Hello, all, and welcome to my latest story. It's the longest one I've written so far, and my first attempt at a 'shipper-fic.' You'll know from the summary that it features George and Emily, but Murdoch, Brackenreid and Henry too (yay!), still make an appearance.
It follows on directly from that unforgettable fight scene, which I devotedly (!) watched countless times as part of my research. Oh, okay, I was also trying to work out where George came from. The rafters? One of Emily's closets? Inter-dimensional time travel? No, I think that's a mystery not even Murdoch can solve!
Anyway, here's the story. I hope you enjoy it!
A Class Apart
Those who heard and saw the arrest of Jerome Bradley weren't likely to forget it in a hurry.
It started with the main door to the station slamming open, to admit two shoving, struggling figures. And a uniquely accented, unnaturally raised voice brought a rush of constables into the lobby, to support one of their own. George Crabtree wasn't the tallest lad in the world. And by the sounds of it, he'd arrested a thuggish handful.
To their surprise, though, he didn't need any help to keep his latest prisoner under control. What he'd done to Emily gave him all the strength he needed to put this bullying bastard where he belonged.
Shocked by the fury on his face, William and Brackenreid quickly followed him into the cells, arriving just in time to see him dodge another flailing kick from his still furiously struggling prisoner. As they rushed forward to help him, both then stared in surprised realization that it wouldn't be needed.
With the benefit of a clear head, and quicker reflexes, its vicious aim didn't come anywhere near him. Now he just had to hold onto his advantage, and keep his temper, while Jerome Bradley lost his instead.
"Get off me, you common little idiot! I'll have your job for this… this brutality!"
"And I'll have you for the brutality you were forcing on Dr Grace!" George retorted just as hotly, releasing the 'cuffs from his wrists, then shoving him into his cell before he could think to retaliate.
Glaring back at him through the bars, the fury on Bradley's face suddenly changed to a wary unease. He'd been in enough jail cells to know what that black glove in Brackenreid's hands signified. Its threatening menace stood in stark contrast to the Inspector's deceptively benevolent question.
"So, Mr Bradley… am I right in thinking you have a problem with one of my constables?"
Still staring at the glove that was being lightly slapped over his palm, Bradley swallowed hard, then shook his head, his arrogant bluster now well and truly deflated as he stomped away to the wiser safety of his bunk.
He was still clearly seething over his arrest, though. To William's concern, so was George.
In all their years of working together, he'd never seen his young protégé so furiously angry as this. Even now, it was still radiating out of him like a lamp, and his eyes were still dangerously dark. His shoulders, too, were taut with tension, prompting William to steer him back to his office, while Brackenreid gave the toff 'a good sorting' on his behalf. From that heated exchange, and what he'd apparently done to Dr Grace, he clearly deserved it.
By the time they reached his office, George had thankfully settled a little. But after such a dramatic entrance, he was still attracting a little too much attention. All well meaning, of course, but to William's eyes, still not quite what he needed right now. So once they'd gone through the door, he turned back to face them, smiled in appreciation for their concern, then quietly closed the door behind him.
It didn't offer much privacy from the curious eyes of their colleagues, but it would have to do – its familiarity, and just the support of his presence, soon helping George to regain his composure.
"I - I came upon him threatening Dr Grace… sir, he - he was about to strike her!" he said at last, the anger that lingered in his voice mirrored on William's face now, and their returning Inspector's.
"Bloody coward squealed for his lawyer before I got anywhere near him," he muttered disgustedly, the frustration of not giving Bradley a taste of his own medicine softening as he turned his attention to a far worthier cause.
Under his mentor's steadying influence, he'd calmed down considerably, but was still clearly upset. So yes, this was a good time for a proud pat on his back, and a uniquely special way to cheer him up.
"You alright, bug-a-lugs?"
Whatever he thought of this teasing nickname, George had always recognized it for what it was. A gesture of affection, that none of the other constables had, that now coaxed out an appreciative smile.
"Yes, sir, I'm fine. And – And I'm sorry for any trouble he and his lawyer might make for you. But he was drunk, and threatening Emily, and…"
"…well, from what you've told me, George, you made a fully justified arrest," William assured him, following Brackenreid's lead, and giving his young friend a heartening squeeze on his shoulder. "And I'm sure Dr Grace will be just as thankful for your courage in protecting her."
To his surprise, though, and Brackenreid's, George didn't think he deserved such pride, or praise. If anything, he seemed embarrassed by what he'd done – hardly the reaction of a chivalrous hero.
"Oh, I'm not so sure about that, sir. I'm afraid I left her to clear up the most frightful mess."
Glancing back at him, Brackenreid could see the same puzzlement flash across his detective's face. Even if no blood had been shed, whatever had happened in that morgue had clearly been quite the fight. But then Brackenreid's face brightened with his rare, mischievous grin as he nudged George to his feet.
"Well, being the chivalrous lad you are, Crabtree, I'm sure you won't mind helping her clear it up."
"Yes, George, and I still need those reports that you kindly offered to get for me," William added, smiling too now, as the real motive for that helpful eagerness betrayed itself in George's ever expressive face.
As Brackenreid observed as they watched him go, its bright eyed grin could only have one cause.
"Fighting for his lady's honour. Well, me old mucker, I do believe our young bug-a-lugs is in love."
"Yes, sir, I think he is. And no-one deserves its happiness more," William agreed just as proudly, keeping the regrets of his own, morally conflicting feelings behind the mask of an approving smile.
He just hoped George would learn from his mistakes, and seize his chance before it slipped away.
Her side table was ruined, and she'd had to be careful not to step on the broken glass around it, but – well, all things considered, Emily could live with their loss, knowing they could all be replaced. The loss of her honour was another matter entirely, though, and the thought of it still sickened her. Thank God George had arrived when he did, otherwise… no, she couldn't, wouldn't, dwell on that.
Instead, she carefully stacked the pieces of broken wood and glass onto the autopsy table behind her – feeling her heart lurch once more, but for a far more pleasant reason, at the sound of a familiar voice. Whether in playful teasing, chivalrous anger, or awkward apology, it never failed to charm her.
"Oh, my Lord, look at this mess! Dr Grace, I am so sorry, and… no, Emily, please, let – let me."
It had looked much worse before, of course, but Emily didn't have the heart to tell him that. Besides, the sight of him mopping up for her only added to the appeal of that adorable gallantry.
"After all you did to protect me, George, you have nothing to apologise for," she said at last, the memories of that brutal, if thankfully one sided fight still raw enough to leave a troubling thought. If any of Jerome's strikes had landed, then he'd have been undoubtedly hurt, maybe seriously, and –
"…yes, he was a nasty brute, to be sure, and… are you sure you're alright? He didn't hurt you?"
– yes, she thought proudly, that was her George all over, always thinking of others ahead of himself. It was just one of many qualities that had drawn her to him, and… her George? Her George?
Was he really hers? The presumption was so unexpected, and so profound, that she almost forgot to answer his question. Getting lost in those depthless eyes wasn't helping either.
"No, George, really, I'm fine. He just startled me when I found him in here," she said at last, a wholly different surprise turning the fright of that moment into a teasingly mischievous smile.
"Although I've never seen a police officer tackle a suspect from such a great height before."
"Yes, I'm… um… getting quite the reputation for that," George agreed through a sheepish grin, deciding this really wasn't the time, or place, to relate how he'd also flattened their Queen's grandson. As a quiet voice reminded him, there'd been nothing funny about Jerome Bradley's bullying ways.
"I suppose I should have come to you, or Detective Murdoch, when I found the note, but… "
"…the note? You mean he tried to threaten you before,?" George cut in, his eyes widening in disbelief, then fresh anger, as he read through its unsettlingly amended contents.
Jerome Bradley clearly couldn't take 'no' for an answer, and that now raised an unavoidable question. Why had such an intelligent and spirited woman as Emily said 'yes' to such a brute in the first place? And as always when he thought of such a question, his curiosity wouldn't rest until it was answered.
"So, you… um… loved him enough to marry him? To make that commitment?" he asked at last, praying he hadn't upset her, and so relieved when she smiled, as if glad that he'd broached the subject.
"At first? Maybe, yes. But I don't think I was ever in love with him," she replied just as quietly, compelled by more than gratitude to confide in him, completely, on why she'd called off the wedding. "To be honest, I had my doubts about him, and concerns about his drinking, before our engagement."
"Yes, after seeing it for myself, how violent it made him, I can understand that," George agreed, hesitating for a moment, until a warm smile encouraged him to ask his next, still tentative question. "So if you don't mind my asking… why did you agree to marry him?"
Why indeed, Emily thought through a rueful sigh. Even now, she still didn't have a reasonable answer.
"Honestly, George, I don't know. My age, perhaps, or my family's expectations," she said at last, the benefit of further thought finally bringing her to the real reason for her 'unforgiveable social error'. "There's a world of difference, George, between loving someone, and being in love with them."
She'd made a fair point, of course. One that, to her surprise, he seemed to understand. Wondering why such a thought had also made her so envious, Emily couldn't stop herself from pursuing it.
"Have you ever felt that way, George? Have you ever been in love with anyone before?"
Thrown for a moment, that he'd had his own curiosity turned back on him, George started to reply. Then he frowned instead, as he realized such a profound question needed a few more moments thought. Real love, instead of the gentle, playful flirting he'd enjoyed with Edna? Or Ruby? Or Tess?
Once, maybe, yes. He had been in love. But, he thought in rueful regret, that ship had truly sailed now. And yes, maybe Lydia would understand, eventually, and find it in her heart to forgive his betrayal. But as things stood, he was still a humble lad from Newfoundland, who would always know his place. And however hard he tried, the Eddie Driscolls and Jerome Bradleys of this world would always make sure he knew it.
It was a barrier that would always thwart his dreams. Make the hopes of his heart much harder to reach.
"George? If you'd like to walk me to the station, I have those reports for Detective Murdoch."
Suddenly reminded of his other reason to come to her, George forced a bright smile back to his face – waiting for her to collect them, and instinctively offering his arm to her as they left the morgue. If just to clear his head, and settle his tumbling thoughts, this walk in the fresh air was a very good idea.
The sun had slid lower now, allowing cooler nips of air to replace its seasonally lessened warmth. Yes, they were definitely in winter now, the year's end heralding another of even greater significance. With just four weeks to go until the start of a new year, and a new century, it was an exciting time – plans for what promised to be an unforgettable ball to celebrate both occasions already in full swing.
So as he felt Emily hug his arm for extra warmth, George's thoughts started to inevitably wander. It would be such a momentous, once in a lifetime event, that he would love to spend in her company. But with her higher connections, would she consider it? Take him seriously? Did he even have the right to ask her?
Another discussion, for another appropriate time. For now, though, he had more professional concerns. Although he hadn't shown it, at least not too openly, that amended invitation had still disturbed him.
"You know, you could add that note to his existing charge, as threat of intimidation," he said at last, thinking for a moment, allowing her to do the same, before a wry smile tugged at the side of his mouth. "'though I'd imagine the Inspector has already made sure he'll never threaten you again."
One of these days, he sourly told himself, he'd learn to think through what he'd say before he said it. She hadn't reproached him as such, but George had still seen the way her expression had changed – its alarm compelling him to stop walking, take both her hands into his, and try his best to apologize.
"Or you could forget that I said something so thoughtless, and just leave things as they are."
He was asking for her forgiveness too, of course. And, to his relief, he'd already received it through a much warmer smile. Just to make sure, though, he took a deep breath, then spoke straight from the depths of his heart.
"I'm sure once he's spent the night in our cells, and sobered up, he'll have learned his lesson."
Smiling back at him, Emily nodded, then glanced down to where her hands still rested in his. He'd never been quite this bold with her before, or so intimate. But unlike Jerome, who'd gripped her hand with such possessive tightness, George held them with such gentleness - just like everything else about him. And the longer he held them, the less Emily wanted him to let go.
To the eyes of any passers by, they looked like any other young couple who'd just started courting. And until the door to the station-house opened, George didn't feel any unease about that, at all. But then he realized who'd just emerged to start his beat, and he cringed with inner embarrassment.
Of all the times for Henry to appear, this was the worst, and… no, his fate was now surely sealed. Before the hour was out, his smirking colleague would set the station's grapevine into overdrive – his excuse that he 'needed a new pencil' causing George to groan outright, as Henry shot back through the door.
The last thing he wanted was for Emily to become the butt of that day's gossip, and… hello? Why was she still smiling at him like that? Finding this situation so much funnier than he did?
Even if he couldn't answer his own questions, George still felt himself start to smile again too – his eyes widening slightly, as she paid him what his addled mind still took as the greatest compliment.
"Protecting my honour again, George? For someone so young, you're really very old fashioned."
She was right, of course, but he had a point to make too. Yes, he was young, but he was older than her.
Before he could remind her of that, though, she let go of his hands and, still smiling, entered the station. Staring after her, he could only wonder if he'd heard, or just imagined, what she'd teasingly said next.
"And it's very appealing."
It was?! He'd never thought about it before, he'd just followed the natural traits of his character. But if Emily really found it such an attractive quality… well, that opened up all sorts of possibilities. And as he glanced at his hands, he had to admit that she'd held onto them for an unusually long time.
Realizing she was now inside the station, and he was still outside, he then sighed and shook his head – bracing himself for the gauntlet of sly glances, winks, and smirking grins that followed him to his desk. Still looking for his 'new pencil', Henry had started it, of course, and to his further mortification – yes, his Inspector, and even Detective Murdoch, were also finding his awkwardness much too amusing.
But then he saw how Emily was smiling too and, if sheepishly, he found it impossible not to return it – listening in quiet satisfaction while she concluded a discussion that related to a far more serious matter.
"Thank you, Inspector, but really, I'm fine. Jerome threatened me, but he didn't actually hurt me."
For Brackenreid, there was still every reason to give the arrogant sod a taste of his own medicine. But Murdoch's subtle cough silently reminded him that this wasn't the time, or place, to discuss it.
"Well, it's your choice, of course, Doctor, on whether you want to press charges," he said instead, frowning now as he glared around the lobby, and its clusters of still curiously earwigging constables. That alone was enough to send them scattering back to work, and for Henry to finally find his pencil.
That just left him with his detective, his pathologist, one inevitably lingering bug-a-lug. And an obvious solution.
"And since it's such a sensitive matter for you, Doctor, you can use my office. Right, Crabtree?"
Still a politely silent observer, George stared at him, startled, then quickly nodded his agreement – choosing not to react to the approving grin that followed him, and Emily, into the Inspector's office.
He'd deal with its teasing consequences later. But, for now, he had more serious work to do.
Closing the door behind him, George then turned and glanced around him with a thoughtful frown – studying the different options available to him, and dismissing those that were clearly unsuitable. The couch beside him was far too intimate, while the Inspector's chair was equally too formal. He'd probably get his backside tanned for sitting in it anyway, and… oh. Emily had beaten him to it.
Despite his misgivings, that rather settled that. So then… right… the couch it was, then. Right.
Settling himself at a politely appropriate distance, George then rested his clipboard onto his knee, still aware of how curiously she was watching him, but just as determined to keep this professional. Emily had realized it too now, since her expression, and her next words, took on the same soberness.
"After considering the Inspector's advice, George, and yours… yes, I'd like to bring charges."
Still kicking himself for his earlier lapse of tact, George just nodded while he found the right sheet. And this time, he thought his response through, not just once but several times, before he finally said it out loud.
"You're doing the right thing, Emily, From what I saw, and heard, you're best out of his way."
'And there won't be any repercussions… me, the Inspector, and the lads will see to that.'
He'd thought that last part, rather than spoken it, but the seriousness in his eyes had said it instead – a warm smile thanking him for his wiser sensitivity, as Emily watched him start on his paperwork.
"I know, George. He was part of my old life, that I no longer wish to be part of," she said at last, needing the encouragement of a brighter future, and smiling as she realized it was already there.
He was there, right in front of her. Had been, for some time. And now felt the right time to tell him.
"And after today, I know a far better person, who is far more likely to steal my heart."
She'd assumed he couldn't possibly miss such an unsubtle hint as her moving closer to him, but – well, despite everything he'd learned from the greatest detective in Toronto, apparently he could. Or maybe it was the statement that he was still preparing that left him oblivious to her. Either way, she still wanted his attention.
"Someone kind, and brave, and generous, who would always support and protect me."
Surely he'd react to that? Well, she'd made him nod. But, to her silent frustration, that was all. Maybe if she poked him with his nightstick, she was close enough to him now to reach it, and – no, Emily, no matter what Jerome thinks or says, you're still a lady, and you need to act like one.
Resigned that she couldn't be more obvious, she then sighed, letting her imagination do it for her.
"And if I'm really fortunate, I'll know him already. He'll also have the sweetest smile… and the most beautiful eyes…"
She hadn't meant to say that last part aloud, but… well, it was too late to take it back now. To her more relieved amusement, he'd just nodded again anyway, still focussed on the task at hand. Finally, though, the penny dropped, and his head shot up, those 'beautiful eyes' wide in delight.
"Me?! Emily, are – are you talking about me?"
For fear of offending him, she really didn't want to laugh, but… no, it was just impossible not to. The joy on his face was beyond all resistance. And, for both of them, it was a moment to savour.
"Yes, George, of course it's you. It's been you for some considerable time," she said at last, turning more serious as an expression of the most endearing embarrassment spread over his face. "You really have no idea, do you? That you have so many attractive qualities?"
In truth? No, he didn't. What he saw in the mirror each morning was nothing exceptional. To his more critical eyes, those eyes were too big, his nose too long, and his teeth too rabbity. But Emily seemed to think differently. And, he now realized, so did one of his favourite relatives.
"Well, my Aunt Primrose once said I have the face of an artist's cherub," he said at last, feeling a sheepish grin spread across that angelic face, as Emily studied it in amused approval. With the advantage of hindsight, that was a family secret he should really have kept to himself.
It was a far more troublesome skeleton in his closet, though, that chose the lousiest time to rattle. As far as he knew, she was still unaware of the social stigma that still clouded his life. Then again, if he wanted any serious future with her, then he had to be totally honest with her too.
"Emily, I'm – I'm a foundling. I was raised by a church Minister's family," he added quietly, caught in the familiar conflict between loyalty to his family, and his less honourable background. "And as much as I love them all dearly, my place in society is… well, so much lower than yours. I - I had no idea that you would ever hold such interest in me."
For such surprising news, she was taking it remarkably calmly. Almost as if it didn't bother her. Yes, her eyes had widened, and now narrowed into a frown. But not for the reasons he'd assumed.
"You mean my advanced education, that enabled me to become a doctor…?" she said at last, finding it impossible to be exasperated with him for a trivial matter that, to him, was a real concern. He was an unwanted child, abandoned by his mother. And, she realized, he still deeply felt its shame.
For the first time since meeting him, she was starting to see the insecurities beyond the modest charm. And from that, she'd found a barrier between them, that could ruin everything before it even started.
From the earliest age that she could remember, Emily Grace had fought for the causes she believed in. In a society ruled by class and social snobbery, she'd still pursued all the goals she wanted to achieve. Professionally at least, she'd succeeded. Even if she hadn't been suited for general practice, she was a doctor.
Now she'd set her sights on her more personal happiness. Today, she'd thought she'd finally found it. Ignoring his own safety, George had fought for her honour, and shown her what class really stood for.
Then a chance discovery had made her realize there was more to George Crabtree than she'd thought. Beyond the cheery humour, he was sensitive enough to still fret over his lack of social standing. What really surprised her, though, was his fear that he was unworthy of her when, in fact, she held him in such high regard.
So as she watched him complete his paperwork, Emily felt the frown on her face set in a little further – oblivious herself to the polite concern, and more open exasperation, with which they were both being watched.
The former came from William Murdoch. The latter came from their rather less sensitive Inspector. And as he stared at the cup in his hand, Brackenreid clearly wished it were a different kind of drink.
"If I'd known it would take him this long to take a bloody statement, I'd have brought my Scotch."
Wondering if he'd ever change, and already resigned to the answer, William just shook his head – taking a bracing mouthful of his own tea, as he tried to help his Inspector see the more serious light.
"Actually, sir, I think they're finding more to resolve than Dr Grace's relationship with Mr Bradley."
Too late, and to his silent chagrin, he'd come dangerously close to betraying George's confidence. To his relief, it had passed unnoticed, as Brackenreid found his own, if inaccurate explanation.
"You think so? Oh, bloody hell, Murdoch! Don't tell me they've had their first tiff!"
Hoping himself that wasn't the case, William then gathered his next reply with more tactful care.
"No, sir, I'm not saying that at all. I'm merely saying this is a delicate matter, for both of them."
Intentionally or not, this reply still had the same effect, as Brackenreid huffed and rolled his eyes. Denied access to his own refreshment, he then decided this was the perfect time for a pie and a pint – turning a blind eye to the fact that it was now well into the afternoon, and he'd had lunch already.
Still shaking his head, William's attention returned to the more serious matters in the Inspector's office. He couldn't hear what George or Emily were saying, of course, but he could imagine its subject – the same matter that his protégé had confided to him the previous week.
Not for the first time and, no doubt, not for the last, he'd fretted over his lack of social connections – some gentle prompting finally coaxing him into a shy admission that, yes, it did concern Doctor Grace.
From watching them interact through the last few weeks, William had worked this out already – watching in brotherly approval as his young friend started to gain more confidence around her. Taking the lead in convicting Michael Decker had boosted it too, earning him an even greater respect. But as her interest in him grew more obvious, so that confidence had given way to an ongoing issue. The same one that, William guessed, still held both of them in such a deep, serious discussion.
He could see that Emily was taking the lead in it now, leaving George with little choice but to listen – his rapt attentiveness, and each nod of his head, suggesting that she was making her views very clear.
William even felt himself smile now, as he watched the young doctor fight for both their futures. Forthright, and not afraid to voice her opinion, she was as much a force of nature as George, and – yes, from the way he now sat up in his seat, and stared back at her, she'd just released its full strength.
"You know, George, these concerns you have about our different classes reminds me of Jerome."
Stunned by such an unwelcome comparison, George stared at her, as if her words had verbally hit him. And it wasn't how she'd intended to gain his attention. But now that she had, she was determined to keep it.
"He said that by marrying him, he'd bring me up to his station. His superior class," she went on, her voice quiet, but still holding a steely resolve as she met his eyes again, and refused to let them go. "Do you really think, George, that I want you to feel the same way? To feel so inferior to me?"
The reply came straight back this time, every bit as strongly as she'd heard that morning in her morgue. And it was good to hear.
"What?! Oh, my Lord, Emily, no! Of course I don't!"
"Then stop fretting over this question of class, George, and start seeing yourself as others see you… as I see you… this kind, loyal, wonderful person, who any lady would be so fortunate to walk out with."
She hadn't meant to sound so sharp, but from his expression, it had thankfully worked. Given him a lot to think about too - which, she now realized, was impeding into his work-time. Not wanting him to fall foul of his Inspector's temper, she then found a resourceful solution as she rose to her feet.
"Really, George, such social differences don't concern me. Especially after today. But if you were to walk me home after your shift, perhaps I could continue to convince you?"
Thrown for another loop, George could only nod in startled agreement as he watched her walk out of Brackenreid's office. This was the second time that she'd left him standing there, lost for words, and - yes, he thought through a broadening smile, it was a habit he could happily grow used to.
Emily shivered a little, drawing her coat more closely around her. It was rather late now, to take a carriage, or to tell her escort that her lodgings were a full mile's walk from the station house. Still, it was a beautifully clear evening, with enough of a moon to add to the streetlights' illuminations.
George was enjoying it too, passing the time with both companionable silence and casual conversation. One topic was kept tactfully out of bounds, but there were plenty of others to take its place, covering an impressive range of subjects. Many of them brought them both onto common ground. They both loved animals, especially dogs, and hated any form of cruelty.
They loved theatre too, sharing a love of irreverent comedy. As Emily pointed out, she preferred people who made her laugh to those who made her cry. For George too, it was a perfect night to indulge in another of his favourite pastimes, pointing out the same constellations that Uncle Percy had shown him, with such inspiring enthusiasm.
Holding snugly onto his arm against the deepening chill, Emily was also holding onto his every word – listening with amazement, and amusement, to his typically colourful tales of life as his hero's protégé.
"…I've never worn a dress since, though… the lads still rag me about it, even now…"
"…if I say so myself, I've quite the talent for mimicry… though I've followed Detective Murdoch's advice, and made sure the Inspector doesn't hear me…"
"…Detective Murdoch said he needed an average of my running times, but… well, I really don't think I needed to run through those woods for quite so many…"
"…it was a bit of a shock, though, to find out I really could have been beheaded…"
"…no, I don't think Dr Ogden would tease me like that… if Martians really are so much more advanced than us, then yes… to them, we would be like cows…"
There was one revelation, though, that made her stop short, and stare up at him in shocked surprise.
"You let yourself be shot?"
"Well, yes… but I was never in any danger… I had this bullet proof vest, that Detective Murdoch had made up for me," George assured her, dispersing the rest of her surprise with another modest smile as they resumed their walk. "One of my two mothers was a fraud, trying to take gain from my position and pension. So we had to find a way to expose her, and find Professor Bennett's killer."
Still astonished that he'd put his life at such risk, Emily then smiled as she studied George's face. Throughout his recollections, the regard and respect he had for his mentor had been abundantly clear. She'd seen herself how close their friendship was, bordering on the unique bond that the closest of brothers might envy. It was to his real family, though, and one crucial member of it especially, that her thoughts now returned.
"So you found your real mother? And you're still happy to stay in contact with her?"
Still distracted by Orion's striking clarity above them, George then offered her a sheepish grin as he nodded, without a trace of hesitation.
"Yes, we've become really close now. When I was fully recovered, I took her back to St Johns to meet my other family. It was a bit odd at first, but by the time we came back to Toronto, we were all on the best of terms. And thanks to Dr Ogden, she's earning her own decent wage now, cooking meals at the hospital where Dr Ogden works."
Glancing up at Orion again, George then frowned as he recognized the point that Emily's expression had made, without her needing to say it. Through hard work, perseverance, and the love of her new family, Gracie Saunders had risen from near poverty to a position of respectful esteem. There was no reason in the world why he couldn't do the same. All he had to do was rid himself of these oppressive self doubts. And now he had the best reason in the world to do so.
Just to make sure he'd realized it, though, Emily turned to face him as they came to the stoop of her lodgings' door.
"You see, George? Along with your mother, we have this in common too. We're both honest, hard working people, who are doing what we believe in. And in terms of class, George, we are equals… we're both the same… and that's nothing to be ashamed of."
It was a relief that he'd smiled back at her, and nodded, through so much of what she'd said. And an even greater pleasure when those self doubts were laid to rest through a more confident offer, that she couldn't refuse.
"Well, in that case, Emily, perhaps we could do this again? It's been such a pleasure to walk you home, and… well, as an officer of the law, it's my sworn duty to make sure you get there safely."
"Yes, George, I would like that very much," Emily agreed, waiting patiently for him to take that gallantry further, and finding it impossible not to smile when it failed to happen. For George and those sweetly old fashioned manners, it was still too soon to end this night with a parting kiss. So she settled instead for that disarming grin, and the new confidence in those beautifully bright green eyes.
"Right, well, I'll see you tomorrow. Good night, Emily."
"Good night, George. And again, my thanks for what you did for me today."
Tipping his hat to her, George then turned and made his way back to the street. Watching him walk away into the night, Emily gladly bore a few more moments of the night's increasing chill. It had been a long and tiringly eventful day, yet still she watched him. Seeing Jerome again, everything he'd done to try and bully her back to him, had brought back so many unwelcome memories. It had shaken her too.
But that was all behind her now. And as she watched him finally disappear from her sight, Emily felt her smile widen with thoughts of her sweet, brave, wonderful George. How blessed she'd been to find him. And how determined she was now, to take their relationship into the brighter future of a new year. A new century. And, maybe, the hopeful dreams that both of them shared.