It wasn't created specifically for it, but this could fall into the May Heart Stories prompt of remaking a scene from S7E7 and that dreaded Union City mess.
Elizabeth grinned as she placed the apple on the edge of her desk, pleased that Nathan was finally making his interest known. After months of being tongue-tied, quiet, and keeping all of their conversations short, he had searched her out. She hoped today's gift and teasing were a sign that he would finally ask her to dinner. A picnic. Riding on Newton and Sargent. Even a walk around the pond. Anything that constituted an actual date.
Her musings were interrupted by movement in the doorway. Glancing up, hopeful that he had returned, her heart sank when she saw it was Lucas making his way down the aisle instead. Her mood sank even further, and her irritation increased as he went on and on about the weekend he had planned for them. Of course, she would love to hear Virginia Woolf speak, but not at the expense of her reputation and her job. Besides, she was already making plans to see Ms. Woolf in Hamilton at the final stop of her Canadian tour in a few weeks. Julie had arranged the tickets and her parents were more than happy to allow Elizabeth and her guests to stay with them. It was another reason she was hoping things with Nathan would progress, so she could ask him and Allie to accompany her and Jack on the trip. Even if Allie decided she didn't want to attend the book reading, though Elizabeth fervently hoped she would, the girl would still get the opportunity to experience the shops, museums, and parks that Hamilton offered.
Taking a deep breath as she prepared to turn down Lucas's questionable proposition and put him in his place, she watched in horror as he picked up the apple from her desk and took a large bite. His smug look disappeared quickly, however, as he started to gag, trying to cough up the chunk that had become lodged in his throat. As he turned wide, watering eyes towards her, Elizabeth ran down the aisle to the door.
"Nathan!" She could see the red jacket a ways down the road and prayed he could hear her. When he turned around, she waved her arms frantically. "Help!"
The children, who had started to gather at the base of the stairs, moved aside as the Mountie ran across the yard and bounded through the door.
"Hurry!" Elizabeth cried, gesturing towards Lucas. The man was very pale and still in distress. Nathan tried a couple of sharp pounds on his back. When that failed to clear his airway, Nathan stepped closer, putting his arms around Lucas's middle and squeezing hard. After a few sharp jerks, the apple finally dislodged, and Lucas coughed and gagged for a moment before looking up.
Elizabeth silently offered him a glass of water, thankful she had made a habit of keeping a filled canteen in the classroom. "Are you alright?"
Lucas glared at Nathan, embarrassed not only to have literally choked in front of the woman they were both vying for, but that his opponent was the one to save him. "I'll be fine," he assured her as smoothly as he could manage. "Though I may have to see Carson about my ribs. I suspect the Constable here might have cracked a couple of them."
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him, incensed at his lack of gratitude. "I'm sure Nathan did not intentionally harm you," she replied, the ire in her tone obvious. "Would you rather he'd left you to suffocate?"
Lucas mumbled something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like he was accusing Nathan of causing the incident, but both the constable and the teacher chose to ignore him. Nathan reached down, picking up the bruised remains of the apple. He glared at the fruit and then at Lucas before turning back to Elizabeth.
"Guess I'll have to bring you a new one on Monday," he said, a shy smile coming to his face.
Elizabeth beamed back, her cheeks blushing as she replied, "Please do."
Nathan's grin widened as he reached up to tip his hat. It fell as he nodded towards Lucas, then he turned to leave. The children all rushed into the classroom, clamoring to know what had happened. Elizabeth told them to take their seats and followed the men down the aisle to the door.
Nathan kept going but Lucas paused on the second step, turning to face her, and offering that awful smirk he thought was so charming. "I'll pick you up about ten o'clock tomorrow," he announced. "I know the perfect spot where we can stop for lunch on the way there. You're going to love it. And I've booked us at the same hotel as the reading. It's supposed to be the most luxurious in Union City…"
As he prattled on about all of his plans for their weekend, Elizabeth looked past him to meet Nathan's gaze. The hurt in his eyes was unmistakable. Shaking her head, she finally addressed the man in front of her.
"Lucas," she interrupted firmly. "I never agreed to accompany you to Union City this weekend, nor would I ever entertain the idea." Before he could argue with her, she continued. "We aren't married or even courting. It wouldn't be proper for me to travel and stay at a hotel with you."
"But you're a widow," Lucas tried to argue. "Society's rules are different for you."
Elizabeth stared at him, shaking her head. "Society, not to mention my friends, my family, and the school board, does expect me to maintain a certain level of modesty and propriety. I lost my husband, not my morals." It was Lucas's turn to gape as her harsh words sunk in. "Besides, I already have plans with Nathan and Allie this weekend," she added, glancing hopefully across the yard. "They promised to teach me how to fish."
Lucas moved up a step and reached for her hand, but Elizabeth moved away. To her relief, Nathan had returned, unnoticed by Lucas, stopping at the base of the stairs.
"You're passing up the opportunity of a lifetime, to see one of the most renowned female authors of our time, to go fishing?!" Lucas asked, horrified.
From the look in his eyes, there was more to this disappointment than just her refusal of the date, and Elizabeth made a mental note to have Bill look into the trip and the hotel. Something definitely felt off.
"Yes, she's going fishing," Nathan chimed in, offering a slight nod to Elizabeth. "Is that a problem?"
Lucas scowled, stomping down the stairs in a huff. He brushed not so gently against Nathan as he stormed past and back towards town.
"Thank you," Elizabeth said gratefully. She glanced behind her into the classroom, seeing the children waiting patiently at their desks, a few of them clearly trying to listen to the adults' conversation. "That was the first thing that came to mind. I don't actually expect you and Allie to…."
"Oh no," Nathan chuckled. "You put it out there, so you are going fishing this weekend, Mrs. Thornton." The smirk that spread across his face was charming and unnerving in a very pleasant way. "We will bring Allie along to chaperone, and Jack, too, if you want. Just remember- you catch it, you clean it. I'd wear something you don't mind getting a little messy in." With another laugh, Nathan waved and turned away, a definite spring in his steps.
"You want me to what?" Elizabeth stared in dismay at the can of worms in from of her.
True to his word, Nathan had arranged to take her fishing on Saturday afternoon. He had packed them a picnic lunch, Bill was keeping an eye on things in town, and Allie had dug out her old fishing rod so that young Jack could use something smaller as he and his mother learned the art of fishing. Instead of the Grants' favorite fishing hole, which was more private and a ways into the woods, Nathan had brought them to a spot closer to town. He would have preferred their first outing together to be further away from the prying eyes of Rosemary Coulter and Molly Sullivan, but he didn't want to do anything that might damage Elizabeth's reputation, especially after what he had overheard her tell Lucas.
The saloon owner had left town the day before, and most people assumed he was going to the book reading alone. Nathan and Bill had done a little investigating and knew that he was actually meeting with some business associates of less than savory character. What he had intended to do with Elizabeth once he had gotten her out of town was still a mystery; the man had a lot of questions to answer when he returned.
Nathan laughed, holding the can closer as he explained. "Pick one up and put it on the hook."
Elizabeth stood still, her face comically aghast. "You mean just stab the worm with the hook?!"
Allie laughed behind them. "It's better if you kind of bend it so it hooks on there twice," she explained, holding up the line she had just baited for Jack. The little boy danced with glee, while his mother cringed.
"Jack taught me how to cook fish on our honeymoon, but he brought them back already cleaned and ready. I didn't ask what he used to catch them." She looked up hopefully. "Can't we use bits of bread instead?"
Nathan shook his head, snickering as she reached into the can.
"Augh!" Elizabeth shrieked as her fingers came into contact with the squishy creatures. In her haste to pull her hand away, she knocked the can out of Nathan's grasp. Worms flew through the air, landing not only in the grass around them, but also in his hair and on his shirt.
Elizabeth watched in utter horror as a worm slid from Nathan's head to plop onto his shoe. Neither of them moved for a moment. Jack broke the silence, his childish giggles filling the air. "Mon-tee Natan gots messy!" At that, they all burst into laughter. Trying to regain her composure, Elizabeth took a step towards Nathan, reaching gingerly to help brush the wiggling animals from his head and shoulders. Her fingers brushed his as they both reached for the same creature, and the electric spark at the contact startled them both. Elizabeth lost herself, staring into Nathan's eyes, never noticing until now that they were slightly different hues—the right slightly darker than the left.
They were pulled from their reverie abruptly as Allie cleared her throat. "Since we've lost our bait and Mrs. Thornton probably scared all the fish from here to Buxton away, why don't we head back?" she suggested. "Maybe once we get cleaned up, we can all go for ice cream or something instead?"
"Ice cweem!" Jack shouted, clearly on board with the change in plans.
"What about your dinner?" Elizabeth asked, worried she had spoiled their evening meal.
"It's fine," Nathan assured her as he picked up the picnic basket and blanket. Allie gathered the fishing rods and led Jack towards them. "We didn't expect to catch anything today anyway, this being your first time and all. We're having chicken and biscuits." He paused, clearly debating with himself whether to continue or not. Glancing down at the hand Elizabeth held out to carry something, he took it, squeezing it gently before he tucked it around his arm instead.
"I don't know if we can compare to a fancy restaurant in Union City or Hamilton, but would you and Jack like to join us?"
A/N. The brainstorming for this one was a joint effort between nebula2 and I. She told me she could picture Lucas walking in and taking a bite of the apple Nathan had just given Elizabeth. I suggested he choke on it and Nathan had to save him. I said Elizabeth could invent a fishing lesson with Nathan as excuse not to go to UC, she said he should get the worms spilled on him. So, since BOJ continues to be uncooperative, I wrote instead.
Note- Nathan did what we know as the Heimlich maneuver on Lucas, but it wasn't officially invented until 1974. I'm just going to go with he learned it somewhere along the way in training, because who knows? Maybe people figured out before Dr. Heimlich...