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The Lady and the Chauffeur.

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August 1913, Busse Abbey.

Arthur Simmons sighed, and looked down at the many papers scattered on his desk. What he wouldn’t give to be sat by the fire, nursing a class of whiskey, instead of dealing with estate business. That was what came, unfortunately, with being the lord of a grand estate like that of Shieldshire. He’d had enough to deal with this last year, what with his heirs being lost on the Titanic and finding and teaching the new heir, the next Lord Shieldshire, about the running of the estate. Lincoln Campbell was a good man, eager to learn, but he did not yet love the place, though he was starting to wonder if there was something like that brewing between him and his eldest daughter Daisy. Arthur was very eager for something to happen there, at the very least, it would settle the matter of Daisy’s succession and inheritance, and the passing on of his title very neatly. But he could not force anything, they were young, there was time for that yet. He looked up from his work, and looked out into the gardens, seeing his wife, Caroline and their middle daughter Elena walking. Poor Elena, they never seemed to talk about her, what with their youngest daughter’s Jemma’s coming out season coming up in the next year or so, and wanting Daisy married and settled, Elena always seemed to be looked over. Arthur’s reverie was disturbed by a knock on the library door and the entrance of their butler, Coulson.

“You wanted to see the new chauffeur milord.” Coulson said grandly, as he did with everything he spoke.

“Yes, of course, please send him in.” Lord Shieldshire replied.

He turned for a moment, finishing writing the sentence he had been working on, and looking back to see a nervous young man, kitted out in his chauffeur’s uniform standing before him.

“Ah, yes, good too see you again. It was Fitz wasn’t it?”

“That’s right Your Lordship.” Fitz replied, standing to attention before him.

“I hope they’ve shown you where everything is? You received everything we promised at the interview?” Lord Shieldshire enquired.

“Yes, Your Lordship, everyone has been most kind.” Fitz replied, his voice shaking slightly.

“Good! Won’t you miss Scotland?” He asked, picking up on the young man’s accent.

“The country, yes, Your Lordship, not the job. The mistress I worked for only had one car and she wouldn’t let me drive it over twenty miles an hour. But my mother still lives up there, just outside of Glasgow, I’ll miss her dearly, but I am grateful for the opportunity to be here Your Lordship. This is a wonderful library you have” Fitz said in awe, his eyes darting around the room, looking from bookcase to bookcase each filled with more books that he’d seen in one place in his life.

“You are very welcome to borrow books if you would like. There’s a ledger I make everyone use, even my daughters. What are your interests?” Lord Shieldshire asked enquiringly.

“Science, engineering mostly, but I do like a bit of history and politics too.” Fitz replied swiftly.

“Well you shouldn’t find our science section too lacking, my youngest daughter, Lady Jemma has taken up quite the interest recently, and I’m afraid I’m rather too good at indulging her, so you should find a good selection.”

At that Coulson re-entered the room, clearly indicating that Fitz’s time was up.

“Coulson, Fitz is going to borrow some books, he has my permission.”

              “Yes, milord.” Coulson replied.

“Is that all Your Lordship?” Fitz asked curiously.

“Yes, of you go and good luck!” Lord Shieldshire replied, gesturing for him to leave.

Just as Fitz left, Lady Jemma, the youngest of the three Simmons daughters, entered the library holding a small stack of books.

“Who was that Papa?” She asked, looking back to the door Fitz had left out of.

“The new chauffeur, he seems a bright young thing after poor old Taylor. He was asking if he could borrow some books on science, so I hope you won’t mind someone else sniffing around your precious collection.” Lord Shieldshire replied, turning back to his work, whilst Lady Jemma set about putting her books away.

“Of course not Papa. No one should be able to hoard all the information to themselves, and besides, it will be nice to have someone in the house who understands it all.” Lady Jemma replied brightly as she pulled some new volumes down to peruse.

“I don’t imagine you’ll have much opportunity to chit chat to the chauffeur.” Lord Shieldshire snorted.

Lady Jemma’s face fell at this.

“No, I don’t supposed I will.” She said disheartened.

Arthur Simmons sighed. He knew this interest in science was just a phase for poor Jemma, he just hoped it would be over already. Maybe when she got to London and it was time for her coming out, and her head will be filled will dresses and balls, instead of these dusty old books and whatever it was that was in them that she found so fascinating.

              The next day, Lady Jemma had been sent down by her mother to find this new chauffeur to remind him that she, her mother and her sister Elena had an appointment in the village this afternoon. Lady Jemma sighed, she was only given this task because she was the youngest, neither Elena nor Daisy would be asked to trail after the chauffeur. She was especially bitter since the morning’s post has brought the latest biology periodical that she had subscribed to, and she had just sat down to read it when her mother asked her to go find Fitz. She huffed her way down to the garage and was fully exasperated when she could not even see him in the distance. As she grew closer however she could see that he was on his back, underneath the car, tinkering away at something.

“Is anything the matter?” She asked as she drew level with the hood of the car.

Fitz jumped underneath the car. Clearly, he had not heard her approaching, letting out an expletive before pushing himself out from the underside of the car. His face blanched when he saw her, his jacket had been discarded in the drivers’ seat, his white shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, oil streaked across his white shirt and his face.  He scrambled up to his feet, adorably flustered, pulling his shirt down and frantically grabbing his jacket and pulling it on.

“N-no milady. Everything is fine, I was just making sure it was, familiarising myself with the car and what not.” Fitz babbled as he finally got his arm in the sleeve of his jacket.

Jemma smiled, charmed by his babbling and his flustered appearance.

“I’m Lady Jemma Simmons, the youngest Simmons, I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced yet.” Jemma smiled, holding out her gloved hand for him to shake.

“I’m Leopold Fitz, but you can just call me Fitz milady. I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t think shaking your hand would be the best idea milady.” He smiled as he held up his grease stained hands, looking pointedly at her very white gloves.

“No, perhaps not.” Jemma smiled, lowering her hand.

“What can I do for you milady?” Fitz asked, wiping his hands on a rag that had been sat on the bonnet of the car.

“Oh, yes, Mama wanted me to remind you that herself, Elena and I have an appointment in the village at half past one. You should have the car out front at about one, we should have finished luncheon by then.” She smiled, getting slightly flustered herself.

“Of course, milady. Will that be all?” Fitz replied, now fumbling with the buttons on his jacket.

“Yes, thank you Fitz.” Jemma replied, seeming to come to herself slightly, before turning on her heel and beginning to walk away.

She had barely walked three paces before she turned back to look at him.

“Papa was saying you are interested in science?” She asked.

              “Yes milady.” Fitz replied.

              “What sort?”

“Engineering mostly, it’s why I like to work with the cars.” Fitz replied, nodding his head to the car beside him.

“Oh, how fascinating! I have always loved how cars work; I did joke to Papa one day that should the car break down I might be able to fix it. He went so blue in the face that I thought we’d have to pick him up off the ground!” Jemma exclaimed.

Fitz smiled.

“I don’t doubt that you could. What about yourself milady? His Lordship was saying that you take a keen interest in science, what fields are you interested in?” Fitz asked.

“Chemistry and biology. Though I have done no practical work as such, I think the advances they are making these days are simply marvellous! I’ve been begging Papa for the last two years to let me go to a proper school, I would love to train as a doctor, but I doubt they’ll let women practise as doctors this century, but I would quite happily train as a nurse. Papa thinks this is all just a phase, and it will all fall away when I get married, but I know it won’t. I do help out at the hospital in the village, but it’s all arranging fundraisers and tombola’s, but I would love to do more!” She exclaimed.

Fitz looked at her in awe, a dumbstruck look spread across his face.

“I’m sorry, I never talk this much. I just get so passionate about it all, and so frustrated that I can do so little.” Jemma said, looking at her shoes.

“That’s quite alright milady. It’s perfectly understandable. I’d have liked to go to university myself, but it was just me and my mum and well, we couldn’t quite manage it.” Fitz said sheepishly.

“Oh, I am sorry. I don’t think it’s right that bright young men and women are deprived of an education just because they cannot afford it.” Jemma said with some reverence.

They smiled at each other for a moment, before a small clock chimed somewhere from the depths of the garage, breaking them both from their respective reveries.

“Oh, is that the time?! Mama will wonder where I’ve got to, and I really shouldn’t be keeping you from your work. It truly was a pleasure to meet you Fitz.” She smiled, before turning quickly and heading back to the house.

“The pleasure was all mine milady!” Fitz cried after her.

 Lady Jemma smiled to herself as she made her way back up the hill towards the house, forgetting completely how utterly vexed she had been that her Mama had sent her on this errand in this first place.

              Lady Jemma’s mood did not remain as cheery throughout the rest of the day. Her Mama had dragged her and Lady Elena into the village to help with preparations for the church flower show next week, and it had dragged on and on and on, far past Lady Jemma’s usually reasonable patience. The feeling of relief when they finally left the church hall, was like nothing like she had ever felt before. This was only beaten by what she felt when she saw Fitz in the car waiting for them outside. She gave him a small smile, which he returned as he opened the car door for Lady Shieldshire.

“Oh, whilst I remember Fitz, you’ll be taking Lady Jemma into town tomorrow for a dress fitting, she’ll be leaving after luncheon.” Lady Shieldshire said, as he helped her into the car.  

“Can it be my choice this time?” Lady Jemma asked tentatively.

“Yes, of course darling, as long as you choose what I choose.” Lady Shieldshire quipped.

“Poor old Madame Hand, I don’t know why we bother with fittings, she always makes the same frock.” Lady Jemma sighed as she sat down.

“What do you want her to make?” Lady Elena asked.

“Something different, and exciting!” Lady Jemma exclaimed.

“As long as it doesn’t have test tubes running down the sleeves.” Lady Elena joked.

Lady Jemma gave her sister a grave look.

“Does no one take my interest in science seriously? Papa certainly doesn’t but I would have expected different from my own sister.” Lady Jemma huffed.

“I was only joking Jemma darling. You do know I love you dearly.” Lady Elena said, reaching over and taking her hand.

“Now now girls. We really should get back. Mr Campbell and his mother are coming for dinner and there’s not a moment to change.” Lady Shieldshire sighed.

“Well they can jolly well wait!” Lady Jemma exclaimed with a smile.

“So, women’s rights begin at home? I can get onboard with that.” Lady Shieldshire quipped before they finally set off.

Fitz smiled to himself as he put the car into gear and set his foot down on the accelerator. Lady Jemma Simmons was not at all what he had expected from a grand English family, and he was glad of it. He was quite glad that he would get the chance to talk to her again tomorrow.

              Lady Jemma smiled at him again the next day when he picked her up for her dress fitting, and his heart leapt. He knew it shouldn’t, that he must contain whatever infatuation he was feeling before it got too out of control. He could still speak to her though. None of the other servants had the slightest inclination for science, and Lady Jemma was the only person here who shared his love and enthusiasm for the subject.

“Do you think you’ll get your own way with the frock milady? Only I couldn’t help overhearing yesterday, and from what her ladyship said, it sounds like not only are you a scientist, but you support women’s rights too.” Fitz half shouted back to her, over the sound of the motor.

“Yes, I suppose I do. It’s the only way women are going to get into labs and become doctors I suppose. And getting the vote would be such a big milestone in women getting their voices heard at last.” Jemma sighed from the back seat.

Fitz smiled.

“I’m a wee bit political myself, so I brought some pamphlets that I thought might interest you. There’s one in there about a burgeoning group of female scientists I thought you’d be interested in too. It meets in London, so it’s not easy to get to, but I thought you’d be interested all the same.” Fitz said, reaching back to give her the leaflets he had stuffed inside his jacket.

“Thank you. I’m actually helping one of our maids, Piper, to get out of service. She wants to do more with her life than just be a servant and I think it’s so admirable.  I just want to do everything I can to help her. Please don’t mention any of this to my father though. He still thinks that this science thing is all just a phase, and that’s the only reason he allows it to go on, and he is slightly narrow minded when it comes to women and their place in society.” Jemma said, as she rifled through the pamphlets.

“Don’t worry milady your secret is safe with me. Don’t pay attention to them, when they tease you about it. You’ve found your passion in life, there’s no shame in that. I know I was grateful that I found mine.” Fitz said encouragingly.

Jemma smiled.

“I suppose it makes sense, an engineering chauffeur. But a radical one…” She trailed off.

Fitz laughed.

“I’m not that radical. I just like to think to the future. Which is why I like engineering I suppose. All these new inventions, helping us to lead better lives.” Fitz mused.

“I feel the same about biology and chemistry. All these new treatments that are coming out, and being discovered all the time, changing people’s lives, helping them to live longer and happier lives.” Jemma rambled enthusiastically.

They smiled in unison this time. Fitz glanced at her in the back seat through his rear-view mirror, looking excitedly at the pamphlets he had brought. She was smiling, and Fitz couldn’t help but think how beautiful she looked. He was going to have to be so very careful, he thought. He absolutely could not fall in love with one of His Lordship’s daughters. The trouble was, he thought, he suspected he had already begun to.

              At the end of the week he was summoned by Lady Jemma yet again to take her to go and collect her new frock.

“I don’t mean to be rude milady, but couldn’t Madame Hand just have the dress delivered to the house?” Fitz asked curiously as he drove down the main road of the village.

“Yes, she could, but that would have delayed it until tomorrow and Granny, Cousin Lincoln and his Mama are all coming for dinner tonight, and I want to see all of their faces when I walk in.” Jemma smiled mischievously.

“Sounds as if it’s going to be quite the to do. I almost wish I could be there.” Fitz smiled back.

Jemma had to bite her tongue to stop herself from saying ‘I wish you could be there too.’, but just smiled and nodded at him. When she emerged from the dress shop, clutching a large box, she wore such a large grin that it was infectious.

“Can’t you at least give me a hint milady?” Fitz asked smiling as they drove off again.

“It certainly doesn’t have test tubes going down the sleeves.” Jemma said in mock seriousness.

As soon as the words left her lips she burst into peals of laughter, Fitz following suit just a few seconds later. Later, just before the family was to gather for dinner, Fitz snuck away from the garage, and hid himself in the bushes outside of the window of the sitting room in which they all convened before dinner, hoping for just a glimpse of Lady Jemma in her new dress. They all filtered in, one by one, and of course Lady Jemma was last. She was definitely right when she said she wanted to see everyone’s faces, as they were all an absolute picture. It was a perfectly normal frock, with embroidery across the chest, blue material floating down her legs until you got to the ankle, where the material was fitted into cuffs, like trousers. Fitz couldn’t help the wide grin that spread across his face when he saw her, and his heart pulsed happily in his chest at the sight of her. He knew he was in trouble, but at this moment he couldn’t really care less.

Chapter Text

May 1914

Lady Jemma’s eyes were filled with awe as she stood in the midst of a bustling crowd, listening eagerly to the liberal candidate going on and on about women’s rights, how they were owed the vote, how their place was moving from the home, out into the world, and that the conservative candidate needed to come into the twentieth century and realise that. The more he spoke, the more the crowd around her became more and more agitated, not everyone thinking what he was saying was as wonderful as Lady Jemma thought it. She suddenly felt a sharp tug on her elbow and turned to see Fitz.

“Time to go milady.” He shouted over the jeers of the crowd.

“Just five more minutes.” Jemma protested.

“No milady, I don’t like the look of this crowd, some of them are just here for a fight, and I don’t fancy seeing the look on your fathers face if something happened to you.” He said, tugging more furiously at her elbow.

Jemma sighed heavily, taking one last look at the speaker, before turning back to Fitz and letting him guide her to the car. Fitz had to admire her tenacity, over the last few months he had watched her blossom into a beautiful, and even more passionate young woman than the one he had first met. He had no idea how she had convinced His Lordship to even allow her to come to this event today, but he felt that definitely was not his place to ask. For Jemma, politics was just a means to an end, a way of getting more women into education, to advocate for the sciences, for female doctors to become a normality and not an obscurity. For her, the women’s rights movement could mean all this and more. Fitz had been wonderful, sharing her enthusiasm for both science and the women’s rights movement. It had been so refreshing to have someone to talk to about all these things, who loved it as much as she did and who actually understood the scientific principals she was talking about. Over the last few months everyone else of her acquaintance had come to seem positively dull in comparison to Fitz. But he was the chauffeur, and besides he had never explicitly said, but the looks he gave her sometimes made her think that maybe… Jemma gave herself a shake. As she said, he was the chauffeur, nothing could ever happen between them. She mused over these thoughts the whole ride home and well into dinner. She must have looked dazed, as Lady Shieldshire probed her during the main course.

“Are you quite alright Jemma dear? You look as if the world is on your shoulders.” She enquired.

“I’m quite well Mama, thank you.” Lady Jemma replied, looking down at her plate.

“I gather you went to go and see the liberal candidate speak today.” Lady Elena said nonchalantly.

Lady Jemma glared at her sister with vigour. She had purposefully been vague when she had said she was going into town that morning, knowing her Papa would disapprove of what she was up to.

“You did what?!” Lord Shieldshire cried, looking up swiftly from his plate.

“He wasn’t the only speaker. Just the last.” Lady Jemma said quietly.

“He spoke well?” Lord Shieldshire asked, fuming.

“I certainly thought he did.” Lady Jemma quipped.

“I heard there was quite a commotion.”

“Yes, there was, but you know what these things are like.” Lady Jemma replied softly.

“Yes, I do, which is why I am astounded you kept it from me and your mother? Did you not think it necessary to ask permission to attend?!” Lord Shieldshire finally exploded.

“This is exactly why I didn’t tell you, because I knew how you would react, even though this was important to me!” Lady Jemma cried in response.

Lord Shieldshire looked taken aback. Never in her life had his youngest daughter spoken to him like this.

“This will be Fitz’s influence no doubt, filling your head with science and politics all day long!” Lord Shieldshire soon quipped back.

“Don’t blame him Papa, it was filled with both of those things long before he came along! You indulged both of those things, no doubt because you thought it was a phase or something for me to innocently fill my time with before I got married. But this is who I am Papa, I have a passion and I will not be ashamed for pursuing it, or for socialising with those who share it. Now if you don’t mind, I have rather a headache, I’m going to bed.” Lady Jemma declared, slamming her napkin down onto her chair before storming out of the room.

She ran up the stairs to her room, slamming the door, before falling on her bed, tears streaming down her face. Fitz was the only one who understood. She doubted her family would ever understand as he did. But he was the chauffeur. She cursed the world into her pillow, wishing he had been born the son of some lord or other, then things might be different between them.

The next morning Lady Jemma had calmed down enough to be polite to her Papa when she went down to breakfast, and she had a plan. She apologised to him profusely for her behaviour the previous evening and was most attentive to him during breakfast, engaging him in a conversation about her coming season down in London, something they were all rather looking forward to. She needed to pick her timing well, waiting an hour after breakfast, when Lord Shieldshire would be in the library, and would have gotten a good enough stack of work done to put him in a good mood for the morning. Lady Jemma tentatively made her way into the library at the exact right time, and much to her delight, saw Lord Shieldshire sat at his desk, a grin on his face as he worked away.

“Papa?” Lady Jemma asked tentatively.

“Yes darling?” He responded, not looking up from his work.

“I was wondering if Fitz could drive me into town on Friday evening?” She asked, more hesitantly than before.

Lord Shieldshire’s head sprung up at this, a frown now cast across his features.

“I think not, not after the last time.” He replied solemnly before looking back down at his work.

“Oh, please Papa! There’s a meeting of one of my hospital charities and I missed the last two, I simply cannot miss a third.” She begged, widening her eyes, her hands crossed innocently behind her back.

“You’d have to take one of your sisters.” He responded, still not looking up.

“To a hospital meeting? Papa, both of them would be bored stiff the moment they sat down. You know what they are both like.” Lady Jemma quickly quipped back.

Lord Shieldshire sighed heavily and looked up at her with some doubt cast across his features.

“Fine, but you are to go straight there and back again.” He sighed, resigning himself to his youngest daughters’ persuasion.

“You know I love you very much, and that is why I got so angry last night. I could not bear to see you hurt my darling.” He said softly.

“Oh, you are a dear Papa.” Lady Jemma responded, running over and kissing him softly on the forehead.

“Straight there and back mind, I will tell Fitz personally if it comes to that.” Lord Shieldshire said with a small smile.

“I’ll tell him Papa! And thank you!” Lady Jemma practically squealed as she skipped from the library.

Smiling to herself as she ran to grab her coat and hat, knowing her plan had worked perfectly. Now all she had to do was tell Fitz exactly what her Papa had said, well almost. He was washing the cars just outside the garage when he saw her skipping down the hill to come and see him. He grinned when he saw her coming, not bothering to put his jacket on, knowing now that she did not care for such frivolous social norms.

“You look happy milady.” Fitz said as she stopped in front of him, noting the wide smile on her face.

“I am rather!” Jemma sighed happily.

“Dare I ask what it is about?” Fitz smiled.

“You may ask but I won’t tell you.” Jemma grinned.

“Very mysterious. How may I help you milady?” Fitz replied, still smiling jovially at her.

He couldn’t help the smile on his face these days whenever Jemma was around. She just seemed to inspire something in him.

“I have come to ask if you would take me into town on Friday evening. I have a meeting of one of my charities. I have cleared it with His Lordship this time, so neither of us will end up with a slap on the back of the hand this time.” Jemma said, still smiling.

“Ah yes I did hear something about that. Was His Lordship very angry?” Fitz asked cautiously, not knowing if he was pushing his luck.

“He wasn’t very pleased with me no. But I’m a grown woman, he simply cannot go on treating me like a child. I have to fight my own battles, even if no one else will.” Jemma said defiantly.

Fitz had to bite his tongue to stop himself from saying that he would always fight in her corner, but it was a close thing.

“That’s good, I mean, not that you rowed with His Lordship, of course not. I think that it is good that you are standing up for what you believe in.” Fitz bumbled.

Jemma blushed, rocking back and forth on her heels.

“Thank you.” She responded, her face still flushed, but smiling widely at him.

She turned slightly to go, but Fitz didn’t want to see her go just yet.

“When is it that you go up to London?” He asked quickly. Jemma turned back and smiled at him.

“Next month. We’ll be gone for almost two months. Are you coming with us? Mama is in charge of all of that and I kept meaning to ask her.” Jemma asked rapidly.

Fitz looked at his shoes.

“No, milady, I won’t be joining you.” Fitz replied, trying hard to keep the tone of disappointment out of his voice.

Jemma looked utterly crestfallen.

“Oh. I’m sorry. But you will have some time off, whilst we’re away? You could come down to London for a day or two and we could go to the Natural History Museum together!” Jemma’s face lit up as this seemingly brilliant idea formed in her head.

“I doubt I could afford it milady. Besides, it’s been far too long since I’ve been home to see my mother. I owe her a visit.” Fitz said, trying very hard to sound light-hearted, and not as if the prospect of nearly two months without Jemma was going to be tantamount to torture.

Jemma’s face fell even further than it had before. “Well, give her my best, when you do see her. Let her know how highly we all think of you.” Jemma said, a small shake in her voice.

Fitz let out a small chuckle.

“I’m not sure I can do that milady. I’m not very good at speaking of myself, even to my own mother.” Fitz replied.

“Well give her my best all the same.” Jemma said softly, with a small smile.

There was a moment of silence between them, and Jemma found herself wondering how they had managed to drift so closely to one another.

“Will that be all milady? The car on Friday evening?” Fitz said quietly.

“Yes, yes thank you Fitz.” Jemma replied, before quickly turning on her heel and heading back up to the house, muttering under her breath the entire way ‘he’s the chauffeur, he’s the chauffeur, he’s the chauffeur.’

They sat in relative silence on the way into town that following Friday, Jemma steeling herself for the reaction she knew was about to come. But she had planned for every eventuality, and it wasn’t like Fitz was going to force her to stay in the car. He wouldn’t cause a scene like that in a million years, and the preceding scandal would be enough to bring the entire household down, and probably kill her grandmother.

“Where to from here milady?” Fitz shouted back to her, just as they reached the town hall courtyard.

“What do you mean? We’ve arrived?” Jemma exclaimed, still steeling herself for his reaction.

“The meeting is in one of these buildings?” Fitz asked confused, stopping the car.

“No, we’re here for the counting of the votes, not some meeting!” Jemma cried as she got out of the car.

The look across Fitz’s face could only be described as utter panic.

“You didn’t think I’d miss this did you?” She asked, looking bemusedly at the look on his face.

“I don’t think His Lordship would approve.” Fitz said, fully panicked.

“Let me worry about him.” Jemma scoffed, as she walked into the courtyard.

“Don’t move, I have to park the car!” Fitz cried after her.

“I thought I was the one giving orders here Fitz!” She shouted over the noise of the crowd, before turning around and walking into the crowd.

All Fitz could think as he was parking the car, and then running towards the courtyard was an extremely long string of expletives that he was too polite to say out loud. He loved how free and stubborn Lady Jemma was, but he really thought that she had not fully thought this one out. He pushed furiously through the crowd, stepping on many toes and angering many people, but he didn’t care, he just needed to find her and get her out. The crowd was already grumbling like it had been the last time, and he saw no way in which this ended well. Finally, he saw her, her neat little blue hat sticking out near the front of the crowd. Fitz forced his way towards her, and he couldn’t help but notice the look of absolute awe on her face, completely oblivious to the boiling tension around her.

“Time to go milady!” Fitz shouted through the noise of the crowd, pulling gently at her elbow.

“No, this is the moment we’ve come for, they’re just about to announce the final candidate!” Jemma cried back.

Fitz looked wildly around him, as he was shoved and jostled, and he did not like the look on some of the surrounding crowds faces. “Please, milady. These people are here for a fight not for politics!” He replied, now tugging furiously on her arm.

At that the speaker on the platform announced that the Conservative candidate had been elected and the crowd went into absolute uproar.

“Jemma? Jemma?! What on earth are you doing here?” Lincoln Campbell, her father’s heir, had just appeared out of nowhere.

He had been working late in town and had spotted her in the crowd.

“Lincoln! I couldn’t miss this!” Lady Jemma cried.

Just then a crowd of men came right up behind them. They were all built like houses and stunk of drink, the smell wafting forward and announcing their arrival.

“Please let us past, we’re on your side, just please let us out. Please don’t cause any trouble” Fitz had turned and was begging with the man in the very front of the crowd.

The man just knocked Fitz aside like he was nothing.

Fitz crashed to the ground and looked up to see the same man in a scuffle with Mr Campbell. Before he made it onto his feet again, punches were being thrown, and the man toppled backwards, knocking Lady Jemma forward. It seemed to happen all in slow motion. Lady Jemma toppled forward, crashing her head against a nearby table. Fitz had reached his arms out to catch her, but he was too late. Both he and Lincoln ran towards her, and to Fitz’s utter horror, she was not moving. Lady Jemma’s face was pale, and Fitz felt all of the blood in his body run cold. Lincoln leant down and put his hand to her head, checking for injury. When he drew it back, fresh red blood coated his fingers. Fitz felt like he was going to be sick.

“Oh god, please god no!” He cried, scrambling to pick her up.

Adrenaline, fear and about a million other terrible emotions flew through him as he carried her through the crowd, back to where he had parked the car, Lincoln forcing a path in front of them. He placed Jemma in the back of the car, Lincoln getting in beside her. Fitz’s hands were shaking so much he wasn’t sure if he was able to drive.

“Take her back to Simmons House! My mother was a nurse in the Boer War, she’ll know what to do! And I don’t fancy facing Lord Shieldshire with Jemma in a state like this.” Lincoln shouted from the back seat, as Fitz drove blindly back to the village.

Fitz just nodded and drove on, the colour retreating completely from his face when he thought about Lord Shieldshire’s reaction to all of this. He may as well start packing his bags the second they got back, he thought as they pulled up outside Simmons House, where Lincoln lived with his mother. Fitz carried her in, and just as Lincoln had said, his mother knew exactly what to do, pushing the two men out of the way as soon as they had Lady Jemma situated on the sofa.

“Go up to the house, and fetch Lady Daisy. Tell the servants, they’ll help you and help you keep it on the down low for now.” Lincoln said to Fitz after his mother had pushed them aside.

Fitz just nodded and went straight out of the door and back to the car.

Lady Jemma was confused. She had been at the counting of the votes, and there had been a brawl and she’d been pushed, and then, and then she couldn’t remember what happened. All she was aware of was the plush cushion underneath her, and someone dabbing at the side of her head. “Fitz?” She said softly, opening her eyes.

“Oh, thank goodness.” Mrs Campbell sighed.

“Cousin Isabelle?” Lady Jemma said groggily, trying to push herself up.

She looked to her left and saw Mrs Campbell holding a bloodied rag, and Cousin Lincoln looking quite worried.

“Now, now dear, you just lay there for a moment.” Mrs Campbell said softly, gently pushing Lady Jemma back down onto the couch.

“What happened? Where’s Fitz?” Lady Jemma asked, still confused.

“You were at that counting of the votes, and you were pushed and hit your head. Lincoln and Fitz brought you here so I could patch you up. They didn’t think that your father should see you like that. Fitz has gone up to the big house to fetch Daisy. They thought she should come and get you, once you feel well enough.” Mrs Campbell explained, doing her very best to keep a calm bedside manner.

Lady Jemma sighed, allowing herself to be nursed by Mrs Campbell. She was feeling about a million different things. She knew an argument was coming with her Papa, that she could be certain of. He couldn’t dismiss Fitz for this could he? She didn’t know if she could bear it if he dismissed Fitz, and she would never see him again. Two months without him was bad enough a contemplation, but forever was just unthinkable. And then Lady Daisy was there, and it all seemed a flurry of motion again for a moment.

“Do you feel strong enough to go home?” Mr Campbell asked finally.

“Yes, yes I think so.” Lady Jemma said sitting up gently, carefully swinging her legs over the side of the couch until her feet made contact with the floor.

“Here, lean on me.” Mr Campbell offered.

Lady Jemma smiled at him and leaned on his arm as he led her out of the room and out to the car. Fitz was sat in the front, still white faced, and clutching the steering wheel like his life depended on it. They drove back to the house in complete silence, no one daring to speak, or speculate about what was to happen next. Lady Daisy and Mr Campbell sneaked Lady Jemma in through the kitchens, most of the servants had gone to bed, so they weren’t seen taking her up the back staircase. Mr Campbell stopped short outside of Lady Jemma’s room.

“I should go and inform your parents that Jemma is back and safe. They’ll be worried.” He said matter-of-factly.

“Yes, of course.” Lady Daisy said as she pushed the door open.

Lady Jemma noticed the heated look they exchanged and smiled to herself. Papa wouldn’t be very thrilled with her this evening, but if that look was anything to judge from, all of his dreams were about to come true in regard to Daisy and Lincoln. Lady Jemma shot her sister a smile as she helped her to sit on the end of the bed and was given a look that she knew meant that she was to say absolutely nothing about it. She had not been in the room long when her parents, followed shortly by Lady Elena burst into the room. Lady Shieldshire looked pale, and worried out of her mind, beelining for her daughter the second she saw her, and holding her tight.

“Mama, I’m fine.” Lady Jemma said thickly into her mother’s shoulder.

Her Mama let her go long enough that she could look up at her Papa and see the look of absolute thunder on his face.

“Where were you that this happened, and don’t you dare lie and tell me you were at the meeting of your charity, because we both know that isn’t true.” Lord Shieldshire said in a deadly whisper.

Lady Jemma paused, looking from her Mama, to her sisters, before taking a deep breath and speaking.

“I went into town to hear the counting of the votes.” She said, making deliberate and direct eye contact with her Papa.

“How dare you! How dare you disobey me like this!” He exploded.

“Arthur please. I’m sure there’s an…” Lady Shieldshire began.

“Do my instructions mean nothing to you! I gave you reason after reason why I thought you shouldn’t go on with this because I knew you would get hurt, but for whatever reason you decided you knew better!” Lord Shieldshire roared, not paying any heed to his wife.

“Papa, I’m sorry I disobeyed you, but you have to understand why I’m interested, why all of this matters to me!” Lady Jemma cried in response.

“Of course, I blame Fitz.” Lord Shieldshire retorted, ignoring Lady Jemma.

“Papa that isn’t fair.” Lady Daisy quickly responded.

“We had none of this until he set foot in this house! And now he is here, corrupting my youngest daughter!” Lord Shieldshire growled.

“Fitz didn’t know about any of it. I told him the same as what I told you. He was innocent of everything; he didn’t even know where we were going until we arrived there.” Lady Jemma said defensively.

“He leaves tonight.” Lord Shieldshire roared.

“No Papa! NO! If you punish him, I will never speak to you again. Please Papa!” Lady Jemma begged.

There was a moment of quiet where Arthur Simmons simply looked at his youngest daughter, and the look of utter distress across her face.

“Papa, I don’t think this was Fitz’s fault.” Lady Daisy said quietly, breaking the unbearable silence.

“Yes, Papa, blame me!” Lady Jemma cried, jumping up from the bed.

“I do blame you!” He retorted.

“If I wake up to find Fitz gone tomorrow, I will run away, and then you’ll be sorry!” Lady Jemma shouted, right at Lord Shieldshire’s face.

Lord Shieldshire sighed deeply, again looking at the mixture of both determination and distress on his daughter’s face.

“Yes, yes I would. I would be very sorry indeed.” He sighed.

“We should let you rest. We can discuss this further in the morning.” He continued quietly and gestured for Lady Shieldshire and his other two daughters to leave.

Lady Jemma threw herself back onto the bed as her father ushered everyone out.

“Fitz will still be here in the morning, I promise you, so I expect you to be here too.” Lord Shieldshire said softly as he left the room.

“Goodnight Papa.” Lady Jemma responded coldly, not looking at him.

“Goodnight my darling.” He said, closing the door behind him.

Things were strained between them for the next few weeks, Lord Shieldshire having put into place conditions surrounding Lady Jemma leaving the house. She was not to go anywhere outside of the grounds without being chaperoned by at least one of her sisters, or her Mama or in the direst of circumstances, one of the maids. This situation was to remain in place until they returned from London which meant she definitely couldn’t sneak off to the Natural History Museum by herself for an afternoon anymore. She groaned at the thought of dragging Lady Daisy or Lady Elena or her Mama around when they had absolutely no interest in any of it. As much as Busse Abbey was big, and the grounds extensive, Lady Jemma still felt caged in, and she was frustrated that she could no longer come and go as she pleased. It was almost a relief when they started packing everything up to go down to London, knowing that soon, she would be able to see something outside of the grounds of Busse Abbey. The one thing she wasn’t looking forward to was leaving Fitz for two whole months. She hadn’t seen very much of him since the incident, she suspected that Lady Daisy or her father had had words with him, and cautioned him, and he was keeping away from her as a result. She missed him, missed their conversations, him telling her what improvements he was making to the cars, the projects he was working on in his spare time. He was a good man, no matter what her father seemed determined to think. Lady Jemma had been wandering the grounds on the last day before they were to leave when she made up her mind to go and see him. She nervously tread the familiar path down to the garage at the back of the house. Fitz had his back to her, as he was tinkering under the bonnet of one of the cars.

“Hello stranger.” Jemma said softly as she approached him.

Fitz jumped about a mile and turned to look at her. A smile spread across his face when he saw it was her.

“Good afternoon milady.” He said, wiping his hands on a rag.

“You’ve been avoiding me.” Fitz looked at the ground.

“Yes, Lady Daisy seemed to think it would be best if I kept my distance for a while, give Lord Shieldshire an opportunity to calm down.” He explained.

“I thought Daisy might have something to do with it. I ah, just wanted to come down and say goodbye, we leave for London in the morning and I didn’t think I’d have another opportunity to catch you by yourself before then.” Jemma rambled.

“That’s very kind of you milady, but you didn’t have to do that just for me.” Fitz replied, finally looking up at her.

“No, I wanted to. We’ve become good friends you and I, and when you are going away for a while, you say goodbye to your friends.” Jemma smiled, trying very hard to look and sound cheerful.

“Well then, goodbye milady.” Fitz said, almost stiffly.

“Goodbye Fitz. I’ll see you again in August.” Jemma replied, the shake in her voice becoming noticeable now.

Without thinking before she did it, she leaned in quickly and kissed him on the cheek before turning swiftly and all but running back up the hill to the house. Tears were running down her face, but she couldn’t tell you why. Meanwhile, Fitz was stood, rooted to the spot, his hand clamped over his cheek where she had kissed him, his face bright red. The next day, when he drove the family to the train station, they said another silent goodbye as he helped her out of the car. Their eyes met for only a second, but it seemed to communicate so much. He helped the porters unload the luggage from the car and hung back until he could watch the train slip away into the distance. Fitz had long stopped denying his feelings, he was in love with Lady Jemma Simmons. He had known it from the second he saw her lying there, unconscious. He had known it from the second he thought he could have lost her. He knew it was useless, that they could never be together, that this entire trip, this whole season down in London was so she could meet eligible young men whom she would inevitably be married off to eventually. It would not be him who she married, and as much as this fact hurt him, it did not stop him loving her with every single inch of his heart.

Chapter Text

August 1914

Lady Jemma fidgeted the entire train journey home from London. She had enjoyed her first season, but she was itching to be home already. She missed her books, there had been very little time to read or study or research at all whilst she had been in London, her time instead being filled with tea parties and balls and dinners. These were all very good, but after two weeks they all seemed to blur together and become one long and boring event. She had, after a lot of begging, finally got her Papa to agree to lift her punishment a week early, and she was allowed to go to the Natural History Museum by herself. She mostly suspected that both Daisy and Elena had begged Papa to lift her punishment, just so they didn’t have to go with her, but she was grateful all the same. She knew that the real point of this trip, though no one ever said it, was to introduce her to potential husbands, and she privately thought that she would rather end up a spinster, taking care of her parents in their old age rather than marry about ninety nine percent of the men she had been introduced to. There had been one man who had caught her attention, Antoine Tripplett. He was heir to his father’s estate, and fortune and title, and all those things her family cared about, but most importantly, he was interesting, and was genuinely curious when she mentioned that she was interested in science and biology. Most of the other men had run a country mile when she had brought that up, but not Antoine. She wasn’t sure she could love him, not enough to marry at least, but they certainly wouldn’t be unhappy together if it did ever come to that. But the main reason really, if she was being totally honest with herself, that she was so eager to get home again, was the prospect of seeing Fitz again. Whilst Antoine had been interested in her love of science, he didn’t share it, not like Fitz did. She couldn’t wait to see him and tell him everything that she saw at the Natural History Museum the other day.

“Jemma do sit still. We’re nearly there.” Lady Daisy whined, annoyed with her sister’s constant fidgeting.  

The second the train had stopped in their station, Lady Jemma jumped eagerly off and began looking around to see if she could catch a glimpse of Fitz. It took a few moments of everyone around her fussing about luggage and maids and the other servants they had brought with them, but eventually she saw him. Fitz was at the far end of the platform, at the luggage car, helping the porters with the family’s luggage. It was definitely him, Lady Jemma thought, smiling, she would know that green uniform anywhere.

“Did you have a good trip milady?” Fitz asked, as he helped her into the car a few moments later.

“Yes, yes I did, but I’m very happy to be home.” Lady Jemma smiled at him, as she climbed in after her sisters.

Fitz returned her smile as he shut the door behind her. Lady Jemma suppressed a grin as they drove off, knowing that she would get to say a proper hello to him later on.

              Lady Jemma was frustrated that she could not go and see Fitz the day the arrived back, her Mama had cornered her into helping with all the unpacking and by the time they were finished it was much to late to go and see anyone under any excuse. Lady Jemma was very happy the next day, when after breakfast, she excused herself to go on a walk, and skipped right down to the garages to see Fitz. He was there, as he always was, tinkering with some thing or another on the bench in the garages. This time he heard her approaching, and he looked up and smiled.

              “Good morning milady.” He smiled.

              “Good morning Fitz.” Jemma responded, beaming at him.

              “What can I do for you this morning milady?” He asked, walking towards her.

              “Oh, nothing in particular, I just wanted to say hello to you. Properly.” Jemma beamed.

Fitz couldn’t help the smile that spread across his face at her words.

“Would it be very wrong of me to say how much I missed you these last few months milady?” He asked almost breathlessly.

Jemma beamed, a blush creeping up her face.

“No, because then I wouldn’t be able to say how much I missed you.” She replied.

They smiled at each other for a few seconds, the late summer sunrise illuminating both of their faces.

“So, how was London milady?” Fitz asked finally, breaking the silence.

“It was alright. No one to make intelligent conversation with though.” Jemma mused.

“So, none of the suitors suited then?” Fitz asked with a small smile.

“No, not at all.” Jemma said, stopping short of saying ‘No, not in comparison to you.’.

“However, Papa did let me out of my punishment a little early and let me go to the Natural History Museum on Friday!” Jemma exclaimed, her face lighting up.

“Was it everything you hoped it would be milady?” Fitz asked.

“Oh, and more! They have the most wonderful collection, so many specimens from Darwin’s actual collection! There was everything from insects, to mammals, they even had a dinosaur skeleton in the entryway!” She exclaimed.

Then she was off. She described every little detail of her trip to Fitz, and he sat and listened in awe for what must have been half an hour.  He loved it when she went on and on like this, talking passionately about what she really truly cared about. He doubted very few people got to actually see this side of her, the happy, passionate Jemma Simmons who would quite happily talk about fish and their various biological makeups all day long if you let her.

“I’m sorry, I’ve been rambling on for ages.” Jemma said apologetically after a while.

“No, don’t apologise, I like hearing you talk about these things.” Fitz smiled.

“Still, I did go on quite a bit. How are you, did you manage to get up to Scotland to see your mother?” Jemma asked, genuinely interested.

“Yes, yes I did. Apparently, you lot aren’t feeding me enough, I’m too skinny according to her.” Fitz smiled.

Jemma burst into laughter and Fitz soon followed.

“Don’t let Mrs May or Mrs Hartley hear you say that, or you’ll regret it till you draw your last breath!” Jemma giggled.

“Don’t worry, I fully expect I’d get a thick ear if I repeated that anywhere near the kitchens.” Fitz laughed.

They laughed until they couldn’t anymore, and Jemma let out a long sigh.

“I should probably get back, I heard Mama saying something about the garden party. We’re raising funds for the village hospital and somehow I’ve been roped into helping.” Jemma sighed.

“It’s very good to have you back milady.” Fitz said with a smile, as Jemma turned to leave.

“Thank you. It’s very nice to see you again too.” Jemma smiled at him over her shoulder, before continuing up the hill, back to the house.

The next couple of weeks seemed to go by in a whirlwind. Lady Jemma was kept extremely busy by her mother, the garden party, and most importantly in her book, the task she had set herself of helping one of the housemaids, Piper, find a job as a secretary. Lady Jemma believed she was onto a winner this time. She had accosted the man who had come to install the telephone in the hall, after she had heard his company were looking for secretaries and told him all about Piper. Much to her delight, the man had been most interested, and encouraged her to apply as soon as possible. The day of the garden party dawned bright and sunny, Busse Abbey lit beautifully by the rising sun. Before her eyes even opened, Lady Jemma thought of about a million different things she needed to do before the garden party even started. She allowed herself one solitary moment of peace and solitude before shoving the covers off of herself and putting her feet on the floor. By the time the garden party started she felt as exhausted as she had before she’d gone to bed the previous evening. She grabbed a glass of champagne from one of the footmen and spotting Lady Elena at a table in the distance, made her way over to sit next to her.

“Why the long face?” Lady Elena asked, noticing her sister’s expression as she slumped down next to her.

“Nothing, I’m just tired. It’s been such a bother helping to organise all of this, but it’s so lovely to see it all come together and everyone enjoying themselves.” Lady Jemma replied, taking a swig from her champagne glass. 

They sat in companionable silence for a while, making the odd bits of small talk about the other guests, until Lady Jemma noticed the look of bemusement on her sisters’ face.

“Goodness, what on earth is he doing here?” Lady Elena chuckled, looking off into the distance behind Lady Jemma’s head.

Lady Jemma swivelled in her chair, and looked in the direction of Lady Elena’s gaze, until she saw, Fitz, coming right towards her, a wide grin on his face.

“Milady, milady! There’s been a phone call, in Mr Coulson’s office!” Fitz cried.

Lady Jemma immediately looked concerned.

“Well what is it? Is everything well?!” She asked quickly and seriously, standing up before him.

Fitz smiled.

“No nothing like that. The man from the telephone company called, the Mr Davis, he says Piper got the job!” Fitz exclaimed.

Lady Jemma let out a cry of happiness, before tugging his hand, and bolting off towards the marquee where the servants were all working. They spotted Piper in an instant and went running up to her.

“Piper! Piper! Mr Davis called; you’ve got the job! You’ve done it!” Lady Jemma exclaimed.

Piper nearly dropped the platter of little finger sandwiches she was holding. Hurriedly she put them down on the table next to her and enveloped both of them in a tight hug.

“I don’t believe it! Thank you so much milady! You’ve done so much to help me! Thank you, thank you!” Piper cried as she let the two of them go.

The jovial moment was broken by the sudden appearance of Mrs May, the housekeeper, behind them, looking serious as she always did.

“Something to celebrate?” She asked in a tone that wasn’t quite warm, but it wasn’t cold either.

“I got the job Mrs May! I’m going to be a secretary!” Piper squealed excitedly.

“I’m very happy for you Piper, and we’ll celebrate after the day’s work is done.” She said, a definite cool tone spread throughout her voice this time.

“Of course, Mrs May.” Piper smiled, running off to go and continue her work.   

Lady Jemma and Fitz shot each other a smile as Piper ran off, Mrs May watching them closely.

“Lady Jemma, Her Ladyship was asking after you.” Mrs May said quickly, eyeing the pair of them.

“Yes, of course. Thank you, Mrs May.” Lady Jemma replied politely before giving Fitz one last look and walking off in search of her mother.

Fitz watched her go with a kind of sad look on his face. He was never happy when she left his company these days. He went to walk back to the house, but Mrs May stopped him in his tracks.

“Be careful Fitz, or you’ll end up with no job and a broken heart.” Mrs May said softly.

“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean Mrs May.” Fitz replied matter-of-factly.

Mrs May just shook her head at him and let him past.  Fitz began to make his way back to the house when he heard Lord Shieldshire shout out, and from the tone of his voice, it did not sound as though he was about to make a jovial speech about the garden party.

“Please, will you stop, please!” He shouted across the front lawn.

“My lords, ladies and gentlemen, can I ask for silence? Because I very much regret to announce that we are at war with Germany.”

Chapter Text

August 1916

The past two years seem to have both flown by and been the longest two years that Lady Jemma had ever known. Slowly, every young man of her family’s acquaintance had been called up to the front. She’d received a few letters from Antoine Tripplet, he had been sent to France last year, and she was glad to think that any correspondence from her was helping to keep his spirits up. Much to her relief, Fitz had not been called up yet, and was still working at the house. She wasn’t sure if she could bear it if her one true friend in the world was killed in action. Lady Jemma couldn’t help but feel listless, she couldn’t bear to think of all of the men dying overseas when her life went on as normal. This feeling was reinforced even further one morning at the breakfast table. Her heart felt like it plummeted out of her chest and onto the floor as she read the letter from Antoine’s mother, telling her that he had been killed in action two weeks ago. Lord and Lady Shieldshire were busy discussing the concert they were putting on that evening to raise funds for the village hospital, and so did not notice her face fall as she read on. Lady Jemma suddenly felt sick, and pushed her plate away from her, before getting up and wandering off out into the garden, the letter still clutched in her hand. She went outside and walked around the grounds for she could not tell you how long, her mind swirling. How could she be sat here doing nothing, and Antoine was dead? When finally, she made her way back into the house, she ran into Mrs Campbell, Lincoln’s mother. Lincoln had volunteered last year and was now serving in France as an officer. There wasn’t a day went by when Mrs Campbell didn’t look slightly worried these days.

“Jemma, my dear what is the matter?” Mrs Campbell asked kindly, seeing her tear stained face as they passed.

“Antoine Triplett has been killed.” Lady Jemma said, hardly able to get the words out.

“Oh, my dear, I am sorry. What a terrible thing.” Mrs Campbell replied comfortingly.

“I remember him from one of my first balls during my first season. He made me laugh right as someone was making an important speech.” Lady Jemma mused sadly.

“Sometimes it feels like all the men I ever danced with are dead.” She continued, looking at the floor, willing the tears not to start again.

Mrs Campbell silently came over to her and wrapped her in a hug, and her body betrayed her, tears spilling out over her eyes again.

“I just feel so useless. I’m here wasting my life when men, good men, like Antoine are sacrificing theirs.” She sobbed into Mrs Campbell’s shoulder.

“There, there dear. You’ve been such a help with the concert.” Mrs Campbell said, as they broke apart, trying to sound comforting.

“I don’t mean doing things like helping with the concert I want to do a proper job! Real work.” Lady Jemma exclaimed.

“Well, if you’re serious, why not do something with that wonderful brain of yours that you’ve been curating all these years. Your main interest is in biology, isn’t it?” Mrs Campbell asked.

Lady Jemma nodded.

“If you are serious, why not become an auxiliary nurse? There’s a training college nearby and I’m sure I could get you a place on a course.” She explained.

Lady Jemma’s eyes lit up. A nurse, why had she not thought of that? Yes, that would be quite perfect. Mrs Campbell saw the look in her eyes and smiled.

“I’m afraid it may be a bit of a rough awakening. Have you ever made your own bed, for example? Or scrubbed a floor?”

Lady Jemma shook her head but was far from discouraged. This would be a real job, finally, for the first time in her life she would be in the real world, and she would be helping and learning about what she loved. She could finally go after her passion. It was not an ideal start, nothing that came from war was ideal, but it was something.

“Go on, what else would I need?” Lady Jemma asked eagerly.

“How about cooking? Why not ask Mrs Hartley if she could give you some tips? Maybe some lessons in the basics? When you get to the training program it might be useful to know a little bit more than nothing about these kinds of things.” Mrs Campbell suggested.

And that was how, the very next day, Lady Jemma found herself in the kitchen with Mrs Hartley, the cook, and a gaggle of kitchen maids, learning, for the very first time in her life, how to make tea. It was the most basic of basics, and Lady Jemma’s cheeks burned with embarrassment that she had never done this before, that she had never had to. She felt bad if she was being perfectly honest, what right did she have over anyone else to the life of privilege she had been brought up in? These thoughts continued over the next few days, as she not only continued her lessons with Mrs Hartley, but started shadowing some of the housemaids, getting their instruction on how to make a bed, and asking her maid to help her figure out how to get in and out of her clothes on her own, as she very much doubted that she would have a maid at the training college. Lady Jemma had hesitated about telling Fitz about her plans. She knew that this would mean more time away from him, and as much as she was excited about it, she wasn’t ready to face saying goodbye to him when she may not even have to. Mrs Campbell may not even be able to get her on a course, so no, there was no use in getting anyone’s hopes up before anything had actually happened. Much to her delight however, not a week after they had first spoken of it, Mrs Campbell gave Lady Jemma the good news when she was up for dinner one evening.

“By the way Jemma, very good news, they do have a vacancy.” Mrs Campbell smiled.

Lady Jemma beamed.

“It is very short noticed because someone dropped out. You’d have to be ready to start on Friday.” She continued.

“May I ask what this is about?” Lord Shieldshire interjected.

“Cousin Isabelle has got me a place at a training college, to become an auxiliary nurse.” Lady Jemma explained.

Silence fell over the dining room and both Lord and Lady Shieldshire were giving looks of both concern and disapproval. Lady Jemma shot them both a look of defiance. She was going to be a nurse whether her parents liked it or not.

              The next day, Lady Jemma twisted her hands as she made her way down to the garages. She knew she was going to have to tell Fitz eventually, but this course would mean being away for nearly three whole months. She gave herself a shake, she knew she would have to get used to him being gone, knowing that he was likely going to be called up any day now. It was a miracle that he hadn’t been called up yet, it seemed every young man of their acquaintance had been called up and shipped off to some part of the globe or other in the name of peace. Fitz smiled and gave her a small wave when he saw her coming.

              “Good morning milady.” Fitz smiled.

“Good morning Fitz.” Jemma smiled back, though it felt very false and she did not enjoy it at all.

“What can I do for you milady?” Fitz enquired.

Jemma hesitated. As much as she had worried about telling Fitz, she had still never come up with the right words to tell him that she was leaving. Fitz saw the look of worry on her face and sighed gently.

“I know that you’re leaving milady. The maids aren’t exactly the best at keeping secrets.” He explained softly.

Jemma let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding and gave him a sad smile.

“I was going to tell you. I just wanted to be sure it was actually going to happen first.” Jemma stuttered, not looking at him, instead looking down at her hands, still twisting them nervously.

“I’m very happy for you milady. You’re getting to go after your passion. This is what you’ve always wanted.” Fitz spoke with such warmth in his voice, his happiness for her being utterly genuine.

Jemma smiled at looked up at him. He was wearing a sort of sad smile on his face as he gazed at her. It was all incredibly endearing.

“Thank you. I’m rather excited actually. I wish the circumstances were different, but I’m so glad for the opportunity.” Jemma said, picking up slightly as she spoke.

“When do you leave?” Fitz asked quietly.


He looked almost taken aback by this.

“So soon?”

“Yes, I’m afraid it’s all been rather short notice. Mrs Campbell only put the idea into my head last week.” Jemma said, redirecting her eyes to the ground again.

“So, you’ll be needing the car then.” Fitz said stiffly.


She gave him one last look, though it was now his turn to play with his hands, not looking at her, before turning to leave. Jemma had not even taken a step before his voice stopped her.

“I really am happy for you milady.”

His voice was quiet and sincere and his hand twitched as he spoke, almost as if he had wanted to reach out and take her hand in his.

“Thank you Fitz.” She said softly, glancing at his hand before walking away.

She spent most of the walk back wondering what his hand would feel like in hers, not just helping her in and out of the car, both wearing gloves, but properly. His hands were nimble but calloused from the work he did with engines and such, so it would not be a soft encounter, Lady Jemma imagined, but she did think that it would be a comforting one.

              Friday came all too quickly. The week had been filled with much hemming and hawing from Lord Shieldshire, who was still not convinced that it was the best plan, whilst Lady Shieldshire accepted her fate more easily, and spent the week endlessly fussing over her youngest daughter. Lady Jemma ignored her fathers’ apprehensions and allowed her mother to fuss because she knew deep down, that this was her way of coping. Mrs Campbell had told her that the course would be quite intensive, and that she would have little or no time to come home and see the family during the course. Lady Shieldshire had taken that particularly hard, hence all of the fussing. When it was finally time for her to leave, Lady Shieldshire gave Lady Jemma a hug so tight that she thought that she would burst out of her corset.

“It’s only a couple of months Mama, I’ll still be able to write.” Lady Jemma reasoned once her Mama finally released her from her vice-like grip.

Lady Shieldshire just looked at her with tears in her eyes.

“I know, it’s just you are the first of my babies to leave the nest.” She said with a watery smile.

Lady Jemma smiled at her Mama, squeezing her hand one last time before getting into the car, where Fitz was waiting diligently to take her away. Lady Jemma waved back at her Mama for as long as she remained in sight, tears unexpectedly filling her eyes when at last the house and her Mama were out of sight. Fitz remained silent as the tears fell down her face, but silently passed back a handkerchief, which elicited a small smile from her. The silence continued until they reached the training college, Fitz helping her in with her bags. As she entered the courtyard her first shock hit her and the reality of what she was doing truly sunk in. There were men doing exercises in the small yard, some had no legs, or no arms or hands, some had faces so badly scorched that they hardly looked like faces anymore. Jemma took in a sharp breath when she saw them, but she knew this was just the beginning. She knew she would see far worse things than this, but she was ready for it.

“It will be hard to let you go, my last link with home. And we’ve become such good friends these last few years” Jemma smiled at Fitz as he put down her cases.

It was then Fitz’s turn to take in a sharp breath. He seemed to decide something in that moment, and let out a deep breath almost as quickly as he had taken one in.

“Yes well, you’re more than that to me, Jemma.” He said very quickly, looking deep into her eyes.

Jemma was taken aback. She had never expected this, not here, not now, not ever. More than that, this was the first time he had ever said her name. It sounded musical, almost magical on his lips, his Scottish lilt making it sound like the most precious and beautiful thing anyone had ever uttered.

“Fitz…” She breathed.

“I know I shouldn’t say it, but I cannot keep it in any longer.”

Jemma just stared at him. This was the chauffeur; he was the chauffeur. She had long ago squashed her crush on him, knowing nothing could happen and she thought he had done the same, but here he was, standing in front of her, with those beautiful blue eyes of his, declaring his love for her.

“I’ve told myself, and told myself you’re too far above me, but things are changing, Jemma.” He continued.

Again, he spoke her name as though it was the dearest thing in the world to him.

“When the war is over the world won’t be the same place as it was when it started. And I’ll make something of myself I promise.”

“I know you will!” Jemma exclaimed, not knowing what to think.

“Then bet on me. If your family casts you out that’s their problem. They’ll come around eventually, and until they do, I promise that I will spend every waking moment of my life devoted to your happiness and to your passion for what you do. I want to do everything in my power to help you and, if you’ll let me, love you, whilst I do.”

He continued to look at her with such love in his eyes. Had he always looked at her this way, Jemma wondered and if he had, how had she always missed it? It was so intense, so powerful, she felt she couldn’t look away. But he was the chauffeur, they were only friends. He couldn’t love her; Papa would kill him. Did she love him? She wasn’t sure. All of this and a million more thoughts flew through Jemma’s head in about a second.

“I’m- I’m terribly flattered.” She managed to sputter eventually.

“Don’t say that.” Fitz said quickly, all colour and happiness draining from his face in an instant.

“Why not?”

“Because ‘flattered’ is a word people use when they’re getting ready to say no.” He said with such sadness in his voice.

“That sounds more like you.” Jemma said with a half-hearted smile.

“Please, don’t make fun of me.” Fitz said seriously.

“It has cost me everything I have to speak to you in this way.”

Jemma stayed silent, still to shocked to even think anything, let alone respond in even a basely intelligent manner.

“Right then. I’ll go. I’ll hand in my notice and I won’t be there when you get back.” Fitz said with such resignation.

No. That was the last thing Jemma wanted. She had resigned herself to spending the next three months without him, but not forever. She could not manage forever.

“No! Don’t do that, Fitz please!” She exclaimed, not a second after he had spoken.

“I must. They won’t let me stay when they’ve heard the things I’ve said.” He said sadly.

How could he think that’d she’d tell on him? Did he even know her at all, Jemma thought, almost furiously. But he wasn’t in his right mind, neither of them were, not in this moment.

“They won’t hear, not from me.” Jemma said softly.

Fitz looked at her, almost in amazement. He placed his hat back on his head and tipped it at her.

“Thank you, milady.” He said stiffly.

‘Milady’ felt so stiff, so proper, now that Jemma had heard him use her proper name.

“Goodbye Fitz.” She breathed.

“Goodbye, milady.”

And with that, he walked off. Lady Jemma’s head was spinning as she watched him go. Fitz loved her. He wanted them to have a life together, to get married, to run away from Mama and Papa and Daisy and Elena and start anew somewhere, together. Lady Jemma felt as if she had been dreaming. She needed to seriously examine her heart, to find out where Fitz was placed within it. Could she love him? Could she abandon her entire life, her family, everything she held dear, for him? Could she marry him? This was going to be a very, very long three months, Lady Jemma thought, as she picked up her cases and headed for the trainee’s dormitory.

Chapter Text

April 1917

              The past nine months had been the most eye-opening, exhilarating, and educational of Lady Jemma Simmons’s life. Since finishing her nursing course, the past October, she had been working at the village hospital, and oh the things she had seen. She could never have imagined in her wildest nightmares some of the injuries that she had seen. At the same time, and she tried not to show it too much, she was so thrilled to be learning so much. Assisting and observing the doctor in his treatments of the soldiers had taught her so much more than her books ever could have. Her previous studies had helped her in her course, and she understood, more than she thought even the doctor realised, what went into every procedure, every treatment, how the body would react to medication, how an even slightly altered chemical composition changed how a drug would perform completely. She still tried to keep up her studies in her spare time, but she spent as much time as they would let her down at the hospital. This frustrated her Mama to no end, and Lady Jemma heard many grumbles about how the doctor was taking advantage and overworking her. Lady Jemma would simply roll her eyes at these comments, before flouncing out of the door, straightening her uniform as she went.

Much to her surprise and delight, Fitz was still in the household when she returned from her training. She had thought a lot about his declaration as he dropped her off that day, and it had taken her three months to come to the conclusion that she did not know what to think. She knew that she cared for him very much, more than in just a friendly manner, and she often lay awake at night trying to picture what a life with him would be like. This picture always made her feel warm, and happy and safe, and every night, she would drift off to sleep with a smile on her face, dreaming of little Scottish cottages and children with blue eyes. If he had a name, or a title, she would run away with him tomorrow, but he did not, and she could not, no matter how much she willed herself to want to, give up her family. Her Mama, her Papa and her sisters, they were the world to her, and cutting herself off from them would feel like cutting away a limb. But would it be worth it, for a life with Fitz? This was the question she could never quite answer, not satisfactorily. Her Papa would hit the roof if she ran away with the chauffeur, that much she knew, and she could not bare the look of upset and disappointment that would paint her Mama’s face. So, she had decided to put all of that to one side and resolved to not make any lasting decisions until the war was over for good. Until then, she filled her life with her nursing, and her studies. She could not avoid Fitz, not completely, he drove her to and from the hospital every day, and was occasionally sent by Lady Shieldshire, commanding her to come home for dinner, or with food parcels, her poor Mama worrying that she wasn’t eating during her long shifts. Lady Jemma had not gone down to see Fitz at the garage like she used to since she had come back from her training. The loud rational voice in her head reasoned that it was because she had been so busy since she had arrived home, but a small traitorous voice at the back of her head told her that it was because she was avoiding Fitz. She was contemplating all of this one evening as she got ready for dinner, her Mama having threatened to come and get her from the hospital herself if she did not appear. She must have looked dazed, as her maid, Barbara, though she should call her Morse, she had never really gotten used to the change after she’d been promoted from a housemaid to a lady’s maid, enquired after her.

“Are you quite well milady?” Barbara asked as she neatened up Lady Jemma’s hair.

“Yes, I’m fine, thank you.” Lady Jemma said, unconvincingly.

“Are you sure? You just looked a million miles away there, milady.” Barbara enquired.

“It’s nothing, I’m sure.” Lady Jemma said, pausing to think.

“Tell me, is Fitz though well of downstairs?” She asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“The chauffeur? Yes, Fitz is very well-liked downstairs. It’ll be a shame when he gets called up, he’s good fun, and a very kind man. He and Hunter, His Lordship’s valet, get on like a house on fire.” Barbara replied with an almost knowing smile.

Lady Jemma smiled. It was so good to hear about Fitz, even though they weren’t exactly on speaking terms.

“He asks after you an awful lot milady.” Barbara said, trying to sound casual, as she finished up fixing Lady Jemma’s hair.

“Does he?” Lady Jemma replied, trying and failing to sound surprised.

Barbara gave her a look which Lady Jemma knew meant she had not been successful. Lady Jemma let out a long sigh, before placing her face in her hands.

“We were friends for a long time, since he came here, but now…” she trailed off, looking at Barbara in the mirror of her dressing table.

“What changed milady, if I may be so bold as to ask?” Barbara enquired.

“When he dropped me off at my nursing course last year, he, he, he said…”

Barbara’s eyes widened with understanding.

  “Ah, those three little words.”

Lady Jemma smiled.

“No, not quite.”

“And you don’t feel the same way?” Barbara asked, tentatively.

“That’s the thing, I don’t know. And if I did, I don’t know if I could give up my life, my family for him, would I be worth it? I feel awful, stringing him along like this. The only reason he’s still here is because I asked him to stay, because I couldn’t bear to give him up.” Lady Jemma said quickly.

She’d been keeping all of this in for so long, it all just seemed to spill out now, like a dam waiting to burst.

“Milady, it sounds to me as though you care for him very much. And as for if it would be worth it, I’m not sure you can ever be sure of that until everything is done and settled.” Barbara said comfortingly, patting Lady Jemma on the shoulder.

“Thank you, Barbara. I’ve had all of this pent up in my mind for so long, I didn’t know how much I needed to talk about it, thought it should go without saying that none of this leaves this room. The last thing, the very last thing I want is for Papa to find out and dismiss him, though I think he may shoot him first.” Lady Jemma said with a small smile.

“Of course, milady. I shan’t tell a soul. As I said, Fitz is well liked downstairs, the last thing anyone would want would be to see him dismissed and disgraced just because he was a human with feelings.”

Lady Jemma sighed a deep sigh of relief. She knew Barbara was a good sort, and that she would keep her word. It did truly feel as though a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders, Lady Jemma thought as she walked down the staircase to dinner. It wasn’t as if anything had been resolved, but it had been so good to talk about it with another soul, one who wouldn’t judge her or chide her, or chase after Fitz with torches and pitchforks.

                             The next week or so was a blur. The hospital was getting so many men in, that they simply just could not cope anymore. There was nowhere for men to convalesce once they had begun to recover from their injuries. The doctor had tentatively asked if there was any chance that Busse Abbey could become a convalescent home, just whilst the war was on. Lady Jemma could not have thought of a better idea herself and had encouraged the doctor as much as she could to go and ask Lord Shieldshire. In the meantime, however they still had an influx of men coming in who badly needed their help. Unhelpfully, one afternoon Lady Shieldshire had sent Fitz down with some food, just as trucks of injured men arrived.

“Is it what you thought it would be like?” Fitz asked quietly, after Jemma had dismissed the food her Mama had sent.

“No. It’s more savage and more cruel than I could have possibly imagined. But for the first time in my life I actually feel useful and I can see the good I’m doing, and that’s what I enjoy.” Jemma replied as she bustled about, trying to settle the new patients in.

“So, you wouldn’t go back, to your life before the war?” Fitz asked tentatively, trying very hard to not allow himself to hope.

“No, no I could never go back to that life again. I don’t want to feel pointless again.” Jemma responded, still not paying full attention to him.

If she had been paying attention, she would have noticed the look of awe and of hope that spread across Fitz’s face. He knew what this could mean, that Jemma was ready for a different kind of life after the war, one that he knew he could give her. He stood and watched her for a moment, gazing in awe at her as she worked. She was truly in her element here and it was a joy to watch. After a moment, Fitz was ushered out by one of the other nurses, saying he was getting in the way. He took one last glance back at her, allowing himself a single second to think how beautiful she looked before allowing himself to be pushed out of the room.

Chapter Text

Lady Jemma had been expecting it. She didn’t know how it had taken so long, if she was being absolutely honest with herself. She had almost forgotten completely about it, what with the hustle and bustle of turning the house into a convalescent home over the past few weeks. It still did not prepare her to hear the words she had so long dreaded one morning at breakfast.

“I thought Your Lordship would like to know that Fitz finally got his papers this morning.” Coulson said to Lord Shieldshire as he sorted the breakfast things one autumn morning.

Lady Jemma dropped her fork and had to immediately bite back a sob. She hadn’t exactly advertised her friendship with Fitz to the rest of her family, and had been even more reluctant to do so after his words last summer.

“Are you quite well my dear?” Lord Shieldshire asked, looking sharply from Coulson to Lady Jemma.

“Yes, quite, I just, I just, thought I saw a spider on the other side of the room.” Lady Jemma replied, thinking quickly.

Lord Shieldshire gave her a look of concern, before turning back to Coulson.

“I’m surprised it took this long for them to get to Fitz. Did they tell him when he would be leaving?” He asked, picking up his newspaper.

“No, My Lord, he’s to report for his medical on Friday and he’ll receive his orders from there.” Coulson said in his usual matter-of-fact manner.

Lady Jemma wasn’t sure if they said anything else after that. It felt like there was an incessant ringing in her ears, that there was someone clutching at her throat, making it impossible to speak or breathe, and hot dread sunk to the bottom of her stomach, burning her insides as it dropped down. Quietly, she managed to excuse herself, and all but ran past the other nurses and patients in the hall, going directly for the garages. She felt the tears threatening to fall over her eyes, and her jaw shook with holding them back. She couldn’t think. She just had to see him. He was in his brown overalls, washing the cars as she ran down the hill towards him.

“Is it true?” She asked breathlessly, not stopping for a second before she spoke.

“Is it true you’ve been called up? I heard Coulson telling Papa and I just, I had to know.” She said, her voice shaking, clutching her chest where her corset was restricting her breathing.

Fitz gave her a look of utter sorrow, confirming her worst fears. She didn’t try and hold back the sob this time.

“Fitz.” She gasped, reaching out and taking his hand.

“I don’t want you to die.” She said, tears finally dripping down her face.

Fitz gave a small smile.

“I don’t want to die either. But you don’t have to worry about me.” He said softly.

Jemma just looked at him with an expression of watery confusion.

“This isn’t my war; it isn’t Scotland’s war and I won’t be fighting in it.” He said, squeezing her hand.  

Jemma dropped his hand and stared at him in disbelief.

“You’re not going to object, are you? Fitz you’ll go to prison, you’ll have a record for the rest of your life.” Jemma said, even more worried than before.

“No, I’m not going to object. They’ll reject me on medical grounds, and I’m glad for it.” Fitz sighed.

“I don’t understand.”

Fitz sighed, before leaning on the hood of the car and looking at her.

“Before I came here, I was in a bad accident. I was a passenger in a horse and cart, and we were on a bridge and the horse got spooked by something, and it threw me, the driver and the cart into the river below. My trousers got caught on something on the cart and I got dragged down with it. I tried to free myself, but I couldn’t. And that’s the last thing I remember before I blacked out. I woke up in hospital a week later, some local man had seen what happened and dragged me out. When I woke up, I couldn’t speak properly, and I had a terrible shake in my right hand. It still trembles sometimes, and you’ll have noticed that I sometimes stumble over my speech. The doctors don’t know how I’m still alive, but they definitely will not let me go off to war when I can’t even speak or hold a weapon properly. So, you don’t need to worry about me milady, I won’t die. I already did that once and clearly; I didn’t care for it.” Fitz finished with a small smile.

“Fitz.” Jemma breathed.

“Please, don’t feel sorry for me milady. I don’t get into the habit of telling many people about it. I don’t want the pity.” Fitz said plainly.

Jemma just looked at him with utter sadness in her face.

“I am sorry it happened to you; I won’t deny it. I’ve read about oxygen deprivation, it’s awful. You’re lucky to be alive. I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Jemma said softly.

“Don’t be. It’s getting me out of fighting in a war I have no interest in fighting in in the first place, with little effort or dramatics on my part. I’m almost grateful. Besides, if it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have ended up here. I was due to start a job at the docks you see, as an engineer, but then the accident happened, and I couldn’t do that job anymore. The doctor suggested I learn how to drive to get some of my coordination back, and it meant I could still use what engineering skills I had. Without it, I never would have met you.” Fitz concluded, flushing slightly red at his last statement.

“I’m so glad to have met you Fitz. And I’m so glad that you’re not going to prison or be killed or maimed in this horrible, horrible war.” Jemma said soothingly.

She looked up at him and was suddenly startled to see him so close. He went to reach out for her hand before they were interrupted by a voice in the distance.

“Nurse Simmons! Mrs Campbell is wondering where you are! Your shift was supposed to start ten minutes ago!” One of the nurses shouted down the hill.

They sprung apart, the second they heard her voice, and Jemma wiped away the tears she hadn’t realised were still falling down her face. Jemma smiled at Fitz quickly before backing away and up the hill to the house. She was tired of these interruptions. Was she never to be allowed more than ten minutes to speak to him without being interrupted these days? How on earth was she supposed to figure out how she felt, or what she was going to do when she was hardly able to spend five minutes in his company without some interruption or other. She was just so glad that so far, none of those interruptions had been either of her sisters, or, god forbid, Mama or Papa.

              A week later, Lady Jemma had hardly seen Fitz again, she had been so busy working, but she knew he had gone for his medical, as she had heard Lord Shieldshire discussing it with Coulson at breakfast one morning. Luckily, she happened upon him one morning as she was helping to bring in supplies with the other nurses. He had parked the car at the front of the house, waiting for Lord Shieldshire. He was leaning against the bonnet of the car, a wide grin on his face when she noticed him. She excused herself from the other nurses and went over to him.

“Are you waiting for Papa? Do you want me to go and find him?” Jemma asked as she walked over.

Fitz shook his head, still smiling.

“I haven’t seen you smile like that in a while. Is there any particular reason for it?” Jemma asked, mimicking his wide smile.

Instead of replying, Fitz leaned over into the driver’s seat and pulled out a letter and began to read from it.

“‘Dear Mr Fitz

We regret to inform you that due to your prior accident, and resultant injuries due to hypoxia, that you are not fit for service in His Majesty's Army at this time.’” Fitz read, throwing the letter over his shoulder and back onto the driver’s seat when he was finished.

“Well that’s the news you were hoping for wasn’t it!” Jemma smiled.

“Yes milady. I can continue serving as the chauffeur without fear that I’ll be in the trenches this time next week.” Fitz marvelled, his blue eyes bright as he looked at her.

“I’m so happy for you.” Jemma beamed.

“I have been wondering though, why did you never…” Jemma started.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, but we’re going to have to step on it.” Lord Shieldshire said, appearing out of nowhere.

Fitz jumped to open the car door for him and shot Lady Jemma one last smile before driving off, leaving her standing there, happy for him, but still completely and utterly confused about him and how she felt towards him. He was an odd duck, she thought, but that’s what made him all the more endearing. She knew that, reasonably, she should be trying to rid all thoughts such as these out of her head, to try and forget everything that he had said to her, to remember that he was the chauffeur, but somehow, she just couldn’t. Lady Jemma could not banish the feeling that Fitz had been brought into her life for a reason, that somehow, all of this was always meant to happen. Lady Jemma just wondered how it was all supposed to turn out in the end.

Chapter Text

After Fitz had been rejected from the Army, it felt as if the awkwardness that had existed between them since Fitz’s declaration had disappeared. Lady Jemma was glad for this, she had hated not speaking to him, especially now, especially with everything she was doing and seeing on a regular basis. Lady Jemma had gotten into the habit of going down to see him during her breaks. They spoke about everything, from Lady Jemma’s work, to her hopes for after the war, to Fitz’s interest in engineering, his ideas for designs and contraptions. For those small moments of time, Lady Jemma felt as though she did before the war, optimistic, and passionate, full of hope for the future and the possibilities it held. Fitz made her feel as though those ideas were possible again, and it was so refreshing to once again have someone who understood her, without looking at her as if she had just grown three heads whenever she wanted to talk about science. There was one thing that had been playing on her mind, she had almost brought it up the day he’d been rejected from the army.

“Fitz, why did you never tell my father about your accident? He’s a very good man, he wouldn’t have minded, in fact he may have tried to find you some more help, if you had wanted it.” Jemma asked tentatively one day, as Fitz tinkered with the car.

Fitz sighed and turned to look at her.

“It’s like I told you, I didn’t want the pity. Lord Shieldshire is a kind man, I know that now, but I didn’t when I applied. I was capable of doing the job, and it didn’t seem to matter anymore, not like when I first started and could still hardly say a word without stumbling or faltering.” He explained.

“But, why do you stay here, now that you’re better? Your hand doesn’t shake so much, and I cannot remember the last time you stuttered with your words. Why don’t you go and pursue your love of engineering, the things you’ve told me, the ideas you have, you could change the world and end the war in an afternoon!” Jemma exclaimed.

“I don’t know what I want to do, but I don’t want to contribute to this war. The last thing I want is to make something that could be used to kill. If I could make a bomb that just knocked people out for a half an hour, I would! I don’t want to kill anyone. But I have other reasons for staying here you know I do.” Fitz said, not looking at her.

Jemma just blinked at him for a moment before she realised what he meant.

“The truth is, I’ll stay here until you agree to run away with me.” He said softly, looking up at her with those clear blue eyes of his.

Jemma couldn’t think what to say. She began to try and say something, but all that came put was splutters.

“I cannot be certain, but I think that you’re in love with me too. You love your family too much to face leaving them right now I know, but as I said all those months ago, the world is changing, houses like this won’t last forever once the war is over. Bet on me, bet on the life we could have together, Jemma.” He uttered her name the same way he had all those months ago, when he had said it for the very first time, like it was the most precious and sacred thing anyone had ever said.

His utterance of her name again made Jemma feel suddenly very warm right to her very toes. She did not have much time to ruminate on this however, as Lady Daisy’s voice sailed down the hill towards them.

“Fitz! Could you take me into town at three?” Lady Daisy called down to him.

“Yes, of course milady.” Fitz nodded, moving quickly away from Lady Jemma.

Lady Daisy turned swiftly to look at her sister, a cool, but concerned look on her face.

“I’m going into town to get some things for Mama, do you need anything?” Lady Daisy asked, her voice as cool as her expression.

Lady Jemma gulped slightly, feeling as though she had been caught doing something very wrong indeed, and was now being chided for it.

“Nothing you can get in town.” Lady Jemma murmured, as she turned on her heel and walked away from both Fitz and her sister, her face red and a guilty feeling lining the very pit of her stomach.

That evening, as she was getting ready for dinner, Lady Jemma was going over it all in her head. She’d resolved that she would have to talk to Daisy. She knew what her sister was like, and she had probably guessed, with alarming accuracy, exactly what had been happening at the garage between her and Fitz earlier in the day. No sooner had she thought this than Daisy appeared at her bedroom door.

“Barbara said you were honouring us with your presence at dinner.” Lady Daisy said with a knowing smile.

“It’s easier when I have shifts here rather than at the hospital and I can always change back into my uniform if I’m needed.” Lady Jemma replied, not looking directly at her sister.

“What were you talking to Fitz about, when I came down to the garage this afternoon?” Lady Daisy asked casually.

Lady Daisy had always been blessed with the talent of being able to tactically change the topic of conversation to suit her and was clearly using it to her advantage here.

“Nothing.” Lady Jemma lied.

“It didn’t look like nothing. Why were you there then?” Lady Daisy scoffed, coming around to stand behind her sister.

“Why were you there?!” Lady Jemma demanded defensively, spinning round swiftly to look at her sister.

“Because I was ordering the motor. It is why you talk to the chauffeur isn’t it?” Lady Daisy said in an annoyingly casual tone.

“He is a person. He can talk about more than just cars.” Lady Jemma huffed, looking down at her hands as she pulled on her dinner gloves.

“I’m sure he can, but not with you.” Lady Daisy stated, her voice beginning to sound cold.

Lady Jemma couldn’t say why but these words filled her with anger. Whether it was the implication that Fitz wasn’t an actual person, or that he should be forbidden from speaking of anything but what his job required him, but it made her blood boil.

“What do you want me to say? That we’re having some illicit affair? That he’s seduced me and we’re going to run away together? No. He’s interested in science, no one else in this house is. He’s the only person with which I can have an intelligent conversation about these things.” Lady Jemma cried.

Lady Daisy raised her eyebrow in disbelief.

“Don’t jump down my throat Jemma, I just want what’s best for you. I am on your side!” Lady Daisy exclaimed.

“Then be on my side!” Lady Jemma snapped, before pushing past her sister and out of the room.

 Lady Jemma was still fuming when they all sat down to dinner about a half hour later. She focused her attention purely on her food, not giving any notice to anything anyone was saying. It was only when her grandmother, who was sitting next to her, said her name, that she began to pay any notice to anything anyone was saying.

“So, Jemma dear, what are you up to these days?” Her grandmother enquired kindly.

“Oh, just working Granny, doing a bit of studying when I can. I don’t really have time for anything else.” Lady Jemma replied.

“Only Daisy and I were just talking about you.” Her grandmother continued.

“Oh?” Lady Jemma responded, before twisting her head to shoot daggers at Lady Daisy, sitting on her other side.

Lady Daisy gave her a look of complete innocence, mouthing ‘I didn’t say anything.’, before turning back to her grandmother.

“Yes, you see, sometimes in war, one can make friendships that aren’t quite appropriate and can be awkward later on. I mean we’ve all done it!” Her grandmother mused, not really paying attention to the look of disbelief on Lady Jemma’s face.

Her grandmother prattled on, saying something about war and how it seems to break down the boundaries of social class temporarily, but Lady Jemma was not listening. She wasn’t angry anymore, no, she was hurt. Hurt that her own sister could rat her out to her grandmother like this and make her the subject of a public scolding like a naughty child. In front of the servants and everything. Surely Granny would have more tact that than, Lady Jemma thought. She knew Lady Daisy would try and catch her after dinner, and speak to her about it, but she feigned a headache and sped upstairs as soon as dinner was finished, too upset to talk to anyone. If Lady Daisy had told Granny what she suspected, then Granny would tell Papa and then Fitz would be put out onto the street, with no reference and he would be destitute, and more importantly, she would never see him again. How could it have all come to this, Lady Jemma thought as she tossed and turned in her bed, sleep evading her no matter how much she tried to will it to come.

The next day Lady Jemma did her best to avoid Lady Daisy, still not ready to talk to her, but it was proving difficult as her shift was in the house today. Eventually, Lady Daisy managed to corner her when she was collecting bandages from one of the make-shift store cupboards.

“Jemma, I didn’t tell Granny anything, I swear.” Lady Daisy whispered as soon as she shut the door, closing the two of them in.

“Then why did she start suddenly talking about inappropriate friendships out of nowhere?” Lady Jemma demanded, not looking at her sister, still busying herself with the bandages.

“She thinks you must have some man or other in your interests, and if you’re not telling us about him there must be a reason. It’s just Granny being Granny, don’t let her upset you.” Daisy reasoned.

There was a moment’s silence where Lady Jemma said nothing, and to Lady Daisy she took that as a confirmation of her suspicions.

“Unless she is right?” Lady Daisy said quietly, a small smile forming on her face.

Lady Jemma stayed silent still.

“I knew it!” Lady Daisy exclaimed.

Lady Jemma shot her a look that could kill, and she quietened down.

“I still don’t deserve to be told off, not by her or by you. Nothing’s happened” Lady Jemma asserted, returning to pointlessly organising the bandages.

Lady Daisy raised an eyebrow.

“Why, what could have happened?” She asked, trying desperately not to smile.

“Nothing. Nothing’s happened, we haven’t kissed or anything, I don’t even think I’ve shaken his hand.” Lady Jemma rambled, finally ditching the bandages and turning to face her sister.

Lady Daisy couldn’t help the grin that was on her face now.

“We are still talking about…” She trailed off.

“Fitz, yes.” Lady Jemma whispered.

“Fitz, the chauffeur, Fitz?!” Lady Daisy exclaimed, unable to keep her voice from slowing rising in volume with each word.

 Lady Jemma shushed her, her eyes going frantically to the door, making sure that they were actually alone.

“Jemma oh my god!” Lady Daisy whispered frantically, causing Lady Jemma to shush her again.

“Sorry, I’m just trying to get my head around it. You and the chauffeur?” Daisy said in quiet disbelief.

“Daisy, you know I don’t care about all that.” Lady Jemma reasoned.

Lady Daisy just rolled her eyes.

“Jemma do be serious. You can’t marry the chauffeur, for one I’m not sure we could get Fitz down the aisle without Papa shooting him first!” Daisy exclaimed, trying and failing to keep her voice as quiet as she could.

“Don’t be silly. I’m not even sure I’d do it.”

At this statement Lady Daisy looked less amused and positively taken aback.

“Do what?! What has he said to you?”

“That he loves me and that he wants me to run away with him.” Lady Jemma replied plainly.

“Oh my god.” Lady Daisy uttered.

“He’s very sure of himself.”

“You don’t say!” Lady Daisy said, her wry smile returning to her face.

“I haven’t said anything to him. I haven’t even encouraged him really. He says I’m in love with him, but I’m really not sure.” Lady Jemma sighed.

Lady Daisy looked at her sister for one moment, knowing instantly that she was not being entirely truthful with her.

“Yes, you are.” She said, almost teasingly.

Lady Jemma’s face fell, knowing she had been caught.

“You haven’t given him away.” Lady Daisy reasoned.

“That doesn’t mean I’m in love with him! It just means I don’t want him to lose his job! Please don’t give him away Daisy please, I would hate for him to be dismissed and disgraced.” Lady Jemma cried.

“I won’t, just promise me you won’t do anything stupid, or I will tell Papa, or worse I will actually tell Granny and then all hell will break loose, more than it already has been these last few years.” Lady Daisy threatened.

“I promise.” Lady Jemma murmured, looking from her feet to her sister.

“Now, that’s the serious bit out of the way. Do you want to talk about how handsome he is for hours and hours? You know, out of the three of us, you would have been the last I would have guessed to have had an illicit affair with the chauffeur.” Lady Daisy said with a smile.

Lady Jemma couldn’t help but laugh. This was more the Daisy that she knew and loved. She hated it when her older sisters got serious with her, especially Daisy. She knew Daisy wouldn’t rat her out, not now. It was almost a relief to have someone in the family know, it wasn’t like she could just run downstairs and drag poor Barbara away from her work every time she needed to talk about this, frankly insane situation that she found herself in.

              As the rest of Lady Jemma’s day went by, she couldn’t help but think that she needed to tell Fitz that Lady Daisy knew. She was her sister and she loved her very much, but she also believed that Fitz should be in full possession of the facts, just as she was. They were equals in everything but class, and Lady Jemma couldn’t bear that to change. Lady Jemma managed to sneak away just before dinner, finding Fitz alone inside the garage, reading the newspaper by lamplight.

“Any good news?” she asked, leaning on the door of the garage.

Fitz looked up and smiled when he saw it was her.

“Not particularly, and especially not if you’re Russian.” Fitz replied.

“What a good thing we’re British then.” Jemma smiled, twisting her hands nervously.

“Fitz, there’s something you should know.” Jemma blurted before he could respond.

Immediately, Fitz looked worried.

“I’ve told Daisy.” She said quickly, getting it out before she had a chance to stop herself.

Fitz relaxed slightly and let out a heavy sigh.

“I see. Well that’s me finished then, and without a reference.” He said with a tone of deep resignation.

“No, she’s not like that! Daisy would never give us away.” Jemma said quickly, eager to defend her sister.

“But she won’t encourage us?” Fitz asked.

“No, not exactly.” Jemma said quietly.

Fitz smiled, and Jemma was confused. She thought Fitz might be upset, angry even that she had told Jemma, but here he was, looking happier than she had seen him in a very long time.

“Why are you smiling?” She asked, slightly worried.

“Because that’s the first time you’ve talked about us.” Fitz said happily.

Jemma couldn’t help the blush that rose up her face at his words. She hadn’t even realised, but she had begun to think of them as an ‘us’ for a while now, it just took Fitz pointing it out for her to realise it.

“If you didn’t care you would have told them months ago.” He said softly.

“But I do care!” Jemma exclaimed before she could stop herself.

“I could explode with how much I care. But there’s a war on! I’m not thinking straight, nobody is! I cannot abandon my family! Not now!” She cried.

“And leaving your family is to high a price to pay?” Fitz asked, beginning to look hurt.

“It is very high! I love them. I could not give them up.” Jemma repeated.

“You wouldn’t have to give them up forever. If they are as good as you say they are they will come round. And when they do, I will have no hesitation in welcoming them with open arms.” Fitz argued.

“But what about your people? Would they welcome me? How would your mother react if you told her you ran away with His Lordship’s daughter?!” Jemma argued back.

Fitz gave a small laugh at this, which annoyed her.

“Honestly, my mother would probably give me a clip around the ear and a telling off like I was thirteen and caught kissing a girl behind the docks.” He replied, trying very, very hard not to smile.

“What it comes down to, Jemma, is whether or not you love me.” Fitz continued, after he had managed to compose himself a little.

“That’s it. That’s all that should matter! The rest is just detail.” He said softly, looking at her with so much love in his eyes, Jemma felt as though she could ignite with the intensity of it all.

“I should get back.” Jemma said quietly, gazing down at her hands.

Fitz nodded silently and backed away, going to pick his newspaper up again.

“Goodnight Fitz.” She said softly as she reached the garage door.

“Goodnight milady.” He said coldly from behind his newspaper.

Tears fell down her face as she walked slowly up to the house. She had upset him by keeping him at bay yet again, for finding reasons that they could not be together. In so many ways she wanted to say yes, to run away to Gretna Green tomorrow with him, but she couldn’t. She had a life, and a family who she loved. She couldn’t give them up, not whilst the very country they lived in was fighting for its freedom and its liberty. She could not face disappointing them.

Chapter Text

August 1918

Lady Jemma had remained upset at Fitz for a while after their last conversation, avoiding him where she could, even walking to the hospital during the cold winter months, much to Lady Shieldshire’s annoyance, just to keep away from him. She’d needed time to think, to understand her own head and heart before she could give him a definite yes or no. The most important thing she realised was that she missed him, even though they lived in the same house, and saw each other pretty regularly, it was more than that. She missed his company, the way his eyes lit up when he saw her, when he talked of the things he was passionate about, when he talked of his home in Scotland. At some point earlier in the year, Lady Jemma had begun having a recurring dream about them. They were living in a cottage, up in Scotland. It looked like something out of a fairy-tale, with a thatched roof, a wild, but beautiful garden, and plants that crawled up the sides of the house. Sometimes they were newlyweds, Fitz laughing as he lifted her over the threshold. Sometimes they were old, holding each other’s hand’s gently, as Jemma’s head rested on his shoulder, as they sat outside in their garden. Sometimes there were children, their children. Sometimes Jemma was cradling a new-born, gazing down into its familiar blue eyes as Fitz pottered about in the garden. Sometimes there were many of them, and they ran to attack Fitz as he came home from working, smiling and laughing as they bring him down and roll around with him in the grass, Jemma watching happily from the doorway. Lady Jemma always woke from these dreams with a sweat, gasping, and her heart falling when she realised it wasn’t real. It was nearly mid-way through the year before she finally accepted these dreams for what they were, the deepest and most desperate desire of her heart, which at its very core held a life with Fitz. It hurt even more that they weren’t on proper speaking terms when she came to this profound realisation. Fitz had began avoiding her as much as she had been avoiding him. Lady Jemma missed him so much she thought she would burst with it. It wasn’t until the late summer when a chain of events so unimaginable happened that they were reunited.

              It was very late one night when Lady Jemma was shaken awake by Barbara, her maid. Lady Jemma tried to shove her away, too tired from that day’s work to want to be woken in the middle of the night

“Milady, wake up, there’s been a telegram. It’s about Mr Campbell.” Barbara said frantically but softly.

At once Lady Jemma seemed to forget all of her tiredness. She shot up in bed and allowed Barbara to coax her into her dressing gown before bolting down the stairs to her library, where Lord Shieldshire was waiting, his face pale and his eyes bloodshot. Lady Daisy was already sat in the corner when she entered, her eyes rung red with tears. Mr Campbell had proposed to her before the war, but they had fought, what about Lady Jemma did not know, she had not asked, and her sister clearly hadn’t wanted to talk about it. Lady Daisy still loved him, that much she knew. She also knew, though Lady Daisy did not say it that she bitterly regretted their fight, whatever it had been about. She had regretted it even more, when two years ago they were informed by his mother that he was now engaged to be married to a Miss Ophelia Kitsworth. They had met her briefly when Mr Campbell had been off on leave, and she had been a sweet and gentle soul, unfortunately making it impossible for Lady Daisy to dislike her, no matter how much she wanted to. Lady Daisy had in the meantime, found herself engaged to a Sir Grant Ward. He was a loud, brash man, who owned a lot of gossip filled newspapers which had made him very rich indeed. Lady Jemma did not like him at all, but she was not exactly in a place to be lecturing her elder sister on inappropriate potential spouses. The rest of the family filtered in rather quickly and Lord Shieldshire let out a heavy sigh before speaking.

“There’s been a telegram, about Mr Campbell. It seems that a few days ago that he was caught in a blast and was badly injured. The important thing is that he is alive. He’s being transferred to the hospital the day after tomorrow, we’ll know the full seriousness of the situation then.” Lord Shieldshire informed them, his voice heavy.

Lady Jemma immediately looked to her sister. Lady Daisy was still sat down, a hand clamped over her mouth, tears falling silently. Lady Jemma went over to her sister, but Lady Daisy held her at a distance, collecting herself.

“Someone should tell Ophelia. I can telephone her in the morning.” Lady Daisy said thickly, wiping a tear from her face.

Everyone nodded silently, standing quietly in a sort of vigil for a moment before someone finally moved.

“We should all go back to bed. These will be a trying few days and we’ll all need to have as much strength as we can muster in order to face them.” Lord Shieldshire said, breaking the heavy silence that had washed over the room.

Slowly, they all filtered out of the library. Lady Jemma’s mind was blank. She did not know what to think. She thought they’d been lucky. They hadn’t yet had anyone even injured, let alone killed in the fighting. Tears were still falling down Lady Daisy’s face as they made their way back up the staircase. Lady Jemma silently slipped her hand into her sisters and gave it a small squeeze as they headed back to their rooms. Lady Daisy did not say anything, did not even look at her sister, but gave her hand a squeeze back, only letting go once they were stood outside her bedroom. Lady Jemma could not get back to sleep, tossing and turning until daylight began peeking through her heavy curtains.

              The next day, Lady Jemma felt incredibly listless, even though she was busy working. Her mind could not stop thinking about poor Mr Campbell, and by extension Lady Daisy, who she had not seen since breakfast. All she wanted was to talk to Fitz, to tell him how anxious she was feeling, how sad she was and how much it pained her to see her sister so upset. But she couldn’t. He clearly didn’t want to speak to her, not after their argument last Winter. It had felt so final, like he was giving her an ultimatum, but she had not been ready. She doubted she would be ready, be completely certain, until the war was over. It hadn’t been fair of Fitz to do that, but equally, she shouldn’t have ran away. The next day Lady Daisy left for the hospital just after breakfast, even though they knew that Mr Campbell would not arrive until at least ten o’clock. Lady Jemma was supposed to be on her day off, but she couldn’t help but want to do something, anything. So, at half past nine, she threw on her nurses’ uniform and with a pit in her stomach, ran down to the garages, where she saw Fitz leaning against the motor, reading the newspaper. It conjured up unhelpful images of the last time she’d been down here, but she shook her head and ploughed on.

“Can you drive me to the hospital?” Jemma blurted as she reached him.

Fitz looked up, clearly surprised, but not displeased to see her.

“Aren’t you needed here? I already took Lady Daisy down after breakfast.” He replied, not looking at her, his voice cool.

“I know, but I want to be with her when Lincoln arrives. I’m afraid it’ll be a bit of a shock for her. Besides, it’s my day off. They don’t need me here.” She replied, trying to sound somewhat cheery.

“Is she still in love with him?” Fitz asked out of nowhere.

Jemma frowned at him.

“I’m not going to answer that.” She scoffed, getting into the back of the car.

“Why, because I’m the chauffeur?” Fitz spat.

“No, because she’s my sister.” Jemma said, trying to keep the hurt she was feeling out of her voice.

“You’re good at hiding your feelings.” Fitz stated, his voice still cold as he got into the driver’s seat.

“Perhaps, but I do have feelings, and don’t make the mistake of thinking I don’t.” Jemma retorted.

The journey down to the hospital played out in complete silence, neither one saying even a word to the other. They were both fuming, each frustrated with how the other was acting and with the situation they found themselves in. All of this was instantly forgotten the second Lady Jemma arrived at the hospital. She arrived just in time to help prep for the new arrivals, but not before she had forcefully slammed the car door shut as she exited it, giving Fitz a pointed look as she did so.

              Seeing Lincoln was a shock, she wouldn’t deny it. Lady Jemma spent so much time preparing Lady Daisy for what she might see, that she didn’t take a moment to prepare herself. It was all fine and well nursing someone who was a complete stranger but seeing someone that she knew and had come to love like a brother, hit Lady Jemma like a ton of bricks. She swallowed hard when they came in, bearing him on a stretcher. His face was so white he nearly blended in with the pillow resting underneath his head. The black circles around both of his eyes looked almost red in this light, and his entire face was littered with cuts and bruising. Lady Jemma looked up and saw Lady Daisy’s face. She was nearly as white as he was, and her bottom lip was trembling as she looked down at him. Lady Jemma gestured softly towards her that she should help them get him onto the bed. She only half heard one of the stretcher bearers telling her that Lincoln had been filled to the ears with morphine and wouldn’t be conscious for a while. There was a brown label attached to his clothing that read ‘possible spinal damage.’

“That could mean anything.” Lady Jemma said reassuringly to Lady Daisy as she read it.

“But it does mean that we will have to be very careful as we’re washing him. This could get pretty grim, sometimes we have to cut them out of the clothes they’ve travelled in, and there will be blood still lingering.” Lady Jemma said quickly.

Lady Daisy just nodded. She didn’t know how she did it, but Lady Jemma just switched into work mode in a second. Somehow she was able to turn all emotions off and forget that this was Lincoln whose blood she was ringing out of the cloth in her hands, forget that this was his shirt she was having to cut off him so very carefully so that they could ensure he was clean and had no other injuries needing tended to. Lady Daisy stayed once Mr Campbell was settled, but Lady Jemma decided to walk home in time for dinner, needing to clear her head. Her feet automatically took her to the garage, to Fitz. Lincoln’s blood still stained her white apron, and she felt more exhausted, both physically and mentally than she could ever remember being in her entire life. He looked up and seemed confused to see her there.

“Fitz.” She uttered.

It was all she could manage before she felt like she exploded. Tears fell down her face thick and fast and she seemed to feel every emotion that she had tucked away since the war began. Every bit of shock, of horror and disgust, every ounce of sadness and tragedy seemed to flood her body all at once. She couldn’t even see Fitz anymore; the tears were clouding her vision so much, but she quickly felt his arms around her, holding her to him. The feeling of comfort she felt as she sobbed into his shoulder was indescribable. The pain and the horror that had flooded her body was soothed the second her took her into his arms and every sigh she let out seemed to breathe away some of the pain out into the air. It felt like coming home, like this was where she was always meant to be, their bodies slotting together so perfectly it seemed as though they were made for each other. Fitz dropped a kiss onto her forehead, and she felt warmth spread through her right down to the very tips of her toes. She was meant to be here, with him. How had it taken her so long to realise? She would give anything to stay in this moment, here with him, forever, his touch, his arms around her like the most delicious and intoxicating drug she had ever experienced.

“I’m sorry.” She murmured into his shoulder, after she didn’t know how long.

“It’s okay.” He whispered softly back into her hair.

“Not just about this, about everything. I’ve hated these last few months. I’ve missed you so much Fitz.” She said, pulling away so she could look him in the face.

“I’m sorry too. I missed you too, more than would be polite to say.” He smiled softly.

“Just seeing Daisy and Lincoln today, made me think, I just wanted to talk about what you said, all those years ago now, when you dropped me off at my training course.” Jemma said quietly.

Fitz dropped his arms slowly and backed away from her, disbelief spreading across his features.

“Now, you want to talk about this now?” He asked, gazing at her in complete incredulity.

Jemma just nodded.

“Jemma, there’s nothing to talk about.” He breathed, before beginning to turn away from her.

Quickly, she reached out and grabbed his hand, stopping him from getting away.

“Maybe there is.” She uttered; her eyes fixed on his.

Fitz looked as if she had hit him over the head.

“Fitz!” A voice came from outside.

As quickly as she had picked it up, Lady Jemma dropped his hand and backed quickly away from him. Lady Elena appeared around the door of the garage, looking from Lady Jemma to Fitz, very confused.

“Jemma? What are you doing here?” She asked.

“I walked home from the hospital, I needed to clear my head, but Daisy wanted the car to come and pick her up after dinner. She wants to be with Lincoln until Ophelia gets here later and I was just asking Fitz if he could be so good as to fetch her then.” Lady Jemma said quickly, making something up completely on the spot.

Lady Elena let out a frustrated sigh.

“You could have saved me a job! Mama sent me down here to tell Fitz to come get the both of you so you could come up for dinner. Now I’ve just come down here for nothing.” Lady Elena huffed.

“I’ll come back up with you and I can explain to Mama.” Lady Jemma sighed.

She followed her sister out of the garage but gave Fitz a heated look before disappearing out of the door completely. Lady Jemma didn’t know what she was doing. She was so inebriated on the overwhelming mixture of emotions flowing through her body that she could not quite comprehend what had just happened, what she had just done. And yet, she was not sad, she was not scared, in fact she felt quite relieved, and she could at last see clearly for the first time since the war had begun.

Chapter Text

November 1918

              The news that the war would finally be at an end was not a surprise. The German prospects had been looking bleak for weeks now, and it had been expected, but not unwelcome news. This news, more than anything that had happened over the last few years, cemented Lady Jemma’s resolution, that she could not go back to her life before the war. After her declaration in August, Fitz had been gently leaning on her to make a decision about their future. She kept telling him that she would make a final decision after the war, but she was fairly certain at this point what that decision was going to be. Lady Jemma was, in the meantime, so incredibly happy that they were friends again. The last few months of not speaking to him, or if they did speak it was not pleasant, filled with bitterness and resentment towards the other, had been tantamount to torture. She had ached for him, for his company, his words, his smile, and most poignantly of all, the sound of her name on his lips.

  Lord Shieldshire held a ceremony in the main hall on the 11th of November, to mark the end of the war. Lady Jemma was stood on one side of the hall, surrounded by her family, and Fitz on the other, amongst the rest of the servants. Everything was very solemn, even more so as they were joined by the remaining patients who still resided in the house, their scars and wounds a very poignant reminder of just what this war had cost. The clock struck eleven and the house was filled with an eerie silence, like nothing Lady Jemma had ever experienced. As the two groups dispersed after the ceremony, Fitz shot Lady Jemma a small smile, which she returned, allowing herself to feel glad for the first time in four years.

This gladness was short lived. In just a few weeks, the last of the men had left and the equipment sent away, meaning that Lady Jemma’s nursing days were over. It only took a couple of days before she found herself at her wits end. She paced around the wide and empty house, the rooms seeming lifeless without anyone to fill them. The final straw came at the beginning of the new year. Granny and Mr Campbell, his mother, and much to Daisy’s chagrin, Miss Kitsworth, were all coming to dinner. Mr Campbell had regained his health marvellously since the accident, but the doctor had little optimism when it came to his ability to walk again. That’s when, that evening, it came as a massive shock when Miss Kitsworth came shouting from the library, telling them all to come as quickly as they could. To everyone’s absolute shock, Mr Campbell pushed himself up and out of his wheelchair and stood, though a bit shakily, before them. The house went into chaos, Lady Elena was sent with Fitz to go and get the doctor and dinner was put on standby until he arrived. It was wonderful, the house had not been filled with so much joy since before the war. This was ramped up tenfold when dinner was finally served, Mr Campbell and Miss Kitsworth announced that they were finally going to be married, just as soon as he was well enough to walk down the aisle. Lady Daisy’s face fell, but Lady Jemma was not paying attention. Finally, it hit her, all at once, that the war was over. This was what she had been waiting for, for so long. Why hadn’t she ran to Fitz the second peace had been declared?! Why on earth had she waited this long?

Lady Jemma excused herself, feigning tiredness, as soon as dinner was over, and ran, as quickly as her evening shoes would allow her, down to the garages. She slowed, seeing the light on and walked in to see Fitz, leaning against one of the motors, reading the newspaper. Jemma smiled at the familiar sight, and he looked up at beamed at her, as he always did these days.

“You’re very late. Won’t they worry?” Fitz grinned at her.

“They’re all so happy they won’t mind where I am. Papa had gone to fetch a bottle of whiskey when I left.” Jemma smiled in return, her eyes not wavering from his, slowly making her way towards him.

“I’m pleased. I like Mr Lincoln; he’s always been very kind to me.” Fitz said softly, as Jemma came nearer to him.

“He announced at dinner that he and Ophelia are finally getting married and, well it made me realise more than ever that the war is actually over, and that it’s time to move on.” She said quietly, stepping forward and taking Fitz’s hand in hers.

Fitz looked at her in disbelief.

“Does this mean you finally have an answer?” He asked, not daring to believe it.

“Yes.” Jemma breathed.

“Leopold Fitz, I have loved you since the moment we first met. It took far too long for me to realise it, and even longer to work past my own hesitations. You make me feel complete in way I never thought would be possible. I am ready to leave this house, leave this life, and most importantly I am ready to love you for the rest of my days. Now that the war is over, my darling, we can do whatever we like!”

Tears fell down Fitz’s face as she spoke, and he looked at her with the upmost love and awe in his eyes.

“Truly?” He gasped in disbelief.

Jemma nodded, tears filling her eyes too as she reached up to hold his face in her hands, wiping his tears away with her thumbs.

“You have no idea how long I have waited to hear those words.” He uttered.

Jemma smiled, and pulled herself forward and finally, finally, kissed him. It felt like coming home, as though this was always meant to be. The kiss was short, but by god, if Jemma did not put every single ounce of love she felt for Fitz into it. They broke apart, Fitz still looking at her in complete wonderment, leaning his forehead gently against hers.

“You won’t mind burning your bridges?” He asked, so quietly that she would not have been able to hear him had she not been so very close.

“Mind?! Fetch me the matches!” She cried in quiet exclamation.

Fitz looked so happy it seemed as though he would spontaneously combust.

“Can I kiss you again?” he uttered, bringing his hand up from her waist to gently caress her cheek.

Jemma flushed. His touch was so gentle, yet it felt like his fingertips were worshipping her skin, cradling her face as if she was the most precious thing he ever held.

“Of course, but that’s all until everything is settled.” Jemma murmured.

“God knows that it’s enough that I can kiss you now.” Fitz said, as he pulled her forward and captured her lips with his own again.

The kiss was more passionate this time, each of them reeling from the sensation of holding the other in their arms. They broke apart moments later, panting heavily, but identical wide smiles spread across their features.

“What now?” Jemma asked, smiling, still gasping for breath.

“Now, we plan.” Fitz smiled.

Jemma laughed softly.

“Very romantic.” She joked.

“I’m serious!” Fitz exclaimed, pulling back and taking both of her hands into his own.

“We could take one of the cars, and go to Gretna Green, as soon as possible. From there, I don’t know, we go stay with my mother in Glasgow till we get sorted. I can get a job as an engineer and you can start nursing again or studying or finally going to school and getting a doctorate. The universities up in Scotland aren’t so strict about letting women in as they are down here. You could finally live your dream and we can finally start our lives together!”

“I’ve been dreaming of a cottage somewhere in Scotland for almost as long as the war has been on. It felt so unrealistic for so long and now it feels possible. Would I really be able to study? Would I not need to earn? I don’t suppose Papa will continue to support me once I’d run off with the chauffeur.” Jemma mused.

“Jemma, I would live in the tiniest dingiest flat in all the world if it meant I got to be with you. I can earn more than enough to keep us whilst you go after your dream. I’ve a bit put away which we could use should things take a turn, but I promise you, I can and will take care of you.” Fitz reassured her, squeezing her hands as he spoke.

“I never for one moment doubted that you would take care of me, and I will take care of you.” Jemma smiled softly.

Fitz smiled and leaned in and kissed her softly.

“So, when do we go? Is tomorrow too soon?” Fitz asked excitedly as he pulled away from her.

“Tomorrow? Tomorrow? Of course! I’ll write a letter, in the morning and leave it in my room for them to find the next morning.” Jemma replied, trying to work this all out in her head as she spoke.

“Excellent! Sneak down with some things just before dinner, tell them you’re ill or something and we can go!” Fitz exclaimed.

“Yes, we can go, and be together for the rest of our lives!”

They smiled and gazed at each other for a few moments, before Jemma turned and looked at the darkness that lay outside the garage door.

“I should go, before someone realises I’m gone.” She whispered as she turned back to Fitz.

Fitz sighed.

“I suppose you should. Just one more night. One more night and then we can do as we please.” He murmured, a small smile on his face.

Jemma pulled him close again and kissed him gently.

“Goodnight Fitz.” She whispered.

“Goodnight, Jemma” Fitz whispered back.

He was loathe to let go of her hand, and to let her leave, half tempted to pull her into the car and set off for Gretna Green at once. Jemma took her time in leaving, not wanting to go really. Eventually, she pulled herself away from him and made for the door, shooting him a smile as she left.

Lady Jemma didn’t sleep a wink that night, instead replaying the evening over and over in her head. She was leaving, she was going to marry Fitz, they were going to live in Scotland, and she was never coming back to this tedious life of dinners and changing clothes, not for the wide world. Her Mama and Papa would hate her for it, but she felt so deliriously happy at the idea that she and Fitz would be together, would be husband and wife, that she couldn’t bring herself to care. She yawned over her breakfast the next morning and her Papa looked at her with concern.

“Jemma are you quite alright?” Lord Shieldshire asked, looking down at her from his newspaper.

Lady Jemma jumped. She’d been deep into a daydream about Fitz and their little cottage that she was far from paying attention to what was happening in the dining room. Seeing an opportunity to begin her rouse, she slumped down in her chair and tried to look downcast.

“I’m alright Papa. I woke up not feeling the best, but I’ll be fine.” She said quietly.

At this Lord Shieldshire put his paper down.

“Should you be down if you aren’t feeling right? Should you not go back to bed?” He asked, concerned.

“No, really. But if I start feeling any worse, I’ll go straight to bed, you have my word Papa.” Lady Jemma smiled softly.

The hardest part of Lady Jemma’s morning came when she sat down in her room to write the letter she was going to leave for her family. She didn’t want to hurt them or be mean or seem cruel. It was hard to put into words exactly, that she wasn’t doing this to hurt them, or because Fitz was some evil seducer, after the family jewels, but because she loved him and he loved her and because she craved a different kind of life than the one she was living. Lady Jemma pondered over the letter for several hours, before she finally felt satisfied with it. She sealed it and put it in her vanity drawer for safe keeping for now. For the rest of the day, Lady Jemma felt a jolt of excitement. No one knew but her and Fitz that today was the beginning of the rest of their lives. It was such a good secret and one that Lady Jemma was more than happy enough to keep to herself for the day. Just after tea time Lady Jemma began feigning her illness even further and was anxiously ushered to bed by both Lord and Lady Shieldshire. Lady Jemma grinned as she made her way up the staircase, she had plenty of time now to change into her travelling clothes and to pack a bag of things to take with her.

Lady Jemma locked her bedroom door before she snuck down the stairs after everyone had gone into dinner. She crept out of the front door, stopping briefly to listen to the faraway voices and chink of cutlery in the distant dining room, before skipping down to the garages where Fitz was waiting for her. The headlights of one of the cars greeted her, the engine already running. Fitz emerged from behind one of the blinding headlights, a large grin plastered across his face. He was dressed in casual travelling clothes and it struck Jemma that this was the first time she had seen him out of his chauffeur’s uniform. Still, he would look just as handsome whatever he wore, Jemma thought as she ran towards him. They met in a kiss, Fitz picking her up and spinning her as they did so. They broke apart and Jemma laughed into his shoulder.

“No second thoughts then?” Fitz asked with a grin, holding out his hand.

“Not one.” Jemma smiled, taking his hand as they bundled into the car.

Jemma was thrilled for many reasons as they drove, clutching Fitz’s arm as they drove. She was running away with the love of her life and she had never once sat in the front seat of the car before. They drove for about an hour before Jemma let out a yawn.

“We can find somewhere to stop for the night if you like?” Fitz asked, looking fondly down at her for a moment.

“Don’t you think we should keep going? What if they catch up to us?” Jemma said with some concern.

“You locked your door before you left?”

Jemma nodded.

“Then they shouldn’t find your letter until the morning. We’ll be fine to stop. By the time they’ve read that letter we’ll nearly be in Scotland and they’ve no chance of stopping us then.” Fitz said reassuringly.

“What would we tell an innkeeper? ‘Hello, I’m Lady Jemma Simmons and this is my family’s chauffeur who I’m running away to marry? We’d like one room please?’” Jemma said with some sarcasm.

Fitz snorted.

“Not quite. We can be Jemma and Leo Mackay, we had a wartime marriage and we’re going to Scotland to visit my family before going to the Highlands for a belated honeymoon. I’m sure no one will bat an eyelid.” Fitz explained.

“Mackay?” Jemma asked inquisitively.

“My Ma’s maiden name. No one should question it.”

“Where does Fitz come from then? Not exactly the most Scottish name in the world?”

Fitz faltered before replying.

“Well if you’re going to be my wife you might as well know. My dad was German, he emigrated to Glasgow in the late 1880’s and met my mum. They married and had me, and well, he wasn’t the nicest bloke. He left when I was ten. We got a knock on the door three years later, the police telling us that he’d been killed in a bar fight in Inverness. That was his last known address, so they came to us. I’m not sorry he’s dead. He had a bad temper and he took it out on my Ma too many times. That combined with the German thing, well you understand why I haven’t been shouting it from the rooftops the last couple of years.” Fitz murmured, clutching the steering wheel so hard his knuckles went white.

Jemma couldn’t help but feel sorry for him and squeezed his arm gently.

“I’m so sorry Fitz. You’re a good man, and based on the man she raised, I’m betting your mother is pretty wonderful too. Neither of you deserved that.” She said softly, looking up at him.

Fitz gave a small smile.

“Thank you. At the very least it taught me how not to act. I unfortunately inherited his temper, but I’m much better at controlling it than he ever was. You’ve nothing to ever fear from me, I promise.”  

“I never had any doubt of that.” Jemma replied looking up at him with wide eyes.

They pulled into a roadside inn ten minutes later, the innkeeper looking slightly sceptical as Fitz tried to pawn her his story about them having a wartime marriage, but she gave them a room all the same. They grinned at each other as she led them up the stairs and showed them into their room. Jemma faltered as they entered, noting that the room had only one bed. She didn’t know why she had expected any different, they had said that they were a married couple after all. Fitz took note of the apprehensive look on her face the second the door was shut behind them.

“You take the bed. I’ll sleep on the chair. I wouldn’t dream of doing, doing anything before we’re married. I don’t want to. I want our wedding night to be special, not thrown away in a moment of madness at a roadside inn in the middle of nowhere.” Fitz blushed, taking her hand.

Jemma smiled, raising his hand to her lips and kissing it softly. She did not think he knew how good he was, but she doubted she would meet a better man for as long as she lived. Fitz sat on the bed and watched in fascination as she sat at the small vanity table and unpinned her hair for the evening. It struck her that he’d never seen her with her hair down before, she’d always had it in some hairstyle or other. Once she’d finished, she sat down next to him, where he’d shrugged off his jacket. Fitz continued to look at her in complete awe, reaching up and tentatively running his fingers through her loose hair.

“You’re so beautiful.” He breathed, causing Jemma to go red.

“I’m the luckiest man in the world. You’re going to be my wife.” He said in disbelief.

“And you’re going to be my husband.” Jemma smiled.

Fitz’s hand then slid gently to the back of her head, pulling her in so he could capture her lips with his own. Jemma’s arm snaked up and she tangled her hand in his hair, trying to get as close to him as she possibly could. Fitz’s hands, meanwhile, fell, quite respectably Jemma thought, to her back, pulling her closer to him, holding her was still a thrill that Fitz had not quite gotten used to yet. Jemma thought she heard voices, and feet on the stairs, but she ignored them, too intoxicated by the feel of Fitz’s lips against hers. But then there was a knock on the door and suddenly, Lady Daisy and Lady Elena burst into the room. They sprung apart, Fitz flying to his feet.

“How did you find us?” He exclaimed, giving them both a rather unpleasant look.

“Jemma’s letter. Barbara borrowed Mrs May’s key’s and let us into your room.” Lady Daisy explained, rather too calmly for Lady Jemma’s liking.

“You shouldn’t have come after us!” Lady Jemma cried.

“I love Fitz, I’m going to marry him and there’s nothing you can say or do that will persuade me to do otherwise!”

“This isn’t the way though Jemma.” Lady Elena reasoned softly.

“She’s right. Of course Mama and Papa will hate it, but you should at least let them get used to the idea. They aren’t unreasonable and if you explain- “ Lady Daisy started.

“But they won’t understand! All they’ll do is tell me again and again that I’d be throwing my life away. They won’t understand that this is what I want!” Lady Jemma cried.

“Just, give them time. Take your stand and refuse to budge but allow them time. That way you won’t have to break up the family.” Lady Daisy reasoned.

“Papa would never give permission.” Lady Jemma bit back.

“You don’t need permission. You’re an adult, fully capable of making your own decisions, socially and legally. But you do need their forgiveness if you don’t want to start your new life under a black shadow.” Lady Daisy reasoned again.

 “It will be so much better to do this in broad daylight than sneak off like a thief in the night, Jemma please.” Daisy continued.

Lady Jemma faltered at these words. Lady Daisy had hit on exactly the one insecurity that Lady Jemma had had about eloping, and that was disappointing and upsetting her parents. Clearly her thoughts were spread all over her face, because Fitz looked as if she had taken out his heart and torn it in two.

“Go then. If you think they can make you happier than I can.” Fitz said sadly, not looking at her.

Lady Jemma’s heart broke at these words.

“There is no world, no universe in which anyone could make me happier than you could. My heart is yours Fitz, always. I will not be talked out of giving you it.  But I don’t like deceit, and our parents don’t deserve it. So, I’ll go back with them. But I will stay true to you, my darling Fitz, I promise you that with all my heart.” Lady Jemma said softly, taking his face in her hands.

She kissed him soundly, not caring that her sisters were watching, before grabbing her bag from the end of the bed, and heading towards the door, Lady Daisy and Lady Elena following quickly behind her.

“I thought I told you not to do anything stupid.” Lady Daisy said, as she ushered her sister into the car.

“This wasn’t stupid. Ill judged perhaps, but not stupid.” Lady Jemma mumbled from the back seat.

“Is he really worth all of this Jemma? Truly?” Lady Elena asked softly.

Lady Jemma took a moment before replying, staring out of the window as Lady Elena started the car.

“Yes, yes he’s worth all of this, and so much more.” Lady Jemma said quietly.

Chapter Text

It was a couple of days after Lady Jemma’s attempted elopement and so far, neither of her sisters had mentioned it to her again. Maybe they thought that if they didn’t mention it, she could come to her senses on her own and not go through with it. But Lady Jemma was determined. All she could think about was being married to Fitz. It was all she wanted in the world, second only to becoming a proper doctor, but it was a close thing. The preparations going on all around her for Mr Campbell and Miss Kitsworth’s wedding did not help. She loathed spending time away from Fitz, especially now, but though they weren’t saying anything to her about it, she knew her sisters were watching her closely. It did not stop her from going to see him down at the garages quite regularly. They had hatched a plan between the two of them. Fitz had applied for a job with a good engineering firm up in Scotland and had written to his mother to tell her that he was engaged and that they would be coming up soon for the wedding, asking if they could prevail on her kindness to let Lady Jemma stay with her for a few weeks whilst the banns were read. As soon as they heard back from his mother, they were going to tell her parents. Everything was sorted, they just needed to wait a couple more days.

              The good news came a few days after Fitz had posted the letter to his mother. Jemma came skipping down the hill after lunch, as she had done every day since the day after she had been brought home, and saw Fitz smiling, leaning against one of the cars, a piece of paper held in his hand.

“Did your mother write back?” Jemma asked excitedly.

“Yes, she did.” Fitz smiled.

“And? What did she say?” Jemma enquired eagerly.

“First of all, she had cross words with me about falling in love with the daughter of a lord, she hopes that I have at least done the decent thing and left your virtue intact. Other than that, she seems thrilled, she’d be happy to have you for the few weeks we need. She does end it with saying how foolish and reckless this all is, but she hopes we know what we’re doing.” Fitz said, glancing from Jemma to the letter and back again.

Jemma gave a small smile, not too worried from the jovial expression Fitz wore on his face.

“I expect I’ll get a clip around the ear when we head up, but she’ll love you, I promise.” Fitz continued, still smiling widely at her.

Jemma laughed and ran forward and hugged him tightly, drawing back only to plant a quick kiss on his lips.

“So tonight?” She asked.

“Tonight?” Fitz replied, suddenly stiffening in her arms.

“Yes tonight. Come into the drawing room after dinner, and we’ll tell them. It’s good timing. Everyone is coming tonight, Granny, Lincoln and his mother and Miss Kitsworth.” Jemma explained.

This didn’t seem to make Fitz feel any better.

“I wish I could say to you that everything will go fine any everyone will love and accept you immediately, but we know that’s not true. Papa will probably fly off the handle but, we’ve been expecting that, we’re prepared for everything he might say to stop us.” Jemma reasoned.

Fitz sighed, taking her hands into his and kissing them softly.

“I know. It doesn’t stop me worrying though.” He said softly.

Jemma gave him a gentle smile, before squeezing his hands.

“Finally, everything will be out in the open, and we can finally be together. If we leave the day after the wedding, we’ll be married within the month.” Jemma smiled.

“I cannot wait for that. This evening, this evening I could wait a lifetime for.” Fitz replied.

“I know. It is a necessary evil however.” Jemma sighed.

              The rest of the day felt like torture, the hours just dragging by. Lady Jemma could not stop fidgeting during dinner, just wanting the worst to be over. Finally, after what felt like years, dinner was finally over and everyone moved into the drawing room. Lady Jemma could not pay attention to anything that was happening, her eyes kept flitting to the door where she was sure Fitz was going to appear at any moment. For a moment, Lady Jemma worried that Fitz wasn’t going to appear at all, that he changed his mind and wasn’t willing to face her family after all. She realised she was being silly, just as the door opened and Fitz appeared around it. Everyone, except Lady Jemma looked utterly bewildered to see him, but his eyes were fixed on her.

“I’m here.” He said, not speaking to anyone but Lady Jemma.

This did not help everyone else’s confusion.

“So I see.” Lord Shieldshire said bewilderedly.

Lady Jemma got up, and went to stand next to Fitz, further adding to the general aura of confusion to the room. The only exceptions were Lady Jemma and Lady Elena, who looked concerned.

“Would someone please tell me what is going on?” Her Grandmother asked finally, breaking the silence that had fallen over the room.

Lady Jemma looped her arm through Fitz’s and turned to face the rest of her family.

“Fitz has asked me to marry him Granny, and I have said yes.” Lady Jemma said confidently.

The atmosphere in the room could have been popped with a pin.

“What?” Lord Shieldshire asked in a deadly whisper.

“I love your daughter very much, and she loves me and we’re going to be married, Your Lordship.” Fitz replied.

Lord Shieldshire looked ready to murder Fitz.

“WHAT?!” Lord Shieldshire exploded.

“I knew this would happen.” Lady Daisy muttered from the corner.

Lord Shieldshire turned quickly on his heel and looked at Daisy.

“Did you know about this?” He asked, his voice back down to a deadly whisper.

“I did.” Lady Daisy replied guiltily.

“Why on earth did you keep it to yourself?!” Lord Shieldshire demanded.

“Because I didn’t want to split the family, not when there was still the chance that Jemma would change her mind. She won’t by the way Papa, she’s stubborn and in love.” Lady Daisy explained.

Lady Jemma gave her sister a small smile, still clinging onto Fitz’s arm for dear life.

“And all this time you’ve been driving me around, being as dutiful as ever, whilst you seduced my daughter behind my back?” Lord Shieldshire demanded, rounding on Fitz.

Lady Jemma could feel his anger building beside her.

“I haven’t seduced anyone. Give your daughter some credit for knowing her own mind.” Fitz spat.

“How dare you speak to me in that way! You will leave at once.” Lord Shieldshire growled.

“Papa!” Lady Jemma cried, clutching to Fitz even tighter.

“Jemma, what exactly is it that you have in mind? She must have something in mind, otherwise she wouldn’t have brought him here.” Her grandmother interrupted.

“Thank you, Granny.” Lady Jemma swallowed.

“Yes, we do have a plan. Fitz has gotten a job as an engineer. I’ll stay till after the wedding, I don’t want to steal Lincoln and Ophelia’s thunder. But after that I’ll go to Glasgow.” Lady Jemma explained.

“To live with him? Unmarried?” Lady Shieldshire asked in utter horror.

“I’ll live with his mother whilst the banns are read and then we’ll be married, and I’ll get a job as a nurse or finally start my studies and become a real doctor.” Lady Jemma continued.

“And what does your mother think of this?” Lady Shieldshire asked, not able to keep the shock out of her voice.

Fitz looked at Lady Jemma quickly before answering.

“She thinks we’re very foolish.” He responded quietly.

Lady Jemma’s grandmother scoffed.

“At least we have one thing in common.” She retorted.

“I WON’T ALLOW IT!” Lord Shieldshire exploded yet again.

“I will not allow my daughter to throw away her life!”

“You can argue all you like, but I love him Papa! Nothing you say will make any difference. I don’t want any money, and you cannot lock me up until I die!” Lady Jemma exclaimed.

She glanced around the room, her mother was sat with her mouth open and Lady Daisy and Lady Elena just looked stunned.

“I’ll say goodnight. But I can assure you that in the morning nothing will have changed!” Lady Jemma said, before storming from the room, Fitz hot on her heels.

She felt his hand on hers as she reached the bottom of the staircase, pulling her back and round to face him. Fitz did not say anything but pulled her into a short kiss.

“Thank you. Thank you for defending us.” He whispered. 

Jemma smiled.

“Are you still sure about not eloping? I can still get the car; we can leave now!” Fitz exclaimed.

Jemma shook her head.

“No, no we’ve done this now, we have to see it through. Besides, I’m not sure if Papa could cope if I ran off now. And I’d never forgive myself if I never saw any member of my family again.” Jemma murmured.

“Okay.” Fitz smiled.

“I should go to bed, and so should you. I expect tomorrow will be a very, very long day.” Jemma sighed.

“Goodnight Jemma.” Fitz whispered.

“Goodnight Fitz” She whispered back.

He kissed her goodnight before letting her go. He watched her glide up the staircase, like something out of a dream, and Fitz couldn’t help but think, for what must have been the thousandth time that day, how very lucky he was to have fallen in love with Lady Jemma Simmons. He glanced around the hall, looking at the spattering of decorations that the servants had put up for the wedding, at the gramophone in the corner, and the large pile of wedding presents in the other and wondered, if in a different life, if his wedding would look something like this.

              The next day found Lady Jemma pacing her room, Lord Shieldshire sat with his head in his hands, as he tried to convince her out of marrying Fitz.

“I don’t care Papa! All of these threats, I won’t be received in court, I won’t be received in London, I don’t care because that is not the life that I want! I want to marry Fitz because I love him, because I know he can help me lead the life I want to be living!” Lady Jemma exclaimed for what felt like the millionth time that morning.

Lord Shieldshire let out a deep sigh, obviously feeling that he was getting nowhere.

“I thoroughly disagree. We are your family, your blood. Who could provide a better life for you if not us?” Lord Shieldshire argued.

“You just don’t get it.” Lady Jemma sighed.

“None of you understand my love, my passion for learning, for science. Fitz does. It’s one of the reasons I love him. It is precisely because you don’t understand that you don’t realise that I will be happy with him. More importantly, I love him, with everything that I am. I will not give him up, not for anything!” Lady Jemma cried.

“This is my offer, I will stay one week, to avoid the impression that I have run away, and because I don’t want to ruin Lincoln’s wedding. Then I will go up to Glasgow, we will get married, and whoever wishes to come will be very welcome.” She continued defiantly.

Lord Shieldshire pushed himself forcefully out of the chair he was in and stormed towards her.

“Just know this, there will be no more money. From here on out you will have a very different life.” He growled.

Lady Jemma sighed heavily and slumped onto the side of her bed.

“Well, bully for that.” She huffed, as Lord Shieldshire threw the door open and stormed out.

Lady Jemma kept to her room for the rest of the day, pacing mostly, whilst she listened to the hustle and bustle of the wedding preparations going on downstairs. In a just world, they would be my wedding preparations, she thought, almost bitterly as she watched what seemed the world’s supply of flowers being brought in through the front door from her window. She couldn’t even go down and see Fitz anymore. He had handed in his notice the previous evening and was staying at the pub in the village until she was ready to leave. It would be easy enough to go and see him, but she didn’t think that skipping down to the village at all hours of the day would please her Papa, especially since he would know exactly why she was going and who she was going to see, and Lady Jemma didn’t think it a good idea to test his patience further. Instead she tried to whittle the day away as best she could, reading and studying, though for once her heart wasn’t truly in it. When she entered the drawing room before dinner, dressed in her dinner clothes, no one seemed to want to make eye contact with her. Lady Jemma knew they must have been talking about her. Lady Shieldshire just sat in the corner of the room looking pensive, but Lady Daisy gave her a tentative look and she went over to her sister.

“So, this is what it feels like to enter a room when everyone has just been talking about you.” Lady Jemma murmured quietly to her sister.

Lady Daisy stifled a giggle.

“Where’s Grant, I thought he was coming up for the wedding?” Lady Jemma asked, eager to change the subject, her eyes scanning the room, but seeing no evidence of her sister’s fiancé anywhere.

“He’s coming up tomorrow, some disgusting scandal story broke and chained him to his office for the evening.” Lady Daisy said, rolling her eyes.

“I don’t know why you keep on with him. He seems to make you so uncomfortable.” Lady Jemma whispered.

Lady Daisy shot her a look of disbelief.

“Really? You’re going to give me a lecture on unsuitable spouses?! At least my choice didn’t nearly give Papa a stroke.” Lady Daisy whispered back with a smile.

They both burst into silent giggles for a moment but managed to collect themselves just as Coulson came in to announce dinner. Lady Shieldshire looked glum as ever as the first course was served. Coulson however looked white as a sheet, and his hand shook as he was pouring the wine for Lord Shieldshire.

“Coulson, are you quite alright?” Lord Shieldshire asked, concerned.

Coulson straightened up and seemed to decide in a moment to tell the truth.

“The truth is My Lord is I’m not feeling well at all.” He admitted, it seemed with some difficulty.

“You must go to bed this minute. Fetch Hunter, he can help finish the dinner and we’ll send for the doctor.” Lord Shieldshire said with some concern.

Coulson bowed, and left, and Lady Jemma directed her gaze to Lady Shieldshire, who looked just as pale, if not more so than Coulson.

“I have to admit, I’m not feeling right either, and I wonder if you can excuse me.” Lady Shieldshire confessed, standing up slowly.

Concern flashed across everyone’s faces as she left the room. Hunter came into the room bearing the wine decanter just as they started up the discussion of Spanish flu, everyone hoping that that was not what had caused the sudden downfall of both the butler and the lady of the house.

“Is everyone else alright downstairs?” Lord Shieldshire asked Hunter.

“Not quite My Lord, two of the maids seem to have come down with it as well.” Hunter admitted as he poured wine for his Lordship.

“Good heavens, everyone is falling like ninepins.” Lord Shieldshire said with some surprise.

Everyone stayed silent at this, but Miss Ophelia, who was dining with them that evening, alongside Mr Campbell and his mother, dropped her head at that moment.

“Ophelia?” Lady Daisy asked, worried.

“Do you know, I’m not at all well either. I wonder if I could lie down for a minute?” She asked softly.

“Of course, come to my room, they’ll have lit the fire by now.” Lady Daisy said comfortingly, standing up and leading her from the room.

Dinner continued as usual after Lady Daisy returned, but there was a definite air of unease the spread across the room as they ate. This became even more prominent when after dinner, the doctor came in to confirm that yes, everyone who had fallen ill, had Spanish flu. Miss Ophelia was to stay for the meantime, until she was better, and the wedding was to be postponed until everyone was feeling better. Lady Shieldshire seemed to have gotten a particularly bad bout of it, and her maid was sitting in with her, nursing her. Lady Jemma couldn’t help that her first thought went to Fitz, the second the doctor mentioned Spanish flu. He was down at the pub, not the cleanliest place in the world, and definitely crowded. She just hoped, with all of her might that he was okay, resolving to walk into the village in the morning and check on him, her father’s wrath be damned.

              Lady Jemma did not get into the village the next day. Lady Shieldshire had taken a turn for the worse and to make matters even more complex, Sir Grant Ward turned up on their doorstep, pale and woozy, asking to be taken straight to his room. As Lady Jemma dashed about, going from one sick bed to the next, donning her old nursing uniform in favour of her regular clothes, she couldn’t help but think of Fitz. Spanish flu was a nasty disease, what if he contracted it, and there was no one to look after him? What if he died, and no one thought to tell her? A small voice at the back of her head thought that such a scenario would probably make her Papa’s year, but she banished it the second it appeared. As the day went on, Lady Shieldshire just got worse, and by the evening it looked dire, the doctor telling them if she made it through the night she would live. The biggest shock came when they went to check on Miss Ophelia and Sir Grant Ward. Each of them were struggling for breath, each one that came rattled nastily out of their ribcages. Miss Ophelia gasped some soft words to Mr Campbell, and like that she was gone. Dead. It was a shock to say the least. Sir Grant held on a little longer, passing on during the early hours of the morning, with Lady Daisy and Lady Jemma at his side. It was very sad, Lady Jemma hadn’t liked him very much, but she would never have wished him dead. By some great miracle, Lady Shieldshire had made it through the night. Lady Jemma was not awake to see the undertakers bearing the two bodies out of the house, having thrown herself onto her bed the moment she had found out that her Mama was going to be okay, asleep before her head even hit the pillow. When she woke, it was the early afternoon, and the house seemed very quiet. She dressed herself, not wanting to bother a maid, not at a time like this and made her way downstairs. The house had never seemed eerie to Lady Jemma before, but that is how it felt now, no one was around, and the wedding decorations were half taken down, the presents half packed away. She wandered through the rooms for a while, wondering where everyone was. Lady Daisy was keeping to her room, that much she knew, and Papa was sitting up with Mama, but everyone else she could not account for. She knew she should be thinking of poor Miss Kitsworth and Sir Grant, but she couldn’t. Her mind thought only of Fitz. It then struck her that the house was quiet enough for her to sneak off without being noticed, she could run down to the village for half an hour and just make sure he was okay. Running up to her room to grab a coat and hat, she smiled, just about the only smile Busse Abbey saw that day.

              Lady Jemma was barely halfway down the drive when she saw a figure coming towards her, half running. She would know his outline anywhere. The expression on Fitz’s face was of exhaustion and extreme worry, which switched swiftly to that of relief when he saw her. He broke into a run, as did she and they met in the middle in a collision of arms and lips, kissing with such love and relief at seeing the other alive and well.

“Down at the pub, they said that a gentleman and a lady from the big house had died, Spanish flu, but they didn’t say who. I thought I’d lost you.” Fitz gasped after they broke apart.

Jemma smiled through her tears and reached up to wipe the wetness that was falling down Fitz’s face too.

“No, no, it was Miss Ophelia Kitsworth and Sir Grant Ward, Lincoln and Daisy’s intendeds.” Jemma explained, still caressing Fitz’s face in awe.

“Would it be so terrible of me to say that I’m relieved it wasn’t you.” Fitz asked, still holding her close.

Jemma let out a small laugh.

“No, it wouldn’t. I was so worried. The doctor told us how badly the village has been infected and I was so concerned you had fallen ill. That pub surely isn’t the most sterile place on this earth, and I worried, and I couldn’t get down to the village to come and see you…” Jemma rambled.

Fitz grabbed her hand and brought it up to his lips, kissing it softly.

“I’m here, I’m fine. Somehow the pub has been untouched by it, which is a miracle if I’ve ever seen one.” Fitz smiled.

“One of the servants told me that the funerals are to be on Monday. I want to leave as soon as we can after that.” Jemma said, looking into Fitz’s lovely blue eyes.

Fitz looked slightly surprised, but not unhappy, far from it.

“I said that we’d be married within the month and I meant it. I cannot stand one second longer of not being your wife.” Jemma continued.

Fitz just beamed and kissed her soundly.

“What about your parents?” He asked.

“We’ll tell them. But they won’t stop me. I’ve made that much perfectly clear.” Jemma said resolutely, pulling him the very short distance towards her again, and resting her head on his shoulder.

They stood like that for a while, just holding each other, revelling in being alive, and being grateful that they had each other still.

              Monday came around all too quickly, bringing with it the awful sight of the two coffins being borne into the village graveyard. Lady Daisy was quiet, and looked pale, as did Mr Campbell, and the two gravitated toward each other as the service went on. Fitz had come too, but was lingering behind the other servants, not wanting to cause any kind of fuss, not today. Lady Jemma went to him after the services were over, and as they were discussing the fate of the two poor unfortunates who now lay in the ground, Lady Jemma, out of the corner of her eye, saw Lord Shieldshire approaching them.

“Why are you here?” Lord Shieldshire asked defensively, looking coldly at Fitz.

“To pay my respects to Miss Kitsworth and Sir Grant, and to see Jemma.” Fitz shot back instantly.

“Lady Jemma.” Lord Shieldshire corrected.

Lady Jemma just rolled her eyes.

“Really Papa?” She asked exasperatedly

“I suppose you’ll go to Glasgow now, isn’t that your plan?” Lord Shieldshire sighed.

“In a day or two. Mama is well again, and I see no reason to delay.” Lady Jemma replied defensively, looping her arm into Fitz’s as she spoke.

“Though I do so wish we could part friends Papa.” Lady Jemma continued; a hint of sadness laced through her voice.

Lord Shieldshire turned his gaze coldly to Fitz.

“What about you? Do you want to part friends?” He asked Fitz stonily.

Fitz looked surprised.

“Yes, but I don’t expect to.” He replied softly.

Lady Jemma looked at Fitz with a small smile, giving him a small nod, and they started to turn to leave. However, they were stopped by the sound of Lord Shieldshire’s voice.

“Alright.” He said quietly.

Lady Jemma turned to face him, hardly daring to believe it.

“Well, if I can’t stop you, I see no profit in a quarrel. You’ll have a very different life than the one you’re used to, but if you’re sure it’s what you want…” Lord Shieldshire said softly, looking at his youngest daughter with a great amount of fondness in his eyes.

“I am.” Lady Jemma beamed, looking from her father, to Fitz and back again.

“Then you may take my blessing with you, whatever that may mean.” Lord Shieldshire said.

Lady Jemma thought her heart would burst with happiness.

“Oh, it means more than anything Papa! Thank you, thank you!” she cried, throwing herself forward and hugging her father tightly.

Lady Jemma released her father and sprung back, grabbing Fitz hand and leading him out of the churchyard. This was everything she cold have hoped for, her father’s blessing for their marriage and the guarantee that they’d be married soon. It seemed odd to be leaving a funeral with such a big smile on her face, but she couldn’t help it. She was marrying the love of her life, and that was all that mattered in the world.