature just offer herself as his saviour? Did Margaret just propose a deal that would bind her to him so significantly? Surely she could not mean to do so if she did not have some regard for him. Thornton felt the warmth of hope spark in his gut and spread out from there. He felt that dizziness from moments before tickle his brain and he blinked a few times to compose himself. He didn't fight the smile this time as her words repeated in his head.
Margaret's voice pulled him back out of himself. She was focused intently on her hands.
"So you see... it is only a business matter." She stated uncomfortably, shaking her head slightly and fiddling with the yellow rose Thornton had not noticed she was still holding. Only a business matter? The idea that Margaret would offer her assistance to him in such a way as only a business associate pained him.
"You'd not be obliged to me in any way," she continued. "I-it is you who would be doing..." she paused as Thornton moved his hand from where it rested along the back of the bench and tucked it between her clasped hands. "...me the s-service." Her voice broke on the last word, her fingers caressing his knuckles hesitantly.
Thornton watched as one moment Margaret slid her fingers around his and the next she'd lifted their hands and was pressing her soft lips to his fingers, her grip tight on him. His breath left him all at once and he could only stare.
A moment passed, or was it an age? He wasn't sure, but as Margaret held his hand to her mouth he brought his other up to the side of her head. The small, brown curls at her hairline tickled his finger tips and he couldn't hold back the slight tremble in his hand. His skin burned where she touched him. He found he couldn't keep his breathing steady. He had to see her face. He had to look into her eyes. He had to see those lips that pressed so tenderly to his hand. His thumb caressed her temple, urging her to look at him, but not wanting her lips to break contact with his skin. The only thought that kept him on his path was that of having his mouth against hers.
Margaret raised her head slowly and the second his eyes met hers his heart stopped. There was such an intensity of emotion in her eyes that he could hardly tell if he'd ever seen even a fraction of it there before. But he had: the day she paid her farewell to the Thornton House after her father's death. He'd seen a glimpse of it there. He was sure of it now.
Forgetting about where they were and who was watching, Thornton leaned down to Margaret and as her eyelids fluttered closed he touched his lips to hers. It was barely a kiss, just the gently touch of his lips against hers. Almost as if asking permission. And it was in that moment that the world melted away and nothing existed for Thornton but Margaret and the ecstasy of her lips.
She didn't press forward, not that he expected her to. Despite the gossip that Margaret's sometimes naive and careless behaviour aroused, Thornton knew this was likely her first intimate act with a member of the opposite sex. But she didn't pull away or push against Thornton in protest. He pulled back a fraction of an inch and curled his fingers around her neck, pressing his lips to hers a touch more firmly. This time Margaret did press her lips into his – only slightly – but Thornton took this as proper encouragement and lifted his other hand, now free of hers, to her head and cradled her between his hands gently. He took a quick breath and closed his mouth over her top lip, pulling her gently into him. She responded hesitantly and he kissed her modestly, though not without passion, again and again.
There was a rushing in his ears and a frantic pulsing all through his body. He longed to pull Margaret's entire body to his. He wanted to feel her softness against him. He needed to feel her warmth pressed into him. He was surrounded by her intoxicating scent of soap, powder and a slightly floral element.
"London train, about to depart! London train's about to depart!" The rushing in Thornton's ears came to a halt at the announcement and he pulled back slowly. He opened his eyes a beat before Margaret did hers and was conflicted to find her looking dazed, wistful, confused and sad all at the same time. Was she feeling regretful or pleased? Did she understand that he loved her or was she confused at his forwardness after their history?
With not a word and less than a glance, Margaret stood and walked away toward her train in one motion. Confused, Thornton stood as she moved away and took a few steps around the bench, but thinking better than to run after her after a second rejection he turned and leaned against the pillar on his right, taking a moment to compose himself.
Look back at her, he thought. Go after her, you fool! But he couldn't will himself to watch her get on that train and leave him again. Not now. Not after he'd felt her mouth against his. But wait, hadn't she kissed his hand? Hadn't she offered her money in his time of need? He couldn't have misread the signs. But hadn't he in the past? She'd thrown herself over him at the riot and claimed it meant nothing. She given him looks that bore more than friendship at the party he'd hosted last year. He'd taken those as encouragement only to have her exclaim her hatred for him when he spoke of love. Or maybe he'd just ruined the possibility with his ungentlemanly forwardness. After all, Margaret, as a Southerner, had a different standard of propriety than he did as a Northerner.
Thornton was going around in circles in his head and heart. No one brought him to incomprehensible confusion the way Margaret Hale did. And he couldn't endure it a second more. He huffed out a defeated sigh and walked back to his train car and leaned against the window, taking a last moment to compose himself before boarding.
When Thornton looked up he saw the reflection of Margaret in his window. She was watching his back with wide eyes and her lips in a perfect 'o'. Her full pink lips that only moments ago were pressed delicately to his. Thornton's breath caught and he turned to face her, a smile stretching across his face. Margaret was holding her travel bag shyly at her side.
"You're coming home with me." He'd meant it as a question but after speaking the words, realised that she must feel what he was feeling at this very moment. He couldn't bring himself to get back on that train without her. She was his sweet Margaret and he was her dearest John and one without the other simply could not endure another moment on this earth. After all that he'd been through in his hopes to win her favour, he was certain that the world could not go on if that wasn't the case now.
Margaret smiled and breathed out deeply as if she were relieved to finally hear those words. Thornton took her bag and she stepped into the car, Thornton right behind her pulling the door shut. He stowed her bag on the shelf overhead as Margaret settled herself by the window of the seat recently vacated by his previous cabin mate. She smiled up at him and he lowered himself into the seat as the train slid into motion.
As the scene outside the window changed from the smoky platform to the green English countryside, Thornton contented himself with gazing into Margaret's light eyes, now flooded with admiration and longing. They watched each other for a long time before Thornton could simply endure the distance no longer. He wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and leaned into her. Margaret met him half way and pressed her lips to his. The encompassing feeling of euphoria overtook Thornton once more and he smiled between kisses. Margaret smiled too and then turned to watch the countryside rush by.
Thornton squeezed her shoulder and looked down into his lap. Finally. Margaret was in his arms, just as he'd always dreamed she'd be: with her loving him just as he loved her. In spite of their rocky history and flawed characters they were now each others.
Thanks for your time :)