[Context: This is meant to be an Emma Approved version of the first part of Chapter 54 of Jane Austen's "Emma", in which Mr. Knightley tells Emma Woodhouse that Robert Martin and Harriet Smith have become engaged. By this point in the story, Emma has already realised that she is in love with Mr. Knightley, and the two of them have become engaged. I'm assuming, for the purposes of this fic, that the Emma Approved version of all of this is that Emma and Alex have begun an exclusive romantic relationship.]
The camera opens on Emma in her office, looking as vibrant and dynamic as she's possibly ever been, resplendent in a beautifully tailored outfit of lacy plum and bright red. Her hair flows around her shoulders in perfectly-set waves that bounce deliciously as she tosses her head about. "Hello, my lovelies!" she crows delightedly, clearly in a mood of high confidence. "Today, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and life is beautiful!" She allows herself a smile that is part coy bashfulness, part triumph. "Yes, it is true that every day is special now..." Here she wrinkles her nose up in her characteristic cutesy way as her voice crescendos, "but that's what happens when you're in a love match that's 'Emma Approved'!" She lets fly a knowing twinkle-wink before the title and theme song play.
When we return to Emma's office, it's to see Alex Knightley leaning casually in the doorframe, hands in his pockets. "Love match?" he exclaims. "Emma," he admonishes, his voice half-stern, half-amused, "I thought you said Emma Approved wasn't going to be doing the matchmaking sideline anymore."
"Right on cue!" Emma cries joyfully before spinning her head around to grin happily at her boyfriend. "Don't worry, we're not; I was talking about us, Silly Knightley!" She scooches over and pats the space next to her invitingly. "Come! Sit!" she coaxes, with a quick little lifting of her shoulders and happy glance back at the camera for emphasis.
Alex's smile is relaxed and happy as he walks over to join her on the bench. By the time he's seated, his expression has become ridiculously, goofily besotted. Without even a moment's side-glance for the camera, he looks into Emma's eyes and softly says, "Hi."
"Hi," she breathes back, returning the direct look. There's a small pause as they sit there, just enjoying the view.
Alex is the one to break the moment, clearing his throat awkwardly and looking down. He takes one of Emma's hands, and holds it gently in his own. As she looks down to smile at this point of physical contact, he looks back up at her. His expression seems both hesitant and amused. "Emma, I, uh...have some news for you," he ventures.
Her head snaps up instantly; posture alert, eyes snapping as she scans his face. "Good news or bad news?" she demands crisply, all business now.
Alex starts looking a bit more nervous, but also more amused. "Uh...I'm not sure which one you're going to think it is, actually," he confesses, with a quick, appealing grin towards the camera.
Emma relaxes, and releases her hand from his to make a dismissive gesture. "Oh, pfft," she tells him with a knowing smile. "It's good news. I can see it all over your cute, smug, happy little Knightley gorgeous-face!"
Alex practically twitches at hearing Emma describe him as "gorgeous-face", and it's with some effort that he manages to (mostly) control his grin. "No, seriously Emma," he says, clearing his throat while he attempts to maintain a straight face, "I don't think you'll still be smiling after you hear this."
Emma leans back indignantly. "Oh, come on!" she protests. She lifts a hand dramatically in his direction. "It's obviously good news for you, why wouldn't you think that I'll think so, too?
Alex raises his eyebrows, looking sideways at her. "Well, there have been a few things in the past that we haven't agreed upon," he reminds her, with great understatement. As she opens her mouth and draws breath to protest, he smiles, leaning forward teasingly. "Oh come on, don't tell me you don't remember? One of your very first clients?" As her eyes start widening with horror, he presses on. "Even though she didn't even know she was your client?" Emma's features cloud briefly with confusion. Alex looks at her inquiringly, but then puts her out of suspense: "Harriet Smith?"
Emma's shoulders droop instantly, and she looks away, her eyes hitting the camera with a guilty little glance before focusing on the floor. She looks quite as if she didn't know what to say. Alex's head, however, tilts suspiciously upon seeing this reaction, and he gives a quick, surprised look at the camera before staring back at Emma. "Wait—do you...already know?" He looks at the camera again, frowns, and turns back to Emma. "Did she call you?" He tsks, and shakes his head at himself. "Oh…of course, you've already heard from her," he guesses, "and you know already!"
Emma looks up, confused. "No," she frowns, "I haven't had so much as a tweet from Harriet. What are you talking about? What's happened?"
Alex tilts his head at her again for a moment, and then resumes smiling, this time more confidently. "You really don't know, do you?" he asks.
"Alex Knightley!" she cries exasperatedly, giving him a playful shove. "What do you know?!" After a moment of watching him do nothing but grin smugly at her, she gives him another shove.
"Okay, okay," he concedes, laughing. He holds up his phone. "Bobby Martin just sent me a video."
This floors Emma. "Bobby Martin?!" she repeats. "What—how—why—would he send you a video?"
Alex grins. "It's footage from John and Izzy's 'nanny-cam'. At this, Emma gasps indignantly, but he continues before she can shift into high dudgeon. "It's okay, they said he could have it—well, he's on it, after all."
Emma's jaw drops, and she blinks rapidly. "I have no idea what's going on, Alex Knightley," she tells him in a seriously unamused tone of voice; the kind which clearly means he needs to start spilling the beans if he knows what's good for him.
"Oh, I think the video will explain everything," Alex returns smugly. "Do you want to see it?" he asks enticingly, wiggling his phone at her.
"Give me that!" Emma cries, snatching the phone away. As she looks down at the small screen, her fingers suddenly stop mid-hover, and she looks up at the camera. Her eyes narrow thoughtfully, and you can practically see her devious little mind working away. "Hold on," she tells Alex, reaching forward offscreen for something.
Alex's head swivels back and forth quickly between Emma and the camera. "Emma, what are you doing?" he asks warily.
"I'm going to connect your phone into the camera's feed," comes her muffled voice. "Just a second…almost got it…"
"What?!" exclaims Alex, shooting a surprised look at the camera. "Emma, you can't—"
Partway through Alex's sentence, the scene cuts suddenly, to show a well-furnished and comfortable-looking living room strewn with toys, and Harriet kneeling on the floor, busily picking them all up and putting them back in various boxes.
As she cleans, someone in khakis and a casually-untucked shirt approaches tentatively from behind her, so quietly that she clearly doesn't hear him coming. The person reaches awkwardly out towards her with his hand, but suddenly stops and puts his arm back at his side, starting to rub his hand nervously up and down on his leg a few times. With seeming deliberateness, he clenches his fist, then relaxes it and keeps his arm still. Finally, he speaks. "Um…Harriet?" comes the voice of Bobby Martin, gentle and tentative.
Harriet's eyes get round as saucers and she gasps, simultaneously whirling around and giving Bobby's knees an almighty whack with the cricket bat in her hand. He lets out a grunt and drops to his knees. "Oh!" she cries out, dropping the bat like a hot potato and bringing her hands up to her face with horror. There is then a flurry of simultaneous apologies and forgiveness and all-around awkwardness.
"I'm sooo sorry, are…are you okay?"
"I didn't mean to scare you, I'm really sorry."
"Oh, no, it's fine, I was just a little…surprised!"
"You didn't hit me that hard, I just got…surprised."
"Are your knees gonna be okay?"
"I guess next time I should make more noise coming in…"
There's a pause, then nervous laughter. Bobby looks down and then picks up the cricket bat, holding it out to her. "Uh...here you go," he tells her sheepishly.
"Thanks," Harriet replies, with nervous laughter in her voice. She turns around and puts the bat into one of the toy boxes, eyes widening with shock once her face is safely turned away from Bobby's line of sight. While she does so, Bobby shifts to a more comfortable sitting position, his own eyes becoming huge as he mouths, 'Oh. My. Gawd.' After a moment, Harriet takes a deep breath to steady herself, and resolutely turns back around on her knees to face Bobby.
"So…" she opens gracelessly, "uh…what are you doing here?" she asks.
"Uh, well…" he blinks.
Harriet looks horrified. "I mean!" she interjects quickly, "Not that it's bad that you're here, of course, I mean, there's nothing wrong with you being here, I was just, um, wondering…because…this is kind of a strange place for you to be and all, and…well…" she trails off, drooping hopelessly.
Bobby shakes his head understandingly. "No, you're right," he reassures her. "I mean, why would I be here…" He scratches the back of his head awkwardly. "But actually," he says, holding a hand out expressively, "I…I'm working here."
Harriet blinks. "Oh!" she exclaims in surprise, then winces with confusion. "You're working…here?" She laughs and raises her eyebrows at him, lifting a few toys for emphasis.
Bobby chuckles. "Well, not here, here," he clarifies. "Just, you know…for John and Izzy." He sweeps his hand a bit in an open gesture to indicate the whole house. "Yeah, uh, Alex recommended me…Izzy's just bought a new computer for her degree work, and she needs me to set it up, and then I'm going to install some new accounting software at the restaurant for John."
Harriet blinks a bit when Alex's name is mentioned, but looks delighted as Bobby's explanation unfolds. "That's great!" she effuses. She starts nodding for emphasis, almost bouncing up and down. "Izzy and John are great to work with, they're really nice."
Bobby smiles and nods, looking around at the mess. "They told me you were helping Izzy out with the kids while she's busy with her thesis." He leans forward a bit, his tone teasing. "Uh…where have you hidden them?" he asks in a half-whisper.
Harriet raises her shoulders self-consciously and laughs. "Nowhere," she assures him, bobbing her head for emphasis. "They're just playing in the backyard."
"Ah," he says, bobbing his head as well, continuing to look around the mess in the room. "It looks like they're working you really hard," he observes sympathetically.
Harriet's face breaks into a genuinely fond smile. "Oh no," she says, "I mean, yes, they're very energetic, but…they're great kids, and so much fun, they—" she breaks off as she notices Bobby's expression suddenly go blank, his eyes fixing on something on the coffee table behind her. "What?" she asks in a worried tone.
Bobby swallows, pointing behind her. "What—um…is that…uh…a crane?"
Harriet goes quite red and turns back around to look behind her. She reaches offscreen and turns back around, now holding the item in question. Looking down, she half-mumbles, "Yes, I…well, the kids asked me about origami today, and this is the only thing I know how to do, so…I made one to show them."
With an expression of disbelief, Bobby reaches out to take the tiny white crane. "This is…really...good," he tells her slowly. He looks back at her with a searching expression. "Have you…have you been making a lot of them?"
Harriet's eyes widen, but she continues to avoid his glance. "Just practicing them…now and then," she shrugs.
Bobby puts the crane down and looks at Harriet even more intently. "Since when?" he asks, his expression incredulous.
Her eyes look up and away to the other side as she gives another self-conscious shrug. "Since…uh…I dunno…close to nine months...or a year…or something? Maybe?" She looks back at him very briefly before biting her lip and looking down again.
His breath catches for a moment, and he leans closer to her, his voice coming very softly now. "Harriet…" he begins tentatively, "how many cranes have you made, exactly?"
She titters nervously, looking upwards. "I don't know!" she protests, the pitch of her voice rising. "Who counts the number of origami cranes they've made sitting home alone in the evenings?" Her roving eyes suddenly meet Bobby's and stop. She swallows. "Twohundredandeightynine," she confesses suddenly, before looking away again with a distressed expression. "Including that one," she adds in a low voice, pointing towards Bobby.
Bobby's breath is coming visibly faster now, and the tone of his voice is disbelieving. "Two hundred and eighty-nine?" he repeats slowly. "Harriet, I—" She looks up curiously as he breaks off his sentence, and he kneads his lips together nervously before continuing, in a heartbreakingly gentle voice. "Harriet, I've been making them, too. I've made…seven hundred and eleven."
Harriet raises her eyes back to his, and they stare at each other as they both do the math in their heads. "That's…" she concludes hestitantly, while leaning closer toward him, "that's…one thousand cranes."
"That's one thousand cranes," he repeats. He slowly lifts the final crane up so it's between them. They both look at it, then back at each other. "Harriet?" he finally asks.
She takes in a deep, shuddering breath. "Yes, Martin?" she replies.
A look of joyful wonder starts creeping over Bobby's face, and he sets the crane down, picking up one of Harriet's hands instead. He gives a small, disbelieving chuckle before continuing his question. "Will you…join me on my quest? So we can share this wish together?"
Harriet blinks happily and breaks into a smile that spans the entire width of her face. Too happy to speak, she simply makes a bunch of rapid nods. Without being able to wait another second longer, Bobby leans forward, their lips meeting joyfully. His arms encircle her waist, hers his neck, and they pull each other into a close embrace.
The kiss deepens. Her hands start running through his hair, his hands move up and down her back. They press even more tightly into each other, and their breath starts coming faster and faster.
Things are starting to get right at the edge of the steamy tipping point, when there's suddenly a thumping sound, as of a fist on glass. A child's muffled voice calls out, "Haaaaaarriet! It's really hot out heeeere! Can we please have some pooooopsicles?!" Both Bobby and Harriet gasp as they instantly break apart and start to turn towards the source of the voice.
Before we can see anything more, however, the living room vanishes, replaced by the view of Emma and Alex back in Emma's office. Emma is staring open-mouthed at the camera, while Alex is looking up innocently towards the ceiling.
"Oh…my…gawd…" begins Emma.
Alex goes into full-on defensive mode. "Now Emma, don't freak out," he begins.
"Oh …my…gawd…" she repeats.
Alex speaks quickly, trying desperately to offset the coming storm. "Emma, I know you don't like him right now, but he's honestly a really great guy; I just know that if you only got to know him a bit better—"
"They're happy," he protests eagerly. "Is ambition really so important that you would sacrifice Harriet's happiness for it? Bobby Martin is smart, and good, and kind, and he's going to give Harriet all the love and respect that she deserves. Please, please give them a chance?"
Emma raises a hand sharply in a halting gesture. "Alex, stop." He desists, his expression wary. "I'm not thinking what you think I'm thinking," she assures him.
Alex gives the camera a brief, confused look. "You're not?"
Emma takes a deep breath to steady herself. "No, I'm not." She presses her lips together before opening them again to speak. "Okay, I know you're probably not going to believe this," she tells Alex, her hands raised defensively, "but I'm actually really happy for them." Alex's expression instantly becomes suspicious. "No, I'm serious!" she tells him. "I mean," she clarifies, indicating the camera with one hand, "yes, this has taken me completely by surprise, because up until very recently, I thought Harriet's feelings were…er..." She casts guilty looks, first at Alex, then at the camera, then stops herself and takes a deep breath before continuing. "I know I haven't been very fair to B-Mart. I know I should never have encouraged Harriet to do anything other than follow her own feelings. I was wrong…about a lot of things." She looks down for a moment while Alex looks at her incredulously. Finally, she looks back up him with a genuine smile of happiness and relief. "But now, I can honestly say that this couple is 'Emma Approved'!" she tells him sincerely.
Alex laughs, all the tension going out of him. "That's amazing!" he effuses, touching her arm affectionately. He frowns briefly at the camera. "Unexpected," he qualifies, before turning back to Emma reassuringly, "but definitely, definitely great!" He cocks his head at her.
Seeing his expression, Emma quirks an eyebrow at him. "What?" she asks warily.
Alex shakes his head admiringly at her. "You know, Harriet really has a lot to thank you for." Emma looks very embarrassed at this and drops her gaze to the floor. "I'm serious!" he clarifies. "I know I pressured you into bringing her on-staff; but after that, discovering Harriet was all you! You were a terrific mentor to her. You encouraged her to come out of her shell, you recognized her talent, you—"
Emma gives a guilty laugh. "Yeah, I sure did a lot for Harriet, alright," she tells the camera, with no small amount of bitterness.
Alex takes her hand and brings it to his lips. "Well, I think you did," he tells her seriously.
Emma gives a sad little smile, neither accepting nor denying this last statement. But a moment later, she takes a fortifying breath, throws back her shoulders, and perks up into her customary alert, determined posture. Alex chuckles at this, and leans forward to give her a soft kiss on the lips. "You're the best," he murmurs softly.
Emma shoots him a triumphant look, complete with a little eyebrow dance. "Of course I am!" she effuses, giving her head a quick shake to re-position her wavy locks behind her shoulders.
"Here we go…" breathes Alex in an undertone, looking up towards the ceiling.
"…Because I am EMMA WOODHOUSE!" she finishes, beaming glowingly at the camera.
Alex gives her a look of loving, wry amusement. "Of course you are," he concludes.