Dickon had never been wealthy. No one in his family had ever had much at all. That was probably the reason it had taken him so long to admit his feelings for Mary Lennox. He had loved her the moment he first saw her. She was like a wee wounded animal, angry and frightened. His heart had melted at the sight of her wild eyes. He'd longed to stroke her hair and speak softly to calm her fears. When he saw the goodness her bit of earth brought out in her, the fierceness of her love, he knew he'd never want another. At thirteen years old, he was certain of one thing. He would never marry. Unless he was granted a miracle that allowed him to have Mary as his wife, he would live out his days alone.

He thought back to the day several months ago when she had come to him in their garden, asking for his heart. His throat caught at the memory of her eyes, wide and pleading, as fearful as the day they met. He would have given her anything to see her happy, his meager possessions, his life, but she asked for what was already hers-everything.

So, there he stood outside Archibald Craven's study, waiting for his older sister to announce his presence to his employer, knowing full well his intentions. Martha, being Martha, was a tornado of mirth and terror. When Mary told her, she had cried the whole day. She was so afraid for them, despite being desperately happy. She loved them both so dearly, and hadn't dared to hope for them to see what was between them. They had always known, Dickon most resolutely, and so today he would ask permission to offer her the only thing that was truly his, his name.

Martha interrupted his thoughts by slipping out the study door and turning to face him. Tears were welling in her eyes as she straightened his shirt nervously. She looked up into his face.

"Tha truly dost love her, dunna little brother?" She gave him a watery smile before pulling him down into a crushing embrace. She then bustled off with her face in her hands, sobbing like a fool. He loved her all the more for it. He took a deep, steadying breath before stepping through the open door, his cap clutched tightly in his hands to keep them from trembling.

Archibald Craven sat at his large oak desk at the far side of the room. He looked up, smiled, and gestured to one of the velvet-covered chairs in front of the fire before getting up and walking toward the second chair. Dickon knew this was not typical treatment for a hired hand. It was what came of being a close friend of both his son and his niece. He hoped that what he was about to reveal wouldn't ruin Lord Craven's opinion of him forever.

"Hello Mr. Sowerby, how are you this evening?" Lord Craven wore a pleasant smile. Dickon swallowed hard. He wouldn't let Mary down, not after all she was risking for him.

"I'm well, sir. I was wonderin'…canna ask tha somethin'?" he flinched inwardly at the thickness of his accent. It seemed so out of place in here. He looked back to the other man, whose smile remained intact. He was slightly reassured.

"You've done much to secure the happiness of my family, you may ask anything you wish." He said it plainly, but with underlying sincerity. Dickon suppressed the last of his nervousness.

"It may come by surprise sir, but for a long while now I…I'm in love with Mary Lennox…and I'd like to respectfully ask thee for…for her hand, sir. Tha has reason for worry, I know, but I give tha my word, I'll take care o' her." Lord Craven locked his fingers under his chin, looking pensive.

"Have you spoken to Mary about this?" Dickon was taken aback by the absurdity of the idea. He almost laughed, but there was too little air in the room.

"I came to ask tha before sayin' anythin' about marriage, sir. But, Mary knows how I feel."

"And does my niece return your affections?" Dickon felt the familiar lump in his throat forming. He smiled softly.

"Lord knows why, but tha' she does, sir." Lord Craven smiled again.

"And, you feel confident that she would accept your proposal?" Dickon felt a spark of hope rise in his chest. It almost sounded as though he would be successful.

"Aye. I know tha' she would, sir." Dickon watched as Mary's uncle stood and held out his hand for Dickon to shake. Dickon followed suit.

"Then I suppose you should stop calling me "sir". I'm so very happy to be the first to congratulate you. " Dickon felt like his head would roll off his shoulders. He had said yes…without even hesitating."

"Tha…thank you, sir."

"Archibald, Dickon. And you're welcome."


Thanks to pansyphoenix for reviewing.