It took Stuart a good half hour to get up the stairs and up to the section he needed, and even then he wasn't entirely sure what he was looking for. So after a few minutes of flailing and grabbing any book that seemed like it might be relevant to his quest, Stuart headed over to a table and took a seat. Picking up the first book, A Cultural History of New York, he flipped to the index and started looking for anything relating to the Mountbattens. There was, surprisingly, a small list beneath the name:
Mountbatten, Fredrick 181, 205, 304-306.
Mountbatten, Kate 34, 56-57, 181, 205, 304-305
Mountbatten, Leopold 34, 56-57, 138, 181, 205, 304-306.
"Oh good God, what did they do?" He muttered, flipping to page 56. There the book discussed the pair's intense and very public relationship, which was thought to have inspired several books and even an opera (allegedly, at least), and was categorised (by the author at least) as 'New York's most famous real-life romance'. Stuart groaned and threw the book down in disgust. He was happy for them, but he didn't exactly want to read about how perfect and awe-inspiring Kate's love-life was. In fact, he would like to go the rest of his life without ever hearing about how Kate and Leopold were practically soulmates again.
He sighed and flicked to the next page that mentioned them. This one was far more interesting.
'Lady Katherine Mountbatten' it read 'is credited as being the woman to coin the term 'Feminist', and indeed began the movement that has evolved in to the Feminism that many recognise today. A champion of Women's Suffrage, the Duchess of Albany encouraged and petitioned for equal marriage laws, especially in regards to interracial marriage and divorce laws. She also fought for higher wages for lower class workers and vocally supported sex workers and the improvement of their working conditions. Her husband was quieter on the subjects but always expressed his support for them when questioned. In one letter to a personal friend, written shortly after Mountbatten wrote "Though you may not agree with my wife's views, and I understand why, as to many they seem radical, but I cannot help but think they are the way of the future. After all, is it not true that the belief that the world was spherical was once considered to be radical? Now it is a commonly accepted fact. I consider my dearest Kate's beliefs to be much in the same vein. I do not think that seeking the betterment of others conditions should be considered radical in any matter."'
"Holy crap." Stuart breathed, putting the book down again. He should've known Kate would've found something to occupy herself, he just hadn't expected her to become a champion of women's rights. For God's sake, Kate had never even shown any inclination towards Feminism in the present. He was only half-surprised that Leopold agreed with her, really. He'd adapted to the modern world amazingly well, considering he'd only been there for less than a week, so it wasn't exactly shocking that he was willing to accept his wife's modern ideals. He glanced back at the open pages of the book, and pinched the bridge of his nose. Only Kate. Only Kate would go back to the 19th Century and become a Feminist icon. "Jesus Christ."
He pulled out his journal and made a few quick notes to relay to Charlie later, although he made sure to copy down Leopold's letter exactly, but only because he suspected that Charlie was worrying about his sister's fledgling relationship and how it had fared. It'd do him good to see that Leopold had supported Kate in all her endeavours, no matter how odd they'd seemed to him.
He read a little more of that book, learning of how, after Leopold had patented the lifting cars, the pair of them had gone on to become patrons of theatres and libraries all over the city, as well as the New York University, making the odd note here and there before he moved on to the next book.
Really, they all said more or less the same thing: Kate and Leopold were madly in love and madly progressive, to the point of being anachronistic (Goddammit Kate). Kate was a champion of Women's Rights and a strong promoter of civil rights, while Leopold was her staunch, silent supporter. By the end of the third book, Stuart had realised he wasn't going to get much more than that.
He was just considering giving up when someone set a large pile of books down by his elbow. Startled, he turned and found himself face to face with a vaguely familiar pair of bespectacled brown eyes.
"Hi." The woman from last night, Trixie or Tracy or something like that, was looking down at him, eyebrows raised.
"Hello." There was a pregnant pause as they looked between each other and their piles of books. "Can I…Help you with something?" She rolled her eyes and pulled out the seat beside him.
"If you're reading up on local history, these books," she gestured to the pile she had set down beside him, "would be better than those." Stuart's brows furrowed as he grabbed the book at the very top, 'A General History of New York'.
"What makes you think I'm researching local history?"
"Aside from the fact all those books are from the local history section, you mean?" She shrugged, hands burying in to her pockets as she grinned lopsidedly. Trish, Stuart suddenly remembered, that was her name. The woman with the contagious smile. "Just a guess. Am I right?"
He shrugged, smiling slightly.
"I suppose you're not wrong. I'm researching some wealthy benefactors of a local University. Some old, rich Duke you've probably never heard of." Trish snorted, crossing her arms and leaning back in her chair.
"Third Duke of Albany, by any chance?" Stuart all but blanched, staring at her, mouth hanging open in shock. "Yeah, I know about him, and his wife." Stuart spluttered unintelligently for a moment before he managed a little
Trish laughed, reaching across and plucking 'A Cultural History of New York' from his discarded pile of books. She waved it in his face for a moment.
"You think you're the only one that's read this? I have a copy at home. Signed and everything."
"So you know local history, then?"
"You could say that." She had an expression on her face that was daring him to ask her more. And Stuart found he couldn't resist taking the bait.
"And?" She grinned widely and wiggled in her chair as though she was especially pleased with herself.
"And I did my dissertation on the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and the effects it had on the daily life of the lower classes in New York. I did my Master's thesis on the advancement of New York in to a centre of culture and I am currently doing my PhD thesis on Katherine Mountbatten and how her efforts regarding the advancement of women's rights affected the overall fight for women's suffrage in the late 18th century." Stuart got the distinct feeling that she was dumbing those subjects down for him and he still felt just a little lost, staring at her like she was speaking Arabic. She sat back and watched him expectantly, hands folded neatly in front of her on the table.
"I wasn't expecting that." Stuart managed finally, laughing a little. Trish smiled a little knowing smile, as though she got that kind of thing a lot, and shrugged.
"Yeah, I guessed that too." She looked down, eyes flicking over the titles of the books on the desk. "You know, none of these books have a whole lot of useful information about the Mountbattens. If you wanted something more specialised I could give you a few titles to look out for." He thought about it for a minute, before asking
"What're the chances I'd be able to find those books in a library?" Trish's little smile disappeared, her lips turning downwards in a half-frown as she thought on it.
"Slim, probably. I take it you're not invested enough to actually buy them, then?" Stuart shook his head, his nose wrinkling in disgust at the idea.
"I only want a little information on them. I'm not concerned enough to actually spend money on academic works. That stuff's expensive." Looking thoughtful, Trish flipped through the book in front of her absent-mindedly.
"It sure is. What did you study?" Stuart picked up one of the books from the pile Trish had brought over with her and opened it to the index, checking for Leopold and Kate's names.
"Physics as a major, with a minor in Applied Mathematics when I was an undergrad, and Quantum Mechanics as a Master's. Never got my PhD, didn't have the money. Might go back and do it in the next few years though." She nodded, still flipping through the pages of that book. Neither of them speak for a few minutes as they look at their respective books, and Trish drew out a leather-bound notebook that she started scribbling in. Just as Stuart was considering leaving, she spoke up again, without looking at him.
"I could lend you a few books if you wanted. The ones I don't need right now, I mean. If you're invested enough to want to read them." She steadily did not look Stuart in the eye as he studied her profile. She was blushing, he noticed, purposefully averting her eyes. It took a moment for him to realise what she was actually proposing.
"And, if I did want these…books, how would I get them, exactly?" There was a slight pause as Trish turned to face him, chewing slowly at her lower lip. They stared at each other for a moment, before Stuart, feeling his cheeks start to burn, turned away, back to the book in his lap.
"I thought maybe we, we could meet for coffee and I could give you a few of my notes on them, if you wanted." She said eventually. "You'd pay obviously, because I saved your face and your research in the space of two days." That broke the little aura of embarrassment that was surrounding them both, and Stuart let out a bark of laughter, that earned him a few annoyed looks from the people that were dotted around them. He ignored them in favour of smiling widely at Trish.
"I think I'd like that."
"Great, that's really…great." She laughed a little self-consciously, tucking a stray strand of dark hair behind her left ear. Most of it was tied back in a loose bun, with a few other stray pieces framing her face. It was a good look for her, very cute-librarian-esque. Again, they fell silent, before Stuart decided to take a leap of faith.
"How 'bout we get a coffee now? And we can talk a little about your notes?" Trish looked up at him, biting the left corner of her lower lip before smiling gently.
"You know, I think that'd be great."
They went to a Starbucks a couple of minutes' walk down the street and found a table at the very back with two plush armchairs. Seeing as how it was the middle of the day on a Tuesday, the cafe wasn't massively crowded, with most people getting drinks to go. Since Stuart was apparently paying for their second coffee date, Trish insisted on paying for this one.
"My hero." Stuart offered dryly when she drew out her purse to pay the bored looking barista. Trish just rolled her eyes, handing over ten dollars to the guy. She dumped the change she got back straight in to the tip jar. They went to their table and waited for their names to be called.
"I wouldn't have pegged you for a latte type of guy, y'know." Said Trish as she took off her jacket, an old, cracked leather thing that looked like it had been grabbed from a bargain bin at a thrift store. Stuart chuckled, shrugging out of his own coat, wincing only slightly at the twinge in his elbow as he did so.
"Oh yeah? What would you've pegged me for then?"
"Espresso. Or black coffee at the very least. Maybe a cappuccino if you were in the right mood." He huffed out a laugh, and leant forward on to his crossed arms.
"And what would the right mood be, exactly?" She grinned then, leaning forward conspiratorially, so close that their noses nearly touched.
"You tell me Stuart." He wondered for a brief moment if it would be too forward to kiss her right then and there, but was immediately prevented from doing so by the barista calling her name. She leaned back, cheeks flushed and looked at him in a way that he didn't quite understand.
"I'll be right back." She called over her shoulder as she headed over to collect their drinks. He watched her walk away, feeling only a little validated at the sight of her very nice ass. Today was shaping up to be the best Stuart had had in a while.
Of course, it was at that point that Charlie McKay decided to ruin everything. Apparently, it was a family trait.
Stuart's phone rang, blaring out some annoying song that he didn't even recognise or remember downloading, Charlie's name flashing up on the screen. Sighing, Stuart answered the call, mentally cursing the entire McKay family (OK, maybe not Mr McKay, he was alright, as far as over-protective fathers went).
"Whattaya want Charlie?"
"Where the Hell did you go last night Stu? Me and Patrice looked all over for ya, I was beginning to think you'd gone and jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge yourself!"
"And yet, this is the first time you've called me."
"Don't get snippy with me Stuart, I was very worried, and also very drunk and I spent most of the morning throwing up in to Patrice's toilet, so I am in no mood right now, OK?"
"Yeah, fine, I went home. I was bored and in pain and you were busy making out. I didn't think you'd miss me all that much." He paused for a moment, exhaling heavily through his nose. Glancing over, he noticed Trish laughing with the barista and smiled slightly. Then he sighed again. "Look, Charlie, I'm sorry if I worried you, I didn't mean to, OK?" Down the phone Charlie sighed.
"Yeah, OK. Just don't scare me like that again, Jesus Christ, Stu. Where the hell are you anyway? I've just been to your place and you weren't there. Bart peed in the kitchen by the way." Resisting the strong temptation to bash his head in to a nearby wall, Stuart growled.
"Did you clean it up?"
"No way man, that's your dog and your apartment, so it's your problem."
"Currently Charlie, you are my problem."
"C'mon Stewie, you don't mean that." Stuart looked over to where Trish was stood, making light conversation with the barista. She caught his eye and motioned for him to keep talking. God, he was being so rude.
"Trust me Charlie, yes, you are."
"Whatever. Where are you Stuart?"
"I'm in the Starbucks near the Public Library."
"Wait, the one that's like a two minute walk from it? Holy crap, I'm right by that, I'll come in now, see you in a sec!"
"No, Charlie, don't! I'm on a-" It was too late, Charlie had already hung up. Stuart stuffed his phone back in to his pocket, cursing under his breath all the while.
"Is everything OK?" Trish was placing his latte down, looking at him with worried eyes.
"No, my friend's on his way, he's decided to join us for a coffee. Sorry." Looking mildly surprised, although not as angry as Stuart might have expected, Trish sat back in her chair, and took a long slurp from her frozen frappe thing.
"It's OK. I don't mind." She said eventually. "But just so you know, as revenge, I'm bringing my mother with us next time we get coffee." Stuart nodded.
"That seems fair." They grinned at one another again and Stuart was definitely 100% about to ask for her number when Charlie appeared.
"Hey Stu!" He chirped, grinning more cheerfully than anyone with a hangover ever had the right to do. At least until he noticed Trish, quickly glancing between them for a moment before the cheerfulness was gone, replaced by a cunning knowingness that Stuart didn't like at all. "And who might this lovely lady be?" Stuart sighed, immediately knowing that Charlie was going to make him miserable about this for potentially the next week or so.
"Charlie, this is Trish, she's helping me with a research project. Trish, this is Charlie, he's-"
"I'm his roommate." Charlie cut in, dragging a chair from the nearest table over and plonking himself down in it. Stuart stared at him, mouth hanging open just a bit at that proclamation.
"Yeah, I only moved in recently, which is probably why you haven't heard about me, right Stuart?" Stuart couldn't quite work out whether it was fury or bewilderment that was stopping him from saying anything, but it didn't matter because Charlie was ploughing merrily ahead with whatever he thought he was doing.
"So a lady-scientist huh? I hear those are pretty rare."
"I'm not a scientist. I'm a historian." Trish offered before taking another slurp of her iced coffee slushy. Charlie looked confused, his mouth pressing in to a thin line and his brows furrowing and Trish must have noticed because she elaborated a second later.
"Stuart's doing a personal project on the Mountbatten's, and he needed a little help. Hence, me." She directed a sweet smile at Stuart when she said that, but he was still too busy frothing at the mouth about Charlie's declaration to return it. Charlie laughed then, and Stuart knew, in that moment, right before Charlie spoke his next words, that he was going to have to throttle the other man as soon as Trish was gone.
"So this is like a date between the History nerd and the time travel mystery nerd?" Both Stuart and Trish stared at Charlie like he was insane as he laughed at his little rhyme.
'Yeah, laugh it up Charlie.' Stuart thought bitterly. 'We'll see who's laughing when I let Bart pee on everything you love.'
"The time-travel mystery nerd? What's that supposed to mean?" Trish looked between them expectantly, eyebrows raised. Charlie looked to Stuart who simply glared and shook his head very slowly in returned. "Uh, Stuart?" Sighing, Stuart tried his best to not sound crazy as he explained Charlie's odd choice of nickname.
"It's a…theory I've been working on. I think time travel could be possible, and Charlie is just delighted" he may or may not have snarled the word 'delighted' but at the time it had seemed appropriate "about that."
"Well, it's a cool theory. Stuart'll probably tell you about it next time you go out. I mean, you are gonna go out with him again, aren'tcha?" Trish blinked, clearly taken aback by that and stuttered something out, a flush rising to her cheeks again.
"W-well, we were making plans to meet so I could give him some books, but we hadn-"
"Great!" Charlie grinned. "How's Thursday at 4 for you, is that good?" Trish looked to Stuart for guidance, but when she only received a confused headshake and vague hand gestures in response, she nodded. "Great, Stuart'll meet you here, then. Until then, we gotta go, but it was nice meeting you!" Charlie grabbed Stuart's arm and pulled him to his feet, not nearly mindful enough of his shattered kneecap, and shooed him out the coffee shop, leaving Stuart's half-drunk latte and a very confused Trish in their wake.
As soon as they were out of the door, Charlie's cheerful grin melted away and he turned to Stuart.
"I'm moving in with you." He declared with an air of certainty that, when Kate had used it, meant that there were to be no arguments, it was that way or the highway.
"No, you are not."
"Oh yes I am. I can't afford Kate's apartment by myself, and I am not moving back in with my dad! I mean, I'm nearly 30, do you know how pathetic that would look?!" Stuart glared at him steadily, lips drawn back in a half-formed snarl.
"About as pathetic as a 30 year old man not being able to afford his own apartment?" He suggested, hoping to get a rise. If he got a rise out of Charlie, it might give him an excuse to punch him, which Stuart sorely wanted to do right about now.
"Look man, you are my best friend right now, and I have nowhere else to go. Please." Stuart actually took pause there, because Charlie looked so frighteningly earnest. It was then that he remembered that Charlie had basically just lost his sister too. He sighed in defeat, but Charlie didn't notice because he was still talking. "And think of it this way, Stewie, if the police come knocking we're gonna need alibis. And what if they try to put you back in the loony bin? You're gonna need someone to vouch for you. That could be me! Plus-"
"Jesus, fine! You can live with me, just shut up!" The cry earned him a few stares from people passing by, but at that point, Stuart no longer gave a crap. "C'mon, let's head home, we can set up some ground rules there." Charlie's cheerful grin reappeared and he reached forward and pulled Stuart in to a hug. "Ugh, get off me Charlie."
"Just a minute longer."
"Charlie!" With only minor hesitation, Charlie released Stuart from his grip, although he was still grinning like a nutjob. "Quit smiling like that, you're freaking me out."
"I can't help it, I'm just so stoked!" Stuart pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly feeling unduly exhausted.
"OK, ground rule number one: You are 100 per cent banned from ever using the word stoked again."
A/N: In this chapter Stuart is hopeless and awkward and desperate for love, and those traits just happen to turn Trish on. Charlie is super lucky that Stuart didn't actually kill him, but that would make for a completely different kind of fic I suppose.
Guys, not to be crass, but I am a total slut for feedback. Even if it's only 'OMG can't wait for the next chapter!' I will be 3000x more likely to write that chapter that very evening. Please folks, comments keep my morale high, come and yell at me about this fic, I am awaiting it with open arms, eyes, ears, whatever.
So anyway, that having been said, in the next chapter, we catch up with Leopold and Kate and see what they've been up to and Stuart and Charlie start to actually adapt to living with each other. And maybe Stuart goes on a date, I haven't decided yet.