Fleet sat looking through new letters at his equally new desk, Clara was mirroring him on the other side of the room. They had been working under the name of Fleet - Entwhistle Private Investigations for a good three months now, which had in fact gone fairly quickly in comparison to the decade-long week in which they first met, and not to mention the three of those days he had been literally dead.
It had been enjoyable though, Fleet recollected, their first few months as private detectives. They worked well together - anyone could see that, and whilst a lot of their cases had been fairly mundane he had to admit that even tracking down lost pets or following unfaithful spouses through London was enjoyable with Clara as an accomplice.
Clara sighed dramatically at the letter in front of her, dropping her head to rest on her desk and simultaneously pulling Fleet out of his thoughts.
“What? What is it?”
He stood up, alarmed. It must be bad news to make a usually optimistic Clara turn pale.
“Mother is visiting” She explained, pausing only for a moment's breath. Fleet’s shoulders relaxed a fraction where he was now hovering uneasily by Clara’s desk.
“Why now? She didn’t want anything to do with London once she found out I'd got a salaried job” Clara continued “All her letters for the past three months have been trying to convince me to quit and come home…” her expression remained puzzled.
“Perhaps... she changed her mind?” Fleet found himself suggesting uncomfortably. He wasn’t meant for the role of the optimist - that was Clara's job.
Clara just laughed “That's about as likely as Keller quitting the police force to have more time to do cross stitch”
“To be fair I've learnt not to count anything as impossible when it comes to Chief Inspector Keller “ Such as the very vivid memory of him singing, Fleet mused.
“He is quite unpredictable” Clara agreed with a smile, possibly reliving the same memory or perhaps the one where Keller shot at them? Hard to tell.
“My mother however has a very rigid set of rules on what is Proper and what is not, she’s not usually one to budge from those, but who knows, maybe when she visits and actually sees the results of my work she will understand?”
Given the frequent danger, the criminals they interacted with on a daily basis and the less savory parts of Even Greater London they spent most of their time in Fleet rather doubted that. He was hardly going to voice that thought now though, not when Clara had just got her blindingly positive energy back.
What? He wasn’t that mean. Plus maybe he was somewhat fond of Clara.
He glanced at Clara who had gone back to shuffling through the pile of other letters and notes on her desk with renewed enthusiasm, retrieving a blank piece of parchment and uncapping a pen with her teeth - presumably to write a reply to her mother. Noticing him watching her she looked up and took the lid out of her mouth with a grin, Fleet felt his mouth twitch into a smile in response. Quickly, he turned and headed back to his desk.
He sighed softly.
The following week Fleet had waved Clara off as she headed to the station to meet her mother, she didn’t want to leave her to navigate the city alone.
Lady Lucretia unsurprisingly had a Lot to complain about the city and it was almost impossible to get a word in edgeways but eventually, she surprised Clara by asking about her new occupation. The disdain in her tone was even more surprisingly quite mild on the whole too!
“And this Fleet, you say he is a police inspector?” Lady Lucretia pressed further with genuine interest.
Clara grimaced, she appreciated the chance to talk about her work and about Fleet but that particular fact was a long story to summarise…
“Yes, well not exactly at the moment but in a roundabout sort of way yes-”
Her mother, who had clearly stopped listening after the first ‘Yes’ continued regardless.
“Hm, respectable, if common. I suppose he will do”
Lady Lucretia sniffed “It's certainly more than I was beginning to hope for you”
Everything clicked into place. Ah, that’s why she was interested.
“Oh, no mother we’re not-”
However, Lady Lucretia was not to be interrupted
“You should make arrangements sooner rather than later Clara dear, it's still inappropriate to be running around unmarried at your age. This is clearly your best hope at maintaining some level of respectability and if your Inspector is willing to overlook your disregard for social etiquette then I would advise you not to let him get away.”
Clara sighed, there was no getting through to mother sometimes and this was clearly one of them.
Since her mother refused to stay with her after learning the location of her lodgings, Clara led her to one of the hotels more to her mother's taste.
Her mother had let her go for the evening without too much fuss as long as Clara promised to think about what she had said.
Whilst grateful she had not been subjected to her mother trying to physically drag her back home, which honestly had been her real expectation for her mother's visit despite her hopes of convincing her otherwise that she was doing important work here. Clara did unfortunately think about what her mother had said, rather a lot and for almost the entire evening that followed.
She was certainly eager to continue working with Fleet, she had gone to a lot of effort trying to save him from trouble to let him ‘get away’ or abandon him now. She did appreciate his lack of concern for propriety too, and he was smart and able to keep up with her sometimes hectic thought process. This was purely related to wanting to keep him around as her friend and business partner though, she wasn’t looking for a husband no matter what her mother insisted.
The thought of marrying Fleet was much more appealing than any of the ridiculous suitors her mother had steered her towards but anyone who had spent five minutes talking to those pompous lords would think the same. Fleet was a kind friend, and admittedly an attractive one too but that was neither here nor there and Clara would not be entertaining ridiculous ideas of anything more.
She stubbornly picked up her book and left it at that, determined to think about something other than Fleet for at least the rest of the night...