A Difference Of Opinion

North & South

Chapter One: "The Slap."

A/N: I didn't get all the dialogue right because I haven't seen North & South in a long time but please forgive me my little mistakes. This is not a John/Margaret fan fiction, it's a John/OC fic. If you don't like it don't read it, and don't review complaining about it. I've had it up to here with people complaining about my OC fics because I'm not using original pairings. I don't like Margaret, she's wishy-washy and that's that. Katie is played by Bryce Dallas Howard as she looked in Eclipse. I hope you enjoy my story. Please review. It makes the hard work worth it. Oh, and Katie's singing voice is played by Lisa Kelly from Celtic Woman.

Katie wiped the beads of perspiration gathering on her brow. She continued her work with the cotton-weaving machines when she heard a distant shout.

"Stephens! Put that pipe out!"

It was a man's voice, and she recognized it as Mr. Thornton's.

"I saw you!" he shouted.

He ran past her. He was chasing Stephens through the mill.

She stopped her machine and followed, curious. It wasn't every day that you saw John Thornton running through the mill like a madman.

She ran past other mill workers who glanced at her in wonder. What did she think she was doing?

She caught up to Thornton where he was beating Stephens badly.

"Stop it!" she said, ignoring the woman staring on next to her. "Stop it this minute!"

Thornton ignored her and continued beating Stephens, calling him names and shocking everyone.

Katie stepped forward and pulled at Thornton's arm. He turned around and she slapped him as hard as she could. He blinked at her, stunned.

"Who the devil are you?" he finally said.

"Katie Adair," she said. "And that's no way to speak to a woman. What do you mean by beating this man?"

"Do you work here?" he asked abruptly.

"I used to," she said angrily.

"What is that supposed to mean? Never mind," he said, shaking his head. "Just go to my office and wait for me. I'll see you when I'm done here."

She lifted her chin in the air haughtily but turned to leave. She stopped and went over to Stephens, and began helping him up.

"What are you doing?" Thornton demanded. "I told you to go to my office."

"I can't just leave him here," she said, frustrated. "You'll hit him again."

Thornton blushed, and saw the workers staring at him, including some children.

"Get back to work!" he shouted.

"That's lovely, yelling at children," she snapped. "I've never met anyone so horrid."

He scowled at her, then looked at his hands which had Stephen's blood on them. He put them behind his back, then looked up and saw the other woman. He ground his teeth together in frustration.

"I'm Margaret Hale," she said.

"Yes, Mr. Hale's daughter," he said, his lips set in a thin, grim line. "I'm afraid I must ask you to wait in the house until I can see you."

"That is not necessary," Ms. Hale said coldly. "I can see that you are busy. I will call another time."

She turned to leave.

"Ms. Hale," he said and she stopped, looking at him through angry eyes. "I'm afraid you have come upon me at a most inopportune time. You will forgive me, I hope."

She gave him a curt nod and left.

He turned back to Katie who was still trying to help Stephens up.

"You and you," he said, pointing to two male workers. "Get Stephens out of here! I don't want to see him here again. And Ms. Adair, go to my office!"

She turned and glared at him before leaving.

Thornton entered the office and went to sit behind his desk, and Ms. Adair, who was pacing, stopped.

"Please have a seat, Ms. Adair," he said, looking at her well for the first time.

She was stunningly beautiful. Her hair was a dark red that curled wildly. It wasn't pinned up like other women's hair, but allowed to loosely curl around her shoulders. Her eyes were a dark, wild green with flecks of gold and brown in them. Her skin was pale, the color of fresh cream, and completely without blemish. She wore a plain grey dress, something a governess might wear, far too elegant for the working class, even if plain and ugly. She looked nothing like a mill worker. She looked like a lady, even with fluffs of cotton still sticking to her hair.

She took a seat in the chair in front of his desk, perching elegantly on the edge, folding her hands in her lap. She didn't act like a mill worker either.

"Ms. Adair, you are aware of the position you have put me in, haven't you?" he said gravely.

"Are you aware of the position you put me in? I tried to tell you to stop, Mr. Thornton, but you wouldn't listen," she said coldly. "I wouldn't have had to strike you if you stopped, or better yet, not began in the first place."

"Who do you think you are to judge me, Ms. Adair?" he said angrily. "You are under my employment, or at least you were. You are aware that I will have to let you go?"

"I knew that would be the case before I struck you," she said, her chin high in the air. "I don't do anything without fully thinking it through."

"Then why would you do it?" he asked. "Jobs are scarce, Ms. Adair. Surely you realize that it will be difficult for you to find employment with mills as overcrowded with workers as they are."

"I am well aware of my situation, but better unemployed than ram-rodded by a tyrant," she said hotly. "I will find work, there is no need to concern yourself with that. I can take care of myself and my family perfectly well without anyone's help."

"Family? You help your family with your wages?" he said.

"I have three brothers and two sisters at home, and besides a little money an older brother sends occasionally, I'm the only one to care for them," she said icily. "But you needn't concern yourself with that, sir, I wouldn't wish to be a bother."

He set his lips in a grim line, and reevaluated her. It must be hard to be the sole provider for a family that large.

"Is the mill your only means of support?" he asked with a frown.

"I tell you, Mr. Thornton, that you needn't concern yourself," she said.

He took a deep breath and began again.

"Ms. Adair, I apologize for losing my temper with you," he said calmly. "I am not normally like that."

"I should certainly hope not," she said with a disbelieving laugh. "No gentleman would beat men weaker than themselves every day."

He bit his lip to keep from losing his temper.

"You're right," he said. "It was ungentlemanly of me. I apologize, Ms. Adair."

This seemed to mollify her somewhat for she relaxed a little, her back a little less rigid.

"I accept your apology, Mr. Thornton," she said with a slight smile. "Apologizing when wrong is a sign of good breeding. I am glad to see that you have it."

Her words were gentle and had they come from any other mill worker he would have been greatly offended, but her gentility and obvious good breeding kept his temper in check. She obviously meant it as a compliment and he took it as such.

"Thank you, Ms. Adair," he said. "Now, about this matter of employment. I'm afraid I cannot have you at the mill but I know several other mill owners that would be glad to do me a favor."

"Really, Mr. Thornton, I cannot allow you to do that," she said, her tone much less antagonistic, but still firm. "I really can take care of myself."

"Stubbornness is not an attractive feature in a lady," he said gently.

"Neither is total and complete dependence on a man for everything in life," she said, raising her chin defiantly.

She had fire, he'd give her that.

"As you wish it, Ms. Adair," he said. "It is not my concern. You will take two weeks pay with you when you go, and that I insist on."

"Really, Mr. Thornton, I cannot possibly-" she began.

"I insist," he said firmly.

"Very well, Mr. Thornton," she said with longsuffering sigh.

He smiled at that and rose, taking two weeks pay from his pocketbook and handing it to her.

"Thank you, Mr. Thornton," she said with a forced smile.

She wasn't happy about taking the money. She had pride and dignity, he'd give her that.

"My pleasure, Ms. Adair," he said.

She rose and he led her to the door. She turned to him with a slight smile.

"Please forgive me for striking you, Mr. Thornton," she said. "It has always been my instinct to protect others, even when they do not deserve. My bad opinion of you was not wholly justified. Forgive me."

She left without waiting for him to reply.

He thought about her a great deal that day. Even when he called at Mr. Hale's and met with the lovely Ms. Hale, he still thought about her. Feeding her large family without any help must have been difficult, especially since she seemed more like a lady in reduced circumstances the more he thought about it. He determined to help her if he could. He would have to think of something.