Author's Note: This is the final installment of this journey. We both appreciate you guys indulging our attempt to fill in the blanks, and as always, a note to offer your thoughts as to whether or not we should write other material together as well as some constructive feedback would be most appreciated.
Note 2: Ezer k'enegdo is ancient Hebrew and is the term used to describe Eve in Genesis when she is first introduced to Adam. Sadly, it does not really have an English equivalent, and is often translated as "help meet" or "helper" when the ancient Hebrew connotes so much more. A better translation might be "partner", but the implication is that Eve was not inferior to Adam, she was meant to be his equal and while different, was his companion and partner-not just an assistant. We all know that William thinks of Julia as his equal, and not just an assistant.
April 21st, 1904
Soon after returning from the train station, Julia flopped down upon the couch and exhaled sharply, grateful to be off her feet, and exhausted by the effort. It had certainly been one hell of an afternoon with the daughter of an old friend being complicit in three shocking murders.
But that was just the tip of the sword. Perhaps her subconscious had decided that it had had enough when she decided to tell Elizabeth Atherly that if Mr. Cross had truly loved her, he would never have let her marry another man. While she supposed that was mostly true, more than one person had heard her words, and she cringed when she recalled William's stricken face moments after she had uttered the careless statement.
I did not keep a tight-enough leash on my rage, and now I am going to have to live with the destructive results, and repair what I can. True to form, William had quickly recovered and resumed his stoic, cold persona that he took on when dealing with murderers, but it did not fool her in the least. She didn't envy Lady Elizabeth or Mr. Cross in experiencing that coldness and disgust firsthand, but as they were murderers, she wouldn't be losing any sleep over their plight.
If she were truly Lady Suzanne's friend, she supposed that she would be at the Stationhouse right now comforting her as her only daughter was being charged with three counts of murder. It had truly been a range of emotions for the woman over the past few days to go from being successful in arranging her daughter's marriage to an extraordinarily wealthy young man to the prospect of that same daughter now facing a date with the executioner.
But Lady Suzanne was not the woman Julia had once known and been close with, and if Julia were to be brutally honest, the woman had been partly culpable in the matter by trying to first control who her daughter fell in love with and furthermore all but coerce her daughter into marrying a man she barely knew as though she were a prize mare.
But such was the nature of the well to do, she supposed, recalling her own début experience and how her father had encouraged her to be less strong willed and more ladylike in the hopes that he could marry her off to some wealthy scion and not worry about her tainting the fair Ogden name by pursuing an education and her dreams of becoming a doctor.
Lucky for her, she was stronger willed than her father and had prevailed in her goals… as had Ruby she remembered with a smirk. Laughing, she recalled Ruby's own turn as a debutante, which she had self-sabotaged by openly flouting a dalliance with a waiter. Julia was sorry that she had not been as brave or as creative as Ruby, and had instead made sure that the entire affair was miserable for all involved.
It had come at a price, but not for the first time she was thankful to have removed herself from that world. She may have been born to it, but she doubted that she ever would have truly been a part of it.
No, marrying a Catholic police detective had pretty much removed her from the guest lists of Toronto's finest families, and she couldn't say that she regretted it. She was well heeled enough to afford what she liked, but free enough to do largely as she pleased. As far as she was concerned, it was an excellent arrangement.
Sighing, she remembered said Catholic police detective and remembered the hurtful words she'd said to him earlier that afternoon. She wasn't so pleased about that, disgusted what her unconscious had used as a weapon and about the consequences of her sharp, ungoverned tongue. Looking around the suite, she noted the neatly folded fresh blanket and pillow where William had been sleeping the past several nights, and she saw where a note had been left, written on the hotel's stationery.
Mr. Murdoch and Doctor Ogden,
Please contact the front desk if you would like for us to send a cot up. Additionally, if perhaps another suite with additional rooms would be of use, please contact our manager and we would gladly arrange the matter.
Crumpling the note in her hand, she immediately consigned it to the waste bin. Things were in a state indeed if even the hotel staff had noticed that William had begun sleeping on the couch.
Laughing bitterly, she walked towards the drink cart when she remembered that it had been cleared. At first she'd been angry at William for disposing of all of the alcohol, but quickly conceded that perhaps she had become too reliant upon it in recent months. Squaring her shoulders back and standing straight, she vowed that she would have a drink when she wanted one, as opposed to needing one. Instead she began pacing about the sitting room, formulating a plan.
Picking up the telephone, she made a call to the hotel concierge and arranged for a lady's maid to come to the suite in an hour's time to help her dress and do her hair. Next, she walked to the bathroom and drew a hot bath; pouring a liberal amount of the scented calla lily oil that William enjoyed so much and removed her clothes, relishing the feel of the hot water on her skin, and hissing when it touched the red marks on her hands.
She examined the scar tissue on her abdomen. The doctor in her had no trouble understanding the process of creating the thick web of connective tissue that the body used to repair itself, forming welts and keloids in the flesh. The body sometimes makes the broken, wounded places even stronger than they were before an injury. As ugly as they were, she knew the physical scars were not the real problem between her and William: instead of being stronger after all they went through, they were unravelling, their connection thinning to the breaking point.
It is past time that we spoke freely of the events of the past few months, and seeing as William doesn't appear to be keen on beginning the conversation himself, it is up to me to initiate it. As she bathed she wondered how she would begin one of the most important conversations they would ever have, and how it would end...
As he exhaustedly dragged himself up the final flight of stairs, William wondered what would be awaiting him once he walked inside. It was only early evening, or about the usual time he left work, but the past several days had taken their toll.
He longed for a fine meal followed by a hot bath and bed, his wife curled up beside him as he surrendered to Morpheus. However, he reckoned the best he could hope for was whatever the hotel could scrounge up at a moments notice (probably some scones and tea) and a brief shower, to be followed by yet another night on the couch, hoping his headache would be satisfied with that and go away.
Given that he hadn't had that much time to process Julia's words to Lady Elizabeth at the train station, he hoped that Julia would have already retired for the evening, or at least have pretended to.
Opening the door, standing in front of the room and wearing his favorite blouse and skirt, was his wife. Behind her was a meal cart, fully laden with who knew what.
It was apparent that she wanted to make amends for her hurtful words earlier, but he wasn't inclined. He was both emotionally and physically exhausted, and not in the mood for either the truth or an argument, both of which were seemingly guaranteed tonight.
"Good Evening, William," she greeted him, standing firmly in place, gauging his mood.
"Julia, I'm exhausted. All I want is to eat something, take a bath and go to bed. In that order, to be precise," he announced as he hung his hat and walked through to the bedroom where he quickly shed his jacket, vest, and tie. His collar studs and cufflinks soon followed, and he rolled up his sleeves as he walked back into the living room, preparing himself physically as well as mentally as though he were readying himself for a fight.
"I ordered fried chicken. I wasn't sure when you'd be home, and it would still be delicious cold, so it seemed like a good choice," she explained, as if that was the most important consideration on either of their minds.
Years of good manners prevailed despite his resentment and desire to resist her show of normalcy. "Thank you. I am quite famished," he wearily said, lifting the lids on the food tray, grabbing a breast and biting into it gratefully.
"William, we need to talk," she announced, nervously twisting the bandages on her hands.
He paused, irritated at the ambush, and took a moment to decide how to answer, the insistent pounding in his head warning him to be careful. "What more needs to be said, Julia? I don't want to argue tonight. I suppose you will insist we must come to some sort of arrangement but can that please wait until tomorrow?"
Taking a deep breath, she plowed forward. "No William, I don't think it can wait until tomorrow. We need to discuss this tonight, before we hurt one another even more than we already have," she pleaded, hoping that his tendency to give her what she wanted would prevail here yet again.
"Hurt one another?" He looked up from his plate, food forgotten and his appetite crushed by tension. "Despite all I've said, done, promised… you don't think I really love you, so what more is there to say?" he asked.
"I am so very sorry, William. I need to apologize to you— it just seemed an apt thing to tell Lady Elizabeth considering the circumstance. I did not mean to imply…"
"Well, you said it yourself, Julia. What kind of man allows a woman to marry another if he truly loved her?" He saw her move to object, to make an excuse so he cut her off with a sharp gesture, his irritation flaring. "And don't hide behind your conceptualization of the unconscious! You continue to harbor anger and resentment about something I told you I had no choice in Julia. I explained that I could not stop you marrying Darcy even though it was without a doubt one of the worst decisions I've ever had to make," he explained, mindlessly finishing his chicken in angry bites.
She took the opportunity while his mouth was otherwise occupied to introject. "Yes, William. You are right. I have been angry with you since sometime after I got shot. You've been amazing throughout this whole ordeal and there's no rational explanation for my anger… Today at the train station was unfair, and…" Julia looked at William's tearful eyes and her courage left her. He thinks it is about Darcy…how can I tell him it is about Eva?
William slumped on the couch, pushing his bedding aside but making no room for her to join him. "I've been loving, kind, and patient all these months, denying my own needs and desires, and yet you still wanted to hurt me. So much so in fact, you thought you'd remind me of the worst time of my life: when the woman I loved more than life itself had asked me to stop her from marrying another man and there was no time for me to intervene. I told you that I resigned my badge and walked away from everything I had worked so hard to achieve because I realized that I could not live with the daily reminder that you were married to a man other than me and that I let it happen," he retorted.
"William, you've been all of those things and more, but I…" Julia began before she was interrupted.
William stood, raising his voice now. "You know what I didn't tell you, Julia? I didn't tell you that since I had tried to be a good, honorable man, and failed, there was nothing left to do but embrace my fate. I went out West to become a different man, the one I supposed, deep inside, I feared I should have always become. The night of your wedding, after I confessed all to the Inspector, I went to a bar by the docks. I drank because I couldn't stop thinking of you submitting your body to Darcy, the man you chose instead of me, the man I let have you because I did not find a way to stop him and I drank because didn't want to think anymore. It should have been our wedding night Julia, so instead I found a prostitute who looked nothing like you, so that I couldn't even have the comfort of pretending, and I spent myself with her, Julia. I figured that if you could give yourself to another, so could I. That way neither one of us would be with the one we wanted," he flung acidly. He was inches from her, trembling, unable to look away from her face.
Julia reared back as if she'd been slapped, her face flooding with heat. "William, I… I don't…" she began, trailing off. She couldn't find the words. This was not what she wanted to hear.
"I went to the Klondike with every intention of becoming my father and engaging in a life of drinking and whoring without regard, and you know what? I despised it. All I wanted was a family, the comforts of a happy home, and a wife with whom I could share my life. Not just some unfortunate woman whose services I paid for by the hour. It didn't matter how much I drank or selfishly used other women because all I wanted was you, and try as I might, I couldn't purge you from my heart or my mind! I couldn't do it, and eventually, my old life found me and I realized that I was not my father, but I was who I was, and I embraced it. Eventually, I decided to come back to Toronto and scrape together a life, acknowledging that you were forever lost to me, and that I had to content myself with loving you from afar," he said, voice breaking and his eyes overflowing with tears.
Julia nodded, trying to stay focused and not give into her urge to run away. Her heart drummed in her chest and she held her breath, seeing William take a huge breath and knowing he was not finished…bracing for what was coming next.
"I thought that would be the worst time in my life. Yet I came to view it as a time in my life that was necessary, and a trial that made me stronger. In my mind I believed nothing could ever be any worse." He shook his head with a quizzical look on his face. "Then a delusional woman who thought I loved her for some reason I cannot even begin to fathom, shot you, and I was losing you all over again, just when I was finally happy in my personal life and I was finally going to have everything I had ever hoped for: you, a home, a family." William's breath was heaving, the power of his emotions taking him by surprise.
Julia forced herself to walk forward, laying one of her hands on his arm. "William, that is what I wanted as well."
William took her arm in his hand, and spoke sadly. "I notice you said that was what you 'wanted' past tense. What about now?"
She winced at his question, but sidestepped it for now. "I know I have been unfair to you, unfair to us. The issues with Darcy really are behind us… Lately I have been struggling with so many thoughts about Eva Pearce, her behaviors, her death. She nearly killed me…" Julia had a flashback of being shot, burning pain stabbing her abdomen, making her momentarily unable to speak.
William watched Julia struggle to compose herself, remembering the sound of the shots that struck her and her bleeding body on the hallway floor. "Though you didn't die that day, Julia, I did lose you. The woman I love has become a shell of who she once was, and nothing I can do seems to bring her back. You may wear my ring Julia, but you're no longer my wife, my helpmeet, my ezer k'enegdo. You're a woman I cohabitate with, and one who will perpetually remind me of my sins and mistakes it seems," he continued, quieter this time.
Julia was floored by his statement, wondering if this conversation was about to become too little too late. Nervously fiddling with a ruffle on her blouse, she struggled to find the correct words.
She started speaking slowly, her voice hoarse and full of anguish. "I killed Eva, William and the guilt pushed me over the edge. Today I also told Lady Elizabeth that if she pulled that trigger and became a killer it would change her forever. That was the real truth of my words William! Killing Eva has changed me in ways I cannot even begin to explain." She started to sob, standing in front of William, feeling the grip he had on her arm tighten. "In my mind, I saw and heard her taunt me. I have been blaming you for that, so angry it has been consuming me. For being her target. For having to kill her and be forced to live with the guilt of it. For the state of our marriage! You tried to take me off the hook, but I don't believe you! The law is everything to you. How can the great detective Murdoch forgive a murderess?" Julia dissolved into tears, pulling her arm away from William's grasp, unable to keep her feet from tearing her loose to run out of the room.
Expecting him to respect her wishes as he always did, Julia fled into their bedroom, and closed the door behind her. She stood there looking about the room, not sure of what she wanted to do next except try to control her crying. There was nowhere really to go but out walking to burn off her grief and rage, since talking with William was only making things worse. Unfortunately it was getting late, and there wasn't any place she could safely go by herself at this late hour. Not the first time I've missed Emily or Ruby, someone, anyone to talk with that talks back! She decided that she just didn't care—about anything anymore as thoughts of death jabbed at her. Flinging open the doors and briskly walking back into the sitting area, she glanced at William still sitting on the couch, his head in his hands, unmoving on the couch.
She paused for a moment, looking at him so desolate and forlorn and while she didn't think it possible, her heart somehow managed to shatter again into even tinier pieces, heartbroken at what they had both become and not wanting to live with the result. Willing herself not to start crying again, she walked over to the coat rack.
William's reserve broke. All the emotions, the tumult of fear and the anguish propelled him to grab her and pin her arms at her side so she could not escape. "No!" he cried. "You're not running away from me this time, you can't" his words demanded.
Twisting around so that she was facing him, she put her hands on his shoulders, pushing him away. "William, I can't do this anymore. I'm angry with you and I keep hurting you but I don't want to."
"It's too late for that, Julia. You've already hurt me and I'm in far too deep now. I have been for years, Julia. As I just tried to tell you, there will be no getting over you. Ever. You are such a part of me that there will be no extraction. If anything were to happen to you, if you were to die, don't you realize that I would die too? I may continue to breathe, but I would be a dead man walking. I'm addicted to you, Julia. I tried to replace you with alcohol and other women, but it didn't work. You're my vice," he admitted, his voice hoarse with shame.
Crying again she told him: "I do love you William, so it's why I can't be around you anymore. It's why I gave up in the fire…" Her voice was harsh and loud, and she turned and struggled to get out of his grasp, unable to bear seeing the look of shock on his face.
"No! Julia!" William put both his arms around her and fought her for control, exerting pressure on her body to hold her closely. He was terrified of what she would do if she left the suite in her current state and he forced her backwards to a wall to contain her movements. "Not this time! You are always trying to leave me! I am no psychiatrist, but I do know you. You have been depressed of course, traumatized certainly. These hallucinations? Has it occurred to you, you may have been reacting to the medications you were taking? Look at me! I don't think you are trying to go because you are suicidal, I think you are suicidal because you have been distancing yourself from me." His voice was pleading, angry and he brought his mouth close to her ear. "Choose me this time, Julia, please…"
Julia could not believe how trapped she felt, and pushed hard against him, shouting: "You can't mean that William! I went there to kill Eva Pearce and I did…" There was a knock on the suite door, and a none-too-subtle inquiry if everything was all right. Both of them ignored the intrusion, locked into their confrontation.
"Julia, I'm going to tell you something I've never told you before. Not because I didn't trust you, but because it isn't my secret alone," his voice an insistent whisper. "But it's the only way to explain how I know you're not a murderer, and that you're not at all the same as Lady Elizabeth and Mr. Cross or even Eva," stroking her hair while giving her no quarter to resist. He spoke rapidly, hardly taking a breath, knowing he had no choice other than to bare himself, complete and utterly to her, and pray.
"I told you that I did not have enough time to stop your wedding, that I received your letter too late. Well, that is only partly true. I did have enough time to stop your wedding, but if I had done that, I would not have been able to free Constance Gardner. Yes, that's right. I did not somehow allow her to escape, Julia, I freed her myself! I opened the door, gave her most of my life savings, money I'd saved for a home and a family and advised her on how to avoid being caught. I told her where and when to cross the border and to keep a low profile. There was no faulty lock. That was a lie told by the Inspector, who covered for me though I did not ask him to and which is why I never told you all of the details before. I chose to free Constance Gardiner because she was going to face an unkind and unfair death because the law that means so much to me, failed her and the other women that man killed and maimed. You were freely choosing another life while she had run out of choices. I had choices as well, and it was the hardest choice I'd ever had to make, but I chose justice Julia, and you believe I let you down. You will never know just how much I hated making that choice, or how angry I was at God for putting me in such a position, but the choice was mine. I made it because if I had chosen you, there was no way I could have lived with myself, and I would not have been the man you wanted. That, Julia, is the cold, hard, truth." By the time he was finished his mouth was dry and his body stiff and shaking, his eyes pleading with her to understand. He separated a bit from her but kept her solidly against his chest with her back against the wall.
Julia was stunned. William Murdoch, who almost never revealed his innermost thoughts and feelings had poured out a blast of words that left her feeling ashamed of her own selfishness. "William, I… I didn't know. I don't…" she trailed off, starting to cry again, but this time they were tears of relief. Her breathing was laboured, as if she had just run a great distance.
"I didn't expect you to know. I didn't want you to know any of this. But this is how I know that you're no cold-blooded murderer. You were fighting for both of our lives: yours and mine. I understand why you did what you did: you killed in self-defense. Killed a woman who's responsible for the deaths of least two people, tried to kill you, and who would have eventually killed me just as you knew she would. If I can have compassion and understanding for Constance Gardner, how can I not have it for you? You're not a murderer at all, Julia. I know that, and now you can understand how I know that…." William paused from his long recitation, and brought her closer. "Julia, please…Choose our life…."
He caught her blue eyes, and saw that for the first time she was actually looking back—through the grief and anger his Julia was there; in there and looking out again at him, even if it was only tentatively. He could not help himself—the power of their connection, which was missing for so many months from his life, jolted through him again with that look between them. He found her mouth with his and ravished her lips, hungrily kissing her, battering down any resistance to his passion. He worked her blouse open and placed one hand on her breast and the other on her buttock, pulling her closer. When she moaned in pleasure he sent his tongue and teeth to taste the flesh of her neck and bosom, the emotional tension between them having been shifted to a powerful sexual drive.
She saw his eyes darken with want and her struggles to get away reversed to become efforts to get as close as possible to him, opening his shirt and pulling the tails out of his trousers as his hands roamed over her curves. She let her hands grab his biceps, and opened herself to him, desperate for the connection.
"I once told you that life without you was worse than death, and I meant every word of it. I have no desire to live without you either my sweet William, but I can't bear the thought of hurting you any longer. Help me stop, William. Help me put an end to this, please," she begged, returning his kisses with everything she had as the stubble on his jaw only aroused her further. She loved him like this, when he was the opposite of the perfectly polished gentleman he presented to the world. This William was hers alone. Expressing his feelings verbally was not one of his strengths, but the man could speak magnitudes with his body and actions.
Picking her up, he carried her to their bed, and laid her down roughly, quickly lying beside her and taking her back into his arms, cradling her head with his hands. Digging her fingernails into his scalp, he rolled her onto her back before covering her with his body, pinning her hands to the side of her head. His physical arousal was insistently prodding her thigh and she delighted in his virility. This also was hers alone, now, her jealous pride prevailed.
Climbing atop her to gain better control of the situation, the weight of his body shifted pressing the stays of her corset into her rib cage and suddenly the sensations were no longer pleasant. Despite her overwhelming desire blocking out everything but her need for him, she finally cried out and he immediately rolled off of her.
His breathing was harsh and rapid. It took everything in him to resurface from a veritable sea of lust to halt himself from pursuing her. "I'm sorry, Julia. I truly am. I shouldn't have forced myself upon…"
She silenced him with a kiss. "It's not you, William, but my corset," she interrupted.
Pushing herself off the bed, she stood up and began removing the rest of her blouse and skirt as William watched with rapt attention. She had not undressed in front of him since before the shooting, and he didn't dare hope as to what would follow next. She herself hadn't felt passion in months and now with both of their emotions stripped bare in front of the other, she was consumed with a desire to possess her husband in every sense of the word and she wasn't letting her corset impede them.
"Are you ready to see the new me? I'm not the same as I was before" she hesitated as she unlaced her corset.
"Yes. I have no doubt that I'll find you even more beautiful, Julia." Suddenly unsure, Julia hesitated in removing her chemise. Though he had seen scars before, seeing them on her was quite another proposition. Her husband was so visual, she was afraid that the still angry red blemishes would repulse him.
"Julia," he assured her as he walked over to her, tracing the neckline of her chemise with his finger. "I know you're nervous of what I'll think of your wounds, but I won't be disgusted by them, I assure you. That because you have endured so much for me only endears you even more to me, if such a thing were even possible. I'm ready, Julia, but only if you are," he soothed her.
Nodding nervously, she allowed him to remove her chemise and she soon stood before him exposed, fearful that he would change his mind.
Running his fingers over the scar tissue, she hadn't realized that she was holding her breath as he dropped to his knees to kiss them as his mouth traveled progressively lower.
"William, I want to see you as well. Please remove your clothes too," she asked.
Wordlessly, he stood back up and complied. Soon they were standing in front of one another, completely nude. Just as they had lain bare their souls, now so were their bodies.
William closed the distance. "Julia, there's no use in denying what I'd like to happen," he admitted with a laugh, gesturing to his arousal that was presently trapped against her abdomen. "But if you're not ready, I'm content to just hold you, if this means you are really coming back to me…no more running away. Promise me this is not just to placate me …"
But the tone in his voice left no doubt as to what he wanted to happen. She wasn't sure if it was the right time even though she felt herself melting with desire, but when else was it going to be? When better?
"It's time, William. Make love to me," she asked, taking his lips with hers, and smiling as he picked her up and gently laid her back down on the bed again.
"As my lady wishes," he murmured before he took charge of the event, holding her head between his hands for his own personal delectation.
In between kisses, she told him,"I don't want us to live separately, William. I want us to be equal partners again. I don't want to live like we have been living anymore." Julia wiped a tear. "Things must change, William, the alternative is unacceptable to me," she stated, sighing deeper in his arms.
"It is to me as well, Julia. You and I, we were meant to be together. I don't want, nor will I ever be with anyone else," he assured her as they again became one.
Later, basking in the glow of their restored connection, they lay in a tangled heap, holding onto to one another as though the other would disappear if they didn't.
Taking a deep breath, William broke the silence. "As much as I want to help, I think you need to see a professional, and I will even see one as well, if you think that I should," William offered. "I will do whatever you think is necessary to help you return back to the woman that I know you are." He held his breath, feeling the connection between them flowing strong and free, his heart filling with all the love and desire in his being.
Julia looked calmly into his meltingly brown eyes, making sure he recognized her words as a solemn vow: "And I want to be back, William. In every way."