This is my second offering in the May Heart Stories Challenge- a S7E7 revision. It does tie in with my first challenge story but can be read as a stand-alone. This one replaces the scene where Nathan and Allie see Elizabeth getting home from Union City. It also allows Rosemary to justify the horrible advice she gave her friend. She was coming from a good place, even if her suggestions were terrible.
Nathan and Allie were laughing and chatting as they approached the row houses, eager for the surprise on Elizabeth's face when she saw the delicious meal they had brought for her—Bill's roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and some of the café's scrumptious chocolate cake. They slowed to a stop, however, as they came around the corner and saw Lucas Bouchard at Elizabeth's front door.
"What's he doing there?" Allie grumbled. "I thought he had some kind of 'urgent business' out of town?"
Nathan could only shrug; he too had heard that the saloon owner was out of town, and yet here he was, clearly waiting to talk to Elizabeth. They watched as he knocked on the door and even called for her (his tone a little too charming for Nathan's liking), but after a few minutes and no answer, he turned to leave.
Lucas caught sight of Nathan and Allie as he walked around his car to get in and return to town. He smirked as he greeted them. "Good evening, Constable. Miss Grant. It appears your trip to Cape Fullerton was uneventful." His grin widened as he nodded towards Elizabeth's house. "We had a fine time this weekend."
Allie opened her mouth to speak but her uncle's hand on her shoulder stopped her. She glanced up, catching the tiny shake of his head. She turned back to Mr. Bouchard, a look of innocent question on her face.
Her uncle feigned confusion as he met the saloon owner's eyes. "You and Elizabeth spent the weekend together?" The other man grinned smugly. Nathan shook his head. "That's odd, because I'm sure I heard that she was home with her sick child while you had some sudden business out of town that couldn't wait. I suppose that means you were here helping take care of Jack?" He looked pointedly at the man's pristine suit and spotless pants; he knew from experience that there was no way of getting through a child's illness without one's clothes and shoes having some very unfortunate consequences. His own grin widened as his eyes once again met Lucas's.
Lucas scowled, turning stiffly to get into his car and slamming the door with a lot more force than necessary.
They watched him drive away, then started up the Thorntons' steps. Nathan was starting to get a bad feeling. Despite Lucas's attempts, Elizabeth hadn't come to the door. Neither she nor Jack had even peeked out the window when they would surely have been able to hear the conversation right out front. When he knocked himself, he didn't hear anyone moving around inside.
"Are we sure she's really home?" Allie asked, putting the basket of food down. "Maybe Jack was feeling better, and they went for a walk."
Nathan nodded towards the small pail next to the door. Bill had gotten it for them, for all the little rocks and leaves and things Jack picked up on his travels. "I don't think so." When another knock still yielded no reply, he placed the bundle of wood he'd been carrying down and tried the door. Finding it unlocked, he called out to Elizabeth as he stepped cautiously inside. He backed out quickly, his tone serious as he spoke.
"Allie, run next door and ask Mr. Coulter to drive you into town. I think Mrs. Thornton has taken ill, too. Get Dr. Shepherd, Mr. Avery, anyone you can find." His niece nodded, turning quickly and dashing to the neighbors' door.
Nathan hurried back inside, barely taking the time to close the door behind him. He quickly crossed the room to where Elizabeth slouched in the rocking chair, Jack asleep at her breast. The child's nose was crusty and runny, and his cheeks were flushed. Nathan was relieved that his breathing seemed normal, with no wheezes or gasps. He gently gathered Jack into his arms and turned to place him in the nearby crib. The boy's eyes fluttered but he settled easily back into slumber as Nathan covered him with a blanket. He was just turning back to cover Elizabeth when Rosemary hustled inside.
"Nathan!" she exclaimed, startled at the scene in front of her. "What happened?"
Waiting to see if Elizabeth awoke to the additional noise and activity, he turned to face Mrs. Coulter.
"Bill told me about Jack being sick. I know how exhausting it can be to take care of a sick child by yourself, so Allie and I brought her supper. I got a bad feeling when she didn't answer the door, so I let myself in and found her like this. I sent Allie for help and was just about to examine her."
Rosemary followed as he returned to Elizabeth's side and gently lifted her from the chair, hurrying around him to hastily clear a few toys and an extra pillow off the settee so he could lay her down. The blanket he had draped to protect her modesty slipped, and Rosemary moved to adjust it, but he stopped her. "Wait. I want to try to listen to her lungs." He caught Rosemary's startled and somewhat scathing look. "I promise not to be overcome with lust at the sight of her bare breast," he assured her. "You can fix her blouse in a moment, but I'll be able to hear better with less material in the way." Ignoring her scandalized expression, he leaned closer, placing his ear as close to Elizabeth's chest as he could. He sighed with relief when he heard nothing of concern and sat back, gesturing Rosemary forward.
Once Elizabeth's clothes were refastened, only the top button of her blouse left undone, Rosemary moved aside to allow Nathan to examine her friend. She watched closely as he felt her forehead and cheeks for fever and her neck for swollen glands. Finding nothing, he tenderly spread the blanket over her and gestured for Rosemary to follow him into the kitchen.
"Obviously Carson will know better, but I think she's just exhausted," he explained. "She doesn't seem to have a fever and doesn't sound congested. Her glands aren't swollen so I don't think she has a sore throat… did she seem alright to you yesterday?"
Rosemary flushed and dropped her gaze to her fidgeting fingers. "I haven't seen or spoken to Elizabeth in a couple of days," she admitted. "I was upset that she didn't take my advice and…"
"And go to the book reading in Union City with Lucas," he finished for her.
Rosemary nodded. "I know she isn't ready for anything romantic, and I wasn't trying to push her into being with him," she explained. "I just wanted her to put her grief and responsibilities aside and do something for herself. She's been so focused on raising her son and the things she's afraid he'll miss without his father that she's barely let herself feel anything else. I hoped she'd be so inspired by the city lights and some new dresses that she'd open herself up to living again." She paused, studying the man in front of her. "I know she's not prepared to open her heart up to love yet, but that doesn't mean she can't be open to life."
Nathan nodded, but before he could say anything, the front door flew open. Bill Avery and Molly Sullivan hurried inside, with Allie right behind them. Nathan gestured them into the kitchen, hoping Jack and Elizabeth would both remain asleep.
"There was an accident up at the Silverton Mine," Bill explained. "He went to lend a hand. He'll be back tomorrow, unless we send word we need him sooner." He gestured towards Elizabeth and her son. "Do we need him to come back?"
Nathan shook his head. "I don't think so. I think she's just exhausted from taking care of Jack all by herself."
Molly nodded her head. "I remember those days. It never failed- every time my husband would take an out-of-town job, or be out searching for a new job, Rosaline would get sick. There's nothing worse than watching your child be miserable and not be able to make it better."
Allie crossed the room, hugging Nathan gratefully. "Thanks for always taking care of me, Uncle Nathan."
Nathan smiled as he tightened their embrace. "Always," he promised, kissing the top of her head.
Any further discussion was put on hold as Jack woke up and started to fuss. While Rosemary and Molly hurried to soothe the little boy, Bill brought the forgotten basket of food inside and set about getting things put away. Allie gathered the soiled linens and clothes from the bedrooms and bin by the back door and took them outside to start washing, while Nathan made quick work of the dishes in the sink and then went to help her.
Elizabeth opened her eyes, very confused. The last thing she remembered was cuddling Jack downstairs while he nursed. These days, it was more for comfort than sustenance, and usually only at bedtime, but it seemed to make him feel better. She had no idea how she'd come to be in her own bed, in her nightgown. Getting up, she hurried down the hall to find Jack sleeping contentedly in his crib. As the smell of coffee made its way to her fuzzy brain, she hastened back to her room for her robe before venturing downstairs. The sight that met her eyes was at once heartwarming and surprising.
Allie and Nathan Grant were asleep in her living room, the girl curled up in the chair while her uncle's long legs overflowed the small settee. Bill Avery and Molly Sullivan were in her kitchen, quietly squabbling over who was going to cook breakfast. A small basket filled with what she recognized as Rosemary's lemon blueberry muffins sat on the table. All the dishes she had accumulated the last few couple of days had been washed and put away, and there was a stack of clean linens folded and sitting at the bottom of the stairs.
Bill looked up at her gasp of surprise. "Well good morning," he teased gently.
"Good morning," she replied, smiling as she pulled her robe a little tighter around her. "What are you all doing here?"
Bill pulled a chair out for her at the table and put a cup of coffee in front of her before he answered. "Nathan and Allie got worried when they came by with supper and you didn't answer the door. They found you and Jack asleep in the rocking chair. While Allie went for help, Nathan checked you both over and got you settled more comfortably."
Elizabeth's eyes widened and her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as it occurred to her the disheveled state Nathan would have found her in.
"Don't worry," Molly chided gently. "Rosemary was here nearly the entire time, and Nathan was too busy taking care of you and Jack to think anything untoward. Trust me. He was here as a Mountie, not a suitor."
"And how did I get upstairs?" Elizabeth asked, still confused.
"Nathan carried you up, and Molly and Rosemary got you undressed. You must have been pretty tired to have slept through all of that," Bill teased, then turned serious. "Why didn't you ask for help?"
She shrugged. "I didn't want to burden anyone. I thought Nathan was out of town, and I knew Lucas would never offer. I was fine the first day, and most of the second. But Jack wasn't sleeping well, which meant I wasn't sleeping, and he cried every time I tried to put him down, so I didn't get the chance to eat much…"
Bill shook his head. "Next time, call for reinforcements." He glanced across the room at the Grants and then looked Elizabeth directly in the eye. "Though if you play your cards right, they might already be there beside you."
I know Molly and Elizabeth haven't been particularly close, but I needed an older woman with experience as a single mother. (And since they banished Abigail…) Molly and Bill had that little 'are they/aren't they' thing going for a while, and she is or will be helping out at the infirmary, though I am a little hazy on that timing and haven't brought myself to actually rewatch the show…forgive me if I'm a little off. I also figure that if one of the town gossips sees nothing inappropriate about the situation, then everyone else will accept it as well.