Respectable Distance.

"By her actions, she had also anticipated it and manoeuvred herself to keep a respectable distance"

There were several things Caroline Hepworth didn't want. Being stuck on board a submarine with Aubrey Fitzwilliam was definitely at the top of her list. luckily she had anticipated his moves and made sure that there was at least half a dozen crew members between them at all times. She knew if he came too close there would be two possible outcomes. He would be violently injured, or he would get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness. Possibly both.

They reached dry land again and Lady Rose immediately whisked her away back to the museum so they could catalogue the specimens they brought back. Also to keep Aubrey away from her. When they were surrounded by crates reeking of sea salt and waste Lady Rose peeked over the top of a pile and caught Caroline's eye.

'Caroline,' she began sternly 'remember you are under no obligation to forgive my son.' Caroline scoffed, knowing full well she'd have to forgive him eventually. Having spent a few weeks calming down she could see the sense behind Aubrey's actions. Although they were selfish and pigheaded, she was glad to have been so involved with saving Lutetia. They had prevented the Holmlanders from destroying the country, and returned the Heart of Gold to it's rightful place.

'I understand that,' she replied quietly, 'have you told him about the shooting?' a sharp intake of breath gave Caroline the answer first.

'No,' Lady Rose replied 'I'd prefer to let him settle into University, give him a break from all that adventuring, Darius' reaction was 'Fitzwilliam' enough. Aubrey's reaction is likely to be very similar.'

'You do need to tell him eventually.' Caroline pressed.

'I'll tell him when you forgive him.' Lady Rose said with a note of finality. They got back into their cataloguing and made sure that the small, stuffed, migratory sea birds were stored properly.

It was dusk by the time they were finished and Lady Rose made sure Caroline got home safely by cab. As Caroline unpacked her travel gear her mother entered the room behind her. Dressed in enthusiastically decorated robes she hugged her daughter tightly.

'I've missed you very much!' she whispered into Caroline's ear.

'I missed you too.' she whispered in return. Releasing her from the hug, Ophelia directed her eyes to the clothes packed neatly in the trunk. 'You'll have to tell me all about your trip in the morning, I want to hear about everything!' With a small kiss on the cheek and a light hug, Ophelia left the room to give her some privacy.

Caroline abandoned her attempt to unpack and cleared her bed, putting papers on her desk, and her bag by her wardrobe. Slipping out of her blouse and skirt she pulled on a light nightgown and sat at her dresser. Carefully taking her hair out of its carefully pulled back bun, she scrutinised how long it had gotten. Pulling a brush through the tangles she carefully studied her face. She looked tired. She felt tired. Having been betrayed by Aubrey and then leaving, then encountering similar things to what she'd previously encountered when adventuring with him and George.

It was all too much. She slammed her brush down and turned off her lights, climbing into the comfort of her bed. Desperate to stop thinking, she wriggled around until the sheets cocooned her. Her effort was futile, as once she was still, her thoughts consumed her again.

She knew full well she'd forgive Aubrey, she enjoyed sparring with him too much. She did enjoy his company too, but she didn't linger too long on that fact. Caroline thought through several conversations she could have with him, she would make him own up to his own failings and she would strive to instil a grain of humility into him.

A couple of weeks later when the telephone rang, Caroline was hesitant to answer it, and left it to her mother. Upon finding out the person on the other end was George, she immediately took the handset.

'Caroline?' he asked hesitantly,

'Hello George!' she cried into the receiver, very glad to hear his voice. And very glad it wasn't Aubrey's.

'I've got a few tickets to go see that Manfred show tonight, are you interested in coming?' he asked.

Caroline paused, few meant Aubrey would be there, even if sleight-of-hand performances weren't his thing. He would be there because George would ask him along, and once George mentioned she was going… well she was sure not even the nation going to war would prevent him coming to that show.

She gave her consent and agreed to meet him outside the Russell Theatre. Putting down the receiver she let out a long sigh. It was forgiveness time.

When the evening came she took a cab to the theatre district, and asked to be dropped off at the end, stating her preference to brave the throng of people, and spare the cabby from having to manoeuvre the narrow road. Harkness Road was extremely harrow, and filled with people.

The huge Orient theatre was just on the other side of the road, a Venezian by the name of Spinetti was performing his musical shows there, and a large crowd had gathered around the entrance. She glanced over the poster of the man, his dark piercing eyes dominated the paper, sending a faint shiver down her spine.

She past the Doncaster hall, it's flashing lights promising an exciting time inside. Slipping past an enormous couple in formal attire she found herself staring at Aubrey's back. With his hands shoved unceremoniously into his pockets and his shoulders drooped, she would be forgiven to think that Aubrey was a humble, poor student, rather than the son of the Albion Prime Minister.

When she was close enough, she decided to berate him for abusing his jacket so. Whipping his hands out of his pockets, he swivelled to meet her gaze. He blundered through his hellos and explanation for being there before wisely staying silent.

Caroline knew it was time to get everything out in the open, once and for all. Before she could begin however, Aubrey apologised.

Caroline usually refused to be impressed by her peers. Unless they did something remarkable, or underwent a personality change, she treated them with indifference. Aubrey's heartfelt apology outside the theatre was a sign that Aubrey had undergone a radical personality alteration, and over the next few days Caroline pondered how sincere this new change was.

She rang Lady Rose and told her that she would be getting in contact with Aubrey and George to take them to see Jack the next day, and that they would probably be coming back to Maidstone, and also that it she had forgiven Aubrey for his manipulation of affairs. Lady Rose had sighed, and told her that she would be at Maidstone when they arrived.

She was hesitant to contact Aubrey at St Albans, and only called with trepidation. When George picked up and announced he'd pass it on and meet her at the train station, she wondered why Aubrey was so absorbed in his studies.

At the train station, she could see how ill he was becoming, dark circles around his eyes, and he looked even thinner than when they were in Lutetia. She'd been looking into it, and had discovered some alarming ailments in her father's notebooks, all of which she hoped Aubrey didn't have. Despite his failings.

They journeyed together to catch up with Jack Figg, she watched from the corner of her eyes as Aubrey's eyes closed gently, and as his head rested on the window pane. At least he wasn't staring at her again. When they were only a few minutes from Lennox Street Station, George nudged him awake.

Departing the train they walked to the small pristine building where Jack had asked to meet them, and then he introduced them to the Holmlanders. The exiled men and woman appealed to Aubrey for assistance in finding employment for their fellow Holmlandish asylum seekers. Aubrey handled the delicate situation with great finesse and Caroline was impressed at the way he agreed to help them without making any unscrupulous promises.

They travelled back to Maidstone, and as promised, Lady Rose was waiting for them. She took Caroline into her study and asked her whether she had forgiven Aubrey.

'Yes, I have forgiven him, although it's still probationary.' Caroline replied

Lady Rose gnashed her teeth, 'It means I'm going to have to tell him about the shooting isn't it?' she groaned 'He's going to upset that I've kept it from him.'

'You should have told him when we first got back.' Caroline reminded her 'Waiting all this time isn't going to lessen his reaction.'

'I had hoped to avoid it altogether,' she half-glared at Caroline, 'you should have kept him sweating bullets for your forgiveness.' Caroline smirked in return, and Lady Rose's expression lightened. 'I suppose he is going to react like his father even if I tell him now.' Caroline giggled,

'Shall I go send him in?' she asked.

'Not just yet,' Lady Rose replied with a smirk of her own. 'We still have a couple of boxes to number and make sure the specimens are in good condition, we should be done in an hour or so.'

'You're just doing this to make Aubrey wait aren't you?'

'Of course.'