The Small Dinner Party at Hartfield

Unaccustomed to being in low spirits, Emma had excused herself for a few moments from Harriet and Mrs. Weston.

The small dinner party at Hartfield did not turn out quite the way she had planned, for instead of passing an enjoyable evening, she was being punished for her malice and ill thoughts.

Indeed, Mr. Knightley had sat next to her and leaned towards her, keeping his voice low, while everyone else watched enthralled at Jane Fairfax's performance.

"I am glad you invited Miss Fairfax to play. Having no instrument at her grandmother's, it must be a real indulgence."

Emma had known, of course, what George was about, but she refused to acknowledge his little game.

"I am glad you approve. But I hope I am not often deficient in what is due to my guests at Hartfield."

"No, you are not often deficient." He replied, a ghost of a smile on his face.

Emma glared at him and deigned not to reply.

"You make it very plain you do not like Miss Fairfax."

With a small huff, she spoke her mind.

"Everybody supposes we must be so fond of each other because we are the same age. Ever since I can remember, I have been told I can find no better companion than Jane Fairfax. She who is so accomplished and so superior."

"She is certainly accomplished. Perhaps the accomplished young woman you wish to be thought yourself."

Emma's look of utter perturbation at his words made George wonder for a moment if he had gone too far—but no, he thought not. He had always spoken with complete honesty to Emma, had always been the one to correct her when she was at fault. He would not stop now, for he believed that is what a friend did.

Emma had remained silent after their exchange. She did not look at George. As the others entreated Jane Fairfax to play another piece, Emma was full of unease. George Knightley's words had affected her so. Was she jealous of Jane Fairfax? No! She could not be! Certainly everyone knew that between them, she was the one who had more to offer. Jane Fairfax being an orphan, who's education and accomplishments were attained only from a benefactor. Here she stopped, suddenly ashamed of her thoughts. She was not unkind, she knew this, then where did these thoughts come from? Mr. Knightley is not wrong, she thought despondently.

As the performances finished, the guests stood round and started to converse. Emma found herself unequal to the task of conversing just yet, so excused herself for a moment.

George saw this, as he had been covertly watching her. He knew her every expression, he knew that she had taken his words to heart. And so when she returned some minutes after, he was aware of how she stopped, and stood quietly by the side of the door, unsure how to go about the evening.

Miss Bates was regaling the other guests of one of Jane's stories from her recent travels. And everyone, including Harriet, was listening attentively to her. Jane stood next to her aunt, a shy if not embarrassed expression on her face.

George smiled to himself. He knew what a chastised Emma looked like, for indeed, he had chastised her the most. His heart softening towards her—as it always did after their quarrels—he went to her.

Emma stood by the door, and saw how everyone's attention was on Miss Bates and Jane. Even Harriet, Mrs. Weston and her father listened to the story with complete attention. She knew she was being immature, but she could not help feeling as if she had been forgotten by her friends. It served her right, for had she not been wicked to Jane Fairfax that night? She blinked as she felt tears form in her eyes. She looked down.

"My dear, Emma, come sit with me."

"Mr. Knightley." She looked at him, and the soft smile that was on his face was her undoing. A tear ran down her cheek.

Silently, he handed her his handkerchief and discreetly moved to hide her from the rest of the company, all the while his expression tender.

She dabbed at her eyes, and after a few deep breaths, she looked at him again and returned his handkerchief.

"Thank you."

"My dear, Emma."

He never left her side for the remainder of that evening, paying her every attention. For George Knightley new, as did Emma, that to him, she was always first in attention, if not in affection.


The Ball at the Crown

"Ah, Miss Woodhouse, come set your companions an example. They are all lazy! They are all asleep! You must dance another set." Mr. Weston grinned at Emma.

"I am ready," Emma smiled at the gentleman, "whenever I am wanted."

Mr. Weston smiled gratefully and bowed at her and at George Knightley, then walked away.

"With whom will you dance?" George asked, highly amused.

Upon the talk of another dance set, across the hall, Frank Churchill started to walk towards Emma, appearing all but ready to claim her for the next dance. George seeing the other gentleman's intention hid a frown, he started to bow to her and take his leave.

Emma saw Frank Churchill heading her way. But something—she would acknowledge what it was soon, for it had already made itself felt the night of the duet—had steered her towards the man beside her, her oldest friend in the world. Perhaps it was the conversation they had but a few moments ago of her thanking him for his kindness towards Harriet, or his acknowledging her good judgement towards her dear friend. Or perhaps it was that she just wanted to share that moment with George Knightley.

"With you." Emma said suddenly before she could stop herself. Her eyes held his for a moment, then looked down briefly, only to return his gaze once more. "If you will ask me."

For a moment, George was unable to move, nor to look away from her. He would have doubted hearing her correctly but for her eyes that awaited his answer. Had he ever danced with Emma before? He did not think so. In their long years as close friends, as close connections, it surprised him that he had not once asked her to dance once she was out in company. To be sure, he did not dance very often, but one would think that he should have even once done so.

Conscious of George's surprised look, Emma added hastily.

"You have shown that you can dance, and you know we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper."

George smiled at this.

"No, indeed." Most decidedly not brother and sister. And if he allowed himself to—no. He would not go there, he would not allow himself. Instead, he smiled and offered her his hand.

And when, Emma thought, had his smile made him so utterly handsome? But he had always been handsome. She gave herself a mental shake and placed her hand on his.

George could not help but look at their joined hands, it seemed an eternity passed but surely it was but a few seconds. Fearing that Emma noticed, he smiled at her again and led to dance.

They were not wearing gloves, when they noticed this, neither said a word, for both did not wish it otherwise.

Some distance from them, Frank Churchill paused in mid step. Seeing George Knightley escort Emma Woodhouse, he turned and with a smile and a slight shake of his head, made for Miss Harriet Smith.


Under the Horse Chestnut Tree

Emma sat on a blanket on the ground, and leaning against the trunk of the huge tree, she looked at the sky—a clear, brilliant blue. She let out a long, satisfied breath.

"Tired, my love?"

Head lying on her lap, George Knightley looked up at Emma with eyes the same brilliant blue as the sky. His hand which had been playing with hers, moved to trace her jaw.

"Not at all, far from it, Mr. Knightley." Her smile was tender as looked at him.

"Well, then, Mrs. Knightley must be hungry again."

He turned his head and kissed her growing belly.

"The baby and I are quite satisfied at the moment, I thank you." She chuckled.

"You look satisfied." George sat up, gathered her to him, placing a soft kiss on her lips.

"I am indeed." Emma's smile was wide, her eyes bright.

They sat in silence for a while, Emma gazing in the distance, a soft expression on her face, George nuzzling her neck and ear.

After a while, Emma spoke wistfully.

"Has it really been a year since you came to love me? It was under this tree, do you remember?"

"I must correct you there, my dear Emma." George touched his forehead to hers. "I came to love you far longer than that, it was only then that I could not keep silent anymore."

"I shall never forget how my heart almost died when I thought you had come to tell me about your love for Harriet."

Here, Emma's hand went to her heart, the remembrance giving her some pain still.

George covered her hand with his, and spoke softly.

"It was I who was ready to die when you stopped me from speaking."

Theirs eyes met, each feeling the pain of that day, but as they both remembered what followed, they smiled, lips meeting. Soft and tender was their remembering, fingers entwined, they forgot time and place.

"I am glad, very glad indeed that you chose me, Mr. Knightley."

"There, I must correct you again, Mrs. Knightley." He kissed her neck. "You chose me."

"It shall always be you." Emma whispered.

"It has always been you." George whispered back.


A/N:

I am very late for the party. I only saw the new adaptation of Emma, a week ago. And OH MY GOODNESS. My heart. My heart. My heart. JOHNNY FLYNN! Johnny Flynn as Mr. Knightley made me see that character in a whole new light. His pairing with Anya Taylor-Joy is so incredible, their chemistry!

Okay, I'm okay now that I got that out. Emma was my very first Jane Austen novel, that was fourteen years ago, but it has continued to hold a special place for me. Re-reading it now brought new perspectives as well.

I hope you like this one-shot, I would not be surprised if my mind starts forming stories about these two, because as of now, I'm still smitten with this couple!

A belated happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year to everyone!