AN: Okay, so the idea for this story came from one of my drabbles posted in that collection. Right now, I planning on it being a simple three chapter story but we'll see how that goes. It would take place somewhere after the episode in season 7 with Nathan's father. Hope you Enjoy!
Elizabeth checked the time. There were only a few more minutes left to the school day. Looking up, she saw most of her students still bent over the exam papers in front of them. A few students, like Ally, were sitting quietly, their papers turned over in front of them.
"You have five more minutes, class," Elizabeth informed them.
Those five minutes passed, probably too fast for some of the children. However, when her watch hit three o'clock Elizabeth announced, "Pencils down."
The children of Hope Valley obeyed their teacher's instructions, some with accompanying sighs of relief others with groans.
Smile still on her face, Elizabeth walked around her desk, still addressing her class. "I want you to leave the papers on your desks. I will collect them after you leave. I should have them graded by Monday. Enjoy your homework free weekend," Elizabeth told them, pausing to let the cheers settle down. "However, I expect you to be ready to start some new lessons come Monday. Those who are participating in our new Book Club, remember to bring your signed reading lists tomorrow evening. If your parents have any issues with the books that have been selected I will be more than happy to address those concerns," she added.
Elizabeth was thrilled that so many of the kids wanted to participate in the book club. Given that there weren't many copies of the same book, the reading and discussion would both need to be done at their group meetings but they would make do. She knew that having discussions about the books would be beneficial to the children in many ways.
"Class dismissed," she said, picking up her bell and ringing it.
The room exploded with the sound of excited voices as the children started talking as they gathered their belongings. Elizabeth placed the bell back on her desk, and then watched as her students left the building. As the last of them heading outside, she started gathering the exam papers. Her students might not have homework this weekend, but she knew between grading papers and the book club she was going to have a busy weekend.
Elizabeth was picking up the last of the papers when she heard footsteps enter the building. Looking up she wasn't totally surprised to find Nathan Grant standing just inside the doorway, his Mountie's hat held in one hand.
"Don't tell me my reading list is already causing a stir," Elizabeth said lightly, hoping to keep the atmosphere between the two of them light. Things could sometimes get tense when it came to Nathan Grant in ways that she didn't really understand.
"Ah, no," Nathan replied. "Well to be honest, I didn't look it over yet. I told Ally I would look at it at home tonight."
Elizabeth nodded. "Then is there something else I can help you with?"she asked politely, hugging the gathered papers close to her so she wouldn't need to figure out what to do with her hands.
"I just wanted to come thank-you in person. I received a letter from my father today. It's the first letter I've gotten from him in a long time, though I can't say that was all his fault. Still, he seems to be doing well up North. Has a decent job. Maybe he really has changed and I have you to thank for opening me up to accepting that possibility."
Elizabeth smiled. Not only was that one of the longest string of words she had ever seen Nathan put together, but she was also glad that his relationship with his father was mending. She had a feeling it would help to heal the pain of the past.
"I'm glad," she replied honestly. "Everyone needs family."
Nathan nodded. "Could Ally and I walk you home?" he asked, abruptly changing the subject.
Knowing that Nathan was done discussing the topic of his family for now, Elizabeth accepted the change in conversation. Over the past year she had learned that getting to know Nathan Grant came in glimpses. She had gotten another brief glimpse but she knew pursuing it further would only cause Nathan to become more withdrawn.
"I'd like that," Elizabeth told him. "Let me just get my stuff."
Nathan nodded as Elizabeth turned and headed toward the front of the classroom.
Tucking the exam pages away in her satchel, Elizabeth quickly gathered the rest of her stuff. Though she knew Nathan would not rush her after having asked to walk her home, she still didn't want to keep him waiting. Once everything was in a neat pile, Elizabeth retrieved her shaw from the back of her chair. Slipping it across her shoulders, Elizabeth picked up her things and headed toward the door where Nathan waited.
As she reached him, Nathan placed his hat on his head and reached out for her things. Having no reason not to let him carry them, Elizabeth gave them up without protest. After all, it was the gentlemanly thing to do, and Nathan Grant was a gentleman. That was one thing she had learned about him.
Heading out of the schoolhouse, Elizabeth walked down the steps, Nathan right behind her. Ally was waiting for them at the bottom of the steps. Though she smiled at the two adults, she kept her mouth shut. It was a rare feat for Nathan's usually talkative niece.
As the trio headed for the row of houses, Nathan searched for a safe topic to fill the silence. Preferably one that would allow for him to say little and thus limit the chances of him saying anything embarrassing that his niece would be sure to tease him of later.
"Okay, so both of you have now mentioned a reading list to me?" Nathan finally ventured, figuring that anything related to school was probably a fairly safe topic. "Want to tell me more about it."
"Mrs. Thornton is starting a book club for the kids who are interested," Ally supplied before Elizabeth had a chance to even process the question. "She even let us come up with the reading lists."
"Subject to parental approval," Elizabeth interjected, her mind now focused on the discussion that had begun.
Ally continued to talk about the book club, Elizabeth adding details when she felt it was necessary, the whole walk to the little row of houses. Nathan happily remained quiet, listening to the talk.
In what seemed now time, the trio had reached Elizabeth's row house. As they came to a stop, at the steps, Elizabeth turned toward Nathan to take her things back from him. "Thank-you," she told him, with a smile. She had enjoyed having company for her walk home. It was a nice end to the school week.
"You're welcome," Nathan told her. "Have a pleasant evening," he added, touching the brim of his hat briefly and giving a little nod as he turned to leave.
"You too," Elizabeth replied quietly, reminded of how Jack had often made the same gesture when leaving. It was clearly something Mountie's were trained to do, officially or not.
Elizabeth stood at the top of her steps for a few moments watching Nathan and Ally continue to their own home. She actually found herself hoping that Nathan would cast one more glance back at her and was a bit disappointed when he didn't.
~You're being ridiculous Elizabeth chided herself as she turned and headed inside.
Stepping into her cozy home, she spotted Laura sitting at the kitchen table with her schoolbooks. The young girl looked up as Elizabeth placed her things down.
"You're home early," Laura commented.
"I got an offer for company on the walk home and I took it," Elizabeth replied. "If you would like you can head home earlier yourself."
Laura closed her schoolbook. "I think I'll take you up on that," the girl said. "Jack went down for a nap about fifteen minutes ago."
"Thank-you," Elizabeth said, walking toward the steps. After a day at school Elizabeth just wanted to lay eyes on her son.
"I'll see you Monday."
"Enjoy your weekend," Elizabeth told her as she started up the stairs. She heard the front door open and shut.
Walking softly, Elizabeth made her way to Little Jack's room. Her son was sleeping peacefully in his crib. For a moment, she just stood, watching him sleep. As she did so, she could almost feel Jack's presence beside her, watching over their son. Part of her wished Jack could be here for real. Watching over both her and Little Jacks. Sharing all the little moments that she had learned to treasure. Teaching him things in the years to come.
Unfortunately, that would never come to be, though Elizabeth hoped that Little Jack would have a father figure in his life as he grew up. He may have lost his father, as she had lost her husband, but part of her wanted him to have a father as he grew up. She felt that Jack would have wanted that as well. That had he known she was with child when he had wrote that letter that he wouldn't have just told her to open her heart to love but to also find someone who could teach their son the things he wouldn't be able to.
Elizabeth thought of Nathan holding Little Jack at the Christening. He had seemed such at ease with the little boy. Nathan would make a good father. No, she corrected herself. Nathan was a good father. Ally was a testament to that. Despite his job, Nathan had done the best he could by his niece. Elizabeth had seen how deeply he cared for her that first day when he had asked her how Ally had done in class though the girl had skipped class.
It scared her that she had thought first of Nathan. Not because she had anything against him. Nathan was a good, kindhearted, honorable man. However, he was a Mountie. Elizabeth couldn't deny she feared losing Nathan, even as their relationship stood as just friends, just like she had lost Jack.
Lucas was the safer choice and the saloon owner had admitted he had feelings for her. Elizabeth felt that if she gave even the littlest sign that she had feelings for him that Lucas would proceed to sweep her off her feet. The problem was, Lucas was just a little too charming for her liking. Though he was a generous man, and she considered him a friend, she sometimes wondered how much of what he showed to the world was an act.
Though reserved and quiet, Nathan seemed much more genuine.
A soft knock at the door brought Elizabeth from her thoughts. Glancing toward the crib, she satisfied herself that the sound hadn't woken Little Jack before hurrying downstairs. She wanted to reach the door before her visitor felt the need to knock again.
Opening the door, Elizabeth was surprised to find Lucas standing on the front steps, having fully expected it to be Rosemary wanting to know the scoop on why Nathan had walked her home this afternoon.
"Is this a bad time?" Lucas asked.
The question shook Elizabeth out of her surprise. "No," she told him. "I just wasn't expecting to see you when I opened my door."
"Well, I hope I'm a pleasant surprise at least."
Elizabeth laughed. "You are," she assured him. "Was there a reason for your visit?"
"There most certainly is," Lucas replied, holding up the basket he was carrying. "I thought that perhaps after a week of teaching you may enjoy a night off from cooking, so I brought you something for supper," he informed her, moving the basket toward her.
Reaching out, Elizabeth took the basket, thinking that the aroma from it smelled delicious. "Thank-you. That is most thoughtful of you."
"My pleasure," Lucas replied. "And now I'll be on my way and leave you to what I hope will be a quiet evening if not relaxing. I have a feeling you'll be fitting more work in somewhere."
"You're probably right," Elizabeth replied, thinking of the exam papers that were waiting for her.
"Good afternoon, then," Lucas said, taking a step back.
"Good afternoon," Elizabeth echoed as she started to close the door, trying to push aside the confusing feelings swirling inside.
"So, how was school?" Nathan asked his niece as the two prepared their own supper that night. He was setting the table while Ally stood at the stove, having insisted once again that she wanted to do the cooking.
"Not bad, I guess," Ally replied, opening the oven door and checking on the biscuits her uncle had put in the oven. "We had exams in most of our subjects, which means we weren't given homework this weekend."
"I don't have to verify that with Mrs. Thornton, now do I?"
"Uncle Nathan," Ally said, dragging out his name in an exasperated tone. She knew her uncle was just giving her a hard time.
"Just checking," Nathan told her, placing the last of the dishes on the table and walking over to join his niece at the stove.
"We had a spelling bee during the morning session. I came in second," she told him. "The biscuits look done," she added, taking a step back so that her uncle could remove the pan.
"Second is good," Nathan told her, picking up the towel laying beside the stove. Using it to protect himself from the heat of the pan, he removed the biscuits from the oven. "What word did you spell wrong?" he asked, placing the pan on an empty spot on the stove.
"Mountie," Ally replied, glancing up at her uncle with a smirk on her face.
"Funny," Nathan replied.
"I spelt, thorough wrong," Ally told him, growing more serious. "Why can't letters just make one sound? Silent letters are confusing."
"That's one question I can't answer," Nathan told her, as Ally moved pans away from the heat as the food was done cooking. "What about now? Can you spell thorough now?"
"Thorough. T-h-o-r-o- u-g - h. Thorough," Ally replied as Nathan retrieved the plates from the table.
"That's good," Nathan told her as he held the plates while his niece started dishing up the food. "At least you know how to spell it now. Everyone makes mistakes. Learning from our mistakes is what is important."
"Then why haven't you learned how to talk to Mrs. Thornton yet. You get tongue tied every time you talk to her?"
Nathan opened his mouth ready to refute his niece's claim but shut it again. His niece, annoying though it was, had a valid point. However, it also happened to be a topic he didn't want to discuss with her.
"So, where's this reading list I'm suppose to sign?" Nathan asked instead, as he placed the plates back on the table. He took his seat as Ally retrieved the paper from her small stack of school books.
"Mrs. Thornton said that if there are any books on there that you don't think are appropriate to mark them. She says a book club should be fun and not controversial."
"She has a very good point," Nathan replied, as Ally handed him the list. He listened to his niece continue on even as he glanced over the titles on the list.
"Mrs. Thornton let us make suggestions for books for the club to read. She said it was our club, so we should be reading things that we're interested in reading. She made sure that everyone who expressed interest in the group had at least one book that they suggested on this list. Opal picked Anne of Green Gables, because Mrs. Thornton told her it might be too hard to read on her own right now. I suppose it'll be interesting but my pick was Little Women. I've been thinking about reading it since the Library opened but it seemed kind of long."
Nathan smiled as he looked across the table at his niece. "You know, Little Women was your mother's favorite book."
"It was?" Ally said perking up. She loved to hear about the mother she could barely remember.
"It was. She got it for Christmas one year. By the time we returned to school after Christmas break she had already finished it. She would reread it at least twice a year. I remember giving her a hard time about that, asking her if she thought the story would change if she kept reading it. She threw a pillow at me."
"Well at least she didn't throw the book."
"If she didn't love that book so much I think she would have," Nathan told his niece, trying to recall if he had ended up keeping the copy of that book or if his mother might still have it. If he could locate it, he was sure his niece would treasure the well-worn volume. Until he knew for sure, he wasn't going to mention it to her.
"Remind me to sign this after we eat," Nathan added, placing the list down beside his plate. He didn't see anything on the list that he didn't want his niece to read. Not that he had thought he would. He trusted Elizabeth's judgement when it came to her students.
"Okay," Ally replied. "Can I say grace?"
Nathan nodded as he reached across the table to take his niece's had. He closed his eyes and bowed his head as Ally said grace before they shared their evening meal together.