Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own Mr. Thornton. He belongs to Elizabeth Gaskell, as do Margaret and Mr. Hale. I'm just having a little fun with them! :)
A/N: This is currently unbeta-ed. My beta reader from C19 has been rather busy, so I decided to go ahead and post it here. Once it is beta-ed, I will re-post it with its improvements. :D Oh, and this has quotes from the BBC mini-series. Enjoy!
Margaret walked into the foyer, pacing and wringing her hands as she weighed her options. Should she tell him? But he was a magistrate. Surely it would be too dangerous! But he had saved her from the inquest. Surely...?
A few hours before
"I have no wish to pry into the gentleman's secrets," Mr. Thornton said vehemently, with an undertone of sarcasm in his voice as he said the word "gentleman." If she thought that a man who would risk her reputation by walking out with her at night was a gentleman, then he had no wish for her to think he was one! And if she was willing to risk her reputation by walking out with the man at night, then he wanted nothing to do with her. Or so he told himself.
"I'm only concerned as your father's friend," he continued. "I hope you realize that any foolish passion for you on my part is entirely over. I'm looking to the future." Mr. Thornton stalked away to join Mr. Hale in the sitting room while Margaret watched him, despair overwhelming her.
She heard her father farewell Mr. Thornton and rapidly came to a decision. Not wanting Mr. Thornton to think badly of her, and deciding that he could be trusted, she decided to tell him. "Mr. Thornton," she said as he came towards the front door. He looked at her with an unreadable expression, causing Margaret to falter. "If...if you would still like an explanation, I will give it to you. I believe you can be trusted."
"I would not wish you to unwillingly divulge a secret, especially if it will place someone else in danger," he replied in a soft tone, which served to further unnerve Margaret. Why was he speaking so softly to her? She knew his temper—he did not speak softly when angry.
"I...I think you should know, Mr. Thornton. It is not a short explanation, however. Perhaps we could repair to the drawing room and talk there?" she asked him. He nodded, not entirely certain he wanted to hear who the man was, in case the man really was her lover.
Once they reached the drawing room, Margaret indicated for him to sit, as she paced, trying to gather her scattered thoughts together. Oh! How was I so blind to it before? But even if his respect for me is restored, I doubt he will ask me to marry him a second time.
Blinking a few times to rid herself of such thoughts, she began. "Mr. Thornton, I must ask that you keep the information I am about to relate to you to yourself. You must not discuss it with your mother or my father or anyone else. Can I trust you to keep this a secret?" Mr. Thornton nodded nervously. What was she going to relate to him?
"I have never told anyone in Milton about this, save for Bessie, because even amongst my family, we do not speak of it much," she continued. "I have a brother," and she explained to Mr. Thornton about the navy, how Frederick had come to see their mother before she died, and the train station incident.
Mr. Thornton sat in stunned silence after Margaret's explanation. In his wildest imaginings, he had never supposed her to have a brother! Margaret watched him warily as he processed the information. As the silence continued, Margaret began doubting her decision to tell him. "I...I'm sorry if I have importuned you, Mr. Thornton—"
Mr. Thornton had looked up at her when she began to speak and noticed her anxiety. Wishing to put her at ease, he interrupted her. "No, you mistake my silence, Miss Hale. I thank you for telling me about your brother. It is certainly not what I was expecting to hear and I thank you for your trust. You may rest assured that this secret will not go beyond me." Hesitating a moment, not entirely certain he wanted to know, he added, "But why tell me, when you don't even care about me?"
"But I do!" Margaret blurted. Coloring from embarrassment, she turned from him and covered her face in her hands, attempting to think of a way to make the situation better. Silence hung in the air as Mr. Thornton digested this information.
"Could...could you repeat that?" he pleaded, not quite believing what he'd heard. Margaret shook her head. Mr. Thornton, realizing she was embarrassed, quietly walked over to her and placed his hands on her shoulders in order to turn her towards him.
Once she was facing him, he tried to remove her hands in an effort to encourage her to look at him, but he underestimated her strength, so he instead kissed her hands. She peaked through her fingers, only to find his face mere inches from hers, with the tenderest look she had ever seen. When he again tried to remove her hands from her face, she put up little resistance.
"Could you say that again?" he repeated tenderly.
"I...I d-do care for you, M-Mr. Thornton," Margaret stuttered, her eyes cast down from embarrassment.
Mr. Thornton sucked in his breath. Dare he ask her? He had to find out exactly what she thought of him. "How much?" he breathed. "How much do you care about me?"
Margaret wanted to sink through the floor, but she determined that he deserved to know what she thought of him. "Very much. I have come to realize that you are the best man I know, that you are a true gentleman, and I was a fool not to have seen it before." Her face had become redder and redder from embarrassment and was currently a very bright red. She felt like fleeing after such a confession, but Mr. Thornton still had a firm, but gentle, hold on her hands.
Mr. Thornton's gaze on her was tender as he took one of his hands and tilted her chin up towards him. She hesitantly looked at him and was nearly overcome by the warm, tender smile she saw. "Then will you marry me?" he whispered, his breath tickling her cheek.
Margaret's eyes filled with tears as she looked at him fully. Seeing that he was sincere, she allowed a full smile to spread across her face. "Yes, Mr. Thornton, I will, with greatest joy," she replied breathlessly. His closeness was tormenting her in a pleasant sort of way, as new emotions coursed through her.
Closing the gap between them, Mr. Thornton sealed their promise with a gentle kiss.
A/N: So, what do you think of it?