shallowness: Margaret Hale of North and South adaptation sitting at desk writing (Margaret North and South writing)
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Title: With this ring
Fandom: The Scapegoat (2012)
Rating: PG
Characters/Pairing: John Standing/Frances Spence, Charlotte, Johnny Spence
Summary: He has a decision to make.

Disclaimer: I don’t own or profit from these characters.
Author's Note: Written for the following prompt at [community profile] fic_promptly: ‘Author's choice, author's choice, with this ring’. This is based on the TV adaptation, not the novel. Set before the final scenes, so there are spoilers. 684 words.


With this ring: shallowness


He has a decision to make. Charlotte’s words follow him down the corridor, her suggestion that he stays one that he could never have allowed himself to come up with. The moment he bundled the real Johnny Spence, the man with his face, into the furnace and his muscles felt the release of letting his weight go, he was sure that he had to leave. It wasn’t about what he wanted.

Yet he had to say goodbye, had to see whether Frances would prove the truth of the nurse’s words and he had to keep his promise to Mary Lou. He thought that he was strong enough to do that and then go. But now he’s been offered a seat at the feast, and the harpies have been removed.

Strange that he should think of Johnny as the snatcher.

He killed him, but it was kill or be killed, and made easier by what had been done to Frances. The man who married her had coldly injected morphia into her veins with the intent to kill her for her fortune, as if that was where her worth lay. He saw red. He had never expected to kill again after the war, but a feeling of peace that he’s removed that danger to Frances has been with him all night, and he won’t regret what he did.

He won’t make a confession about it. What would he say? Forgive me, father, I have sinned. I took a man’s life and I don’t regret it. A family can feast together in peace now.

And now he can take that life and make it his. Wouldn’t he regret it if he didn’t? Very much.

He doesn’t take the turning for the main staircase, his attention drawn to the ring on his left hand. He cleared out his old coat’s pockets – the proof of John Standing’s identity is with him now. If he left this house, he could pick up his old life and take that walking tour. If he did, he would have to remove the golden band. He hadn’t thought of that. Now he wonders if he’s strong enough to do it. And if he were, could he throw it away?

Mary Lou believes the story. Frances is alive and will get stronger. He loves them both. He thinks they love him or could love him, even if he isn’t the man they thought he was, perhaps because he isn’t. What would it be like for them if he disappeared, and did what the old Johnny Spence had threatened to do? The voice that says that that is what he should do is weaker than it was when he left the foundry, it was weakened further when he saw his w—Frances and Mary-Lou sleeping, a voice that is now a whisper compared with Charlotte’s and the sound of a stuffed rabbit saying good night.

Tired, he finds himself in the bedroom – his feet having found their way there without much thought. That simple fact gives him pause. The thought of bed is tempting, and yet he can’t sleep on this decision. He can no longer yield to a fantastic situation unfolding, as if Zeus, the Fates or a man with his face is in control. He has to decide.

He switches a light on and sees the double bed. A host of memories flood through his mind for which Eros and Thanatos are both responsible.

He may not know what one says when making a confession, but he’s heard the wedding vows enough in his life. Another man said he would love and cherish Frances ‘till death us do part’ before wearing this ring. A ring he didn’t wear when he tried to kill her. If he stays, he will have to keep those vows as if he had made them himself for the rest of his life. If he decides to stay, he will be husband, father, son and brother.

In the morning, John Spence lights a rare fire downstairs and burns another man’s papers before going to the hospital to visit his wife.

Fin.


Author’s note: Harpies – snatchers.


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