Hello potential readers!

Thank you for the favouriting and following, it's so warming and encouraging!

This piece was only meant to be a short drabble, a distraction from the drone-and-groan work of revision and exams. However, due to a particularly encouraging review from 'lovefool', I have decided to pursue this further. Thank you 'lovefool' ^.^! I was so flattered and happy to read you found promise in this.

A Warning:-

This is not intended to be an authentic continuance of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. In no way am I attempting to mimic her voice. Therefore, henceforth etc. this fanfiction will be a puppeteering exercise of the characters from 'North & South' with (and I am aware of how heathen this sounds) significant inspiration from the televisual adaptation. 'Televisual' doesn't really detract from the fact that I am shamelessly prioritising my knowledge of the show over than the text, does it?

Sigh. Anyhoo, I've gone on long enough. I hope you, the indulgent reader(/s?), will enjoy : ) Please let me know!

There were still nerves when we dressed and prepared for bed.

Strangely, I was in bed first that night. Normally, I would stand sheepishly behind the Japanese screen which concealed me as I dressed, which would then birth me from the corner for a tense pause. John would look up from his accounts or some classic tome of philosophy or theology. Time would freeze, then I would pull myself together and swift myself to bed. We read, then he'd put a hand on my cheek or hand, ask if I was finished and either way he would kiss me just on the side of my nose, leaving the light on or turning it off depending.

This was refreshing.

We'd had supper in good spirits- lamb, potatoes, green beans, a lovely red from France, I believe- then John had returned to his office, whilst I'd opted for bed. Another evening, I may have helped Dixon, or caught up with my correspondence, checked our stock lists or planned the next charity-meet with the local church. But the evening had exhausted me, not least because William Bowman's unprecedented apparition had dropped a stone of foreboding into my stomach that I could not shift.

John's amusing scorn of the Japanese screen distracted me momentarily.

"I don't think I can justify dressing behind that," he spoke, lips curled in cynicism and teasing.

"You chose it for me!" I protested from the bed, finishing off a plait and scrunching my cold toes under the blankets. "It's beautiful, those swans, the reeds... such silk is..."

"Befitting," he finished my sentence, setting me straight before I could criticise his expense. "For a woman to dress behind, mind you." Shirt untucked and black trousers rumpled, he was holding his nightgown in front of him as though in defence, the light from the gas-lamps dyeing his cotton-white skin with orange cordial. He questioned me with his eyes and a provocative smile. It was unreal how well we could communicate without words.

"I shan't look if you don't want me to," I said quietly, smiling and glancing away.

He inhaled and considered his principles. I stayed still, smiling.

Then, he turned around and lifted off his shirt.

I felt a jolt and shiver as my sight swooped to John's back, tugged by some cosmic thread. He was stood so still as though modelling for me, a statue for my own observation. Flesh, muscle and bone rippled in tone, subtle yet dramatic. Strong shoulder-bones reminded me of premature angel's wings and the taper of his black hair fed into the pleasantly curving line of his spine, so shaped like a cello or the like that I was reminded again of the musicality of his features.

The monument of my husband moved all of a sudden but with far more rapidity. The trousers were down and off- along with the undergarments- before I could blush and his nightgown thrown over him before I could blink the knowledge of his form away.

He took a deep breath and pivoted around to gage my reaction.

I was staring down into my lap, skin hot and refreshed with tingles, embarrassed by my yearning. What was worse- in the best sense, of course- was that he could tell.

He got under the covers and exhaled with a sort of poignancy as he watched me.

"I would have you know every part of me, such is my trust and love for you."

I could barely breathe or swallow for the overwhelming depth of my emotion. His richly blended voice, that spoke in tone and cadence with my heart; his presence, that settled in me both an alertness and a peace; even the scent of him, John, like black pepper and wood and dark berries- all this I could not yet express to him. I instead blinked into my lap and forced a swallow as his fingers trailed from my ear to under my jaw and he placed a soft, light kiss on my lips, coming away gradually.

I rested a hand on his cheek, thumb grazing against the stubble, and found myself biting the inside of my lower lip. His warm, dusky eyes hypnotised me.

Mr Bowman was forgotten... but a sense of foreboding was still lodged patiently inside me.