A/N: This is a one-shot submission with content surrounding the preview for When Calls the Heart S10E11 of Nathan and Elizabeth in the schoolhouse. The dialogue in bold is directly from the preview. The rest of the content is my original work.
Disclaimer: The characters of WCTH and story image photos are property of Crown Media.
Messengers of Truth
Finishing rounds early, Nathan went home to change, and decided to take advantage of the time to meet Allie and walk her to her afternoon job at the mercantile manning the switchboard. As he walked toward the school yard and observed the children leaving, something seemed amiss. There was no usual chatter and frivolity that normally accompanied school letting out. The children seemed very subdued. Drawing closer to where Allie was standing with friends, she turned toward him, and his heart caught when he saw tears in her eyes. It seemed like the older she got, the more it pained him to see her cry.
"Sweetheart, what's wrong?"
Allie ran to hug him and crumbled in his arms, softly weeping.
"Allie, please tell me, what's the matter?"
"Dad…Mrs. Thornton and Jack...are leaving…Hope Valley," she managed to get out between sobs.
"What do you mean they are leaving Hope Valley?"
"Mr. Bouchard is moving to Capitol City, and since they are getting married, that means Mrs. Thornton and Little Jack are going with him."
Nathan felt gut-punched and like a knife had been sent through his heart. He'd tried to get over her, and he really thought he'd made great progress, but with this news, the pain hit all over again, just as if it was fresh and new. Memories of the times he'd hesitated or backed down from saying what he wanted to say flooded his mind. She was not married yet, and this time, he was NOT going to remain silent. The children gradually left until it was just Nathan and Allie standing in front of the school.
"Allie…Sweetheart, you go on to the mercantile. I'll see you at supper, and we'll talk more then."
Allie hugged her dad again and turned to slowly walk away. Nathan turned to walk up the steps to the school with determined intention. He walked through the door to see Elizabeth sitting behind her desk. When she looked up and saw him, her countenance fell, and she went pale. Facing Nathan was the last thing she wanted to do right now. She reluctantly got up and moved to stand in front of the desk, bracing herself.
"Hi, Nathan," she said with great hesitancy in her voice as her heart was pounding out of her chest.
"Hi…um…Allie tells me you are leaving Hope Valley…?"
"Yes…it looks that way."
"When is this to happen?"
"Well, there's a lot to do, so I don't know exactly yet…but soon," she said pushing down the doubt that was creeping into her mind and heart – a feeling she'd been pushing away and trying to ignore a lot lately.
Moving down the aisle toward her, Nathan asked, "Elizabeth…and then what? What about, what about teaching? What about these kids? I mean, is this what you want?"
"Nathan, this is bigger me."
"Elizabeth, you make a difference here. I'm asking you to be honest with yourself. Is this what you want?" he said as he continued to move ever closer toward her. Her heart only pounded all the harder.
"What other choice do I have?"
Looking at her with great intensity and the pain of all their past years together welling up in his piercing blue eyes, he was standing directly in front of her now, "Elizabeth…" he almost whispered, "What...do you want?"
He never broke his gaze, and she knew that this man standing before her saw right through her and knew her better than anyone else. He stood waiting for her to answer. Times being near him lately had been especially pleasant, but at this moment, the searing fight going on within her was almost more than she could bear. She felt drawn to him with a magnetic intensity she'd not been willing to acknowledge or allow herself to feel. This was not Nathan, the Mountie, before her. He was Nathan, the man. The man who had constantly been there for her, never putting any conditions on her, patiently waiting, hoping, being a friend when that was all she would allow, loving Little Jack every time he encountered him, someone she could talk with about anything, and who had never been threatened by her memories of Jack and with whom she'd always felt at ease in speaking about him. In this moment, it was as if scales suddenly fell from her eyes, and she could clearly see them for who they were…Elizabeth and Nathan, not just friends. But that could not be!
Nathan sensed the battle going on inside her. He ached for her and the struggle he could so clearly see. The struggle he'd witnessed for so long, but that he could see was now raging. Would she finally face her fears after all this time? He could only pray she was at long last awakening.
Nathan slowly reached out to take her hand, which she surrendered to him. He looked straight into her eyes…and soul…as he asked once more, "Elizabeth…what's in your heart?"
He stood still holding her hand for a moment longer, his eyes never leaving hers, then, with a slight squeeze, he released her hand and turned around to leave. As he got halfway down the aisle, he turned back and said, "When you figure it out, I'll be waiting."
Her mind flashed back to that day by the pond, yet this time, he'd slightly changed it. He didn't say, 'Let me know,' but, 'I'll be waiting.' She needed time to think…alone. She gathered up her things and headed to the place where she felt solace.
As Elizabeth walked in the library door and shut it behind her, leaning on it, she remembered the last time she'd done that. It had been the first time she'd cried in a long time. And why had she? Because she was afraid she might have lost Nathan. How could it hurt that much to lose him as a friend. Her heart was crying out to her. Henry had asked her. Would she listen? Pain because of Nathan, not because of Jack, but because…he'd been right that day at the log when he'd told her he knew she felt the same way, too. 'Oh, dear God, I love Nathan! And I don't just love him, I'm in love with him! No, I can't. And what about Lucas?"
As the thoughts flooded her mind, she thought she heard a voice that sounded a lot like Jack's… "Look up."
What did it mean? She raised her head, and as her eyes focused, she suddenly knew, "Always do what you are afraid to do." The plaque Nathan had made for her. Whether subconsciously or intentionally, she knew, so many times when she'd been in this room, she'd avoided looking at that gift he'd so lovingly crafted for her. But today, it was calling her. Calling her out of her fear. Calling her to see clearly her path forward. Calling her to the 'other' choice she had. The choice she'd run away from at least twice, and so many other times in smaller ways. Oh, what a fool she had been! And now, she'd not only broken Nathan's heart, but because of her fear and letting things go so far, now she was going to hurt another. But both her Mounties had been messengers of truth to her heart today. She didn't know for sure if she still had a chance with Nathan. There was so much to make up for, so many ways she had hurt him and Allie. But as she fingered her ring, she knew what her first step must be. She took a deep breath, said a prayer, turned to open the door, and headed to the Queen of Hearts.