How would the events of Pride and Prejudice be altered if Fitzwilliam Darcy had the foreknowledge that Elizabeth Bennet was his future wife and perfect match? AU/Regency
Anne Darcy lay in bed trying to get some much needed rest. Recently sleep had been elusive, broken by fits of coughing and gasps for air. Her wracking coughs could be heard beyond the room that had been her home for many, many months.
Turning on her side, Anne stared towards the darkened window, her thoughts full of her family, especially her son, Fitzwilliam.
She sighed softly. She knew her time was short. The birth of Georgiana 4 years previously had taken its toll on her already frail health. The doctors had warned her that she should not attempt to have another child after the two miscarriages following the birth of Fitzwilliam. Despite all the doctors warnings, she had longed to have another child. She had prayed unceasingly for a daughter. After many years of hoping and praying, she had at last conceived and born her long awaited daughter.
The birth had been long and difficult, and there had been moments when Anne had thought she would not survive. She recovered, but not without cost. Her already frail health had become permanently damaged. Her frequent bouts of illness had slowly sapped what little strength she had. Each subsequent illness left her weaker until she was but a shell of her former self.
She wanted desperately to be able to see her children grow, marry and have children of their own; to grow old with her beloved husband, George. The price she paid to have Georgiana had been great, but even now, lying on her deathbed she couldn't regret her desire for another child. Her sacrifice would allow her precious daughter a chance at life.
Her only regret was her deception, her concealment of how she knew her George was hers. Her best friend, her husband, lover and confidant. Their 18 years of marriage had been blissful, punctuated with disagreements and challenges. It was inevitable with two such stubborn and independent individuals. Anne smiled, closing her eyes as she reminisced about the past; her triumphs, heartaches, sorrows; but more especially her utter contentment and happiness with the life she knew was meant to have.
Since Anne was a child, she had been blessed with dreams, visions of the future. 'Prophetic dreams' her father called them. At the request of her parents, no one outside of her family knew. She never spoke of them to anyone. They were infrequent enough that it didn't affect her growing up years. It was not until she was 14 years old that she had a 'dream' that would set the course of her life. At first, it was simply brief glimpses of a man punctuated with flashes of various scenes and settings-a ballroom, a salon, a bedroom. They were fleeting, but the feelings she experienced during these 'dreams' were ones of contentment and happiness. She was frustrated that she was not able to hold onto many details, but she knew, even then that this man would be important in her life. She dreamt of him three or four times a month, always the same brief glimpses that had left her frustrated and wanting more.
It continued like this for nearly six months until an event occurred that changed her carefully arranged world. Her father died suddenly, leaving her mother, brother and sister in shock and pain. In her grief she felt a longing so fierce for anything that would bring her consolation that her dreams of the man became more poignant and detailed. In addition to 'seeing' this man, she began to receive more detailed glimpses of her life with him. She knew then that he was the man she was meant to marry. She spent her grieving period drawing this man, altering it each day until it was exactly as she saw him in her dreams. And then she put it away and waited.
She waited for almost three years for that man to enter her life. In her first season at the age of 17, George Darcy waltzed into her life. Their courtship was brief and idyllic. Within six months they were married and life for Anne had truly begun. Stating that he would not understand, her mother warned her not to tell her new husband about her dreams and the picture she had drawn of him. Not wanting to start her marriage under a deception, Anne had argued with her mother. It was not until her elder brother Henry, the new Earl of Matlock, entered the argument that Anne conceded not to divulge her 'dreams' to her new husband. So Anne locked away the picture and began her marriage without sharing it with George. It was the only time she had ever concealed anything from him. Within two years she was expecting and with the birth of her son, Fitzwilliam her life was complete.
As the years passed, Anne began to have 'dreams' again. From these dreams, she knew that there was another child that was meant to complete their small family. Following two devastating miscarriages, and the doctors prognosis that another child would take her life; her dream to have another child seemed unreachable. Distraught, Anne had refused to believe the doctors, clinging to the knowledge that she would have another child. She had pled with her husband to try again, to no avail. He would not risk her health. In her desperation, she had shared with her husband that which she had long kept a secret, her knowledge of her husband before she had met him and how she knew they would have another child. Her revelation had been met with disbelief, reproach, and even ridicule. He argued that she had simply made it up in order to convince him that they should have another child. Even after showing him the picture she had drawn three years before meeting him had been disregarded as 'hogwash.'
It had taken years for Anne to fully trust her husband again. She still loved him fiercely, but had been deeply wounded by his disbelief and mistrust. She never spoke of her dreams again. When Anne became pregnant once again, her joy was unmatched. With each ensuing month of pregnancy, she was content that her dream would be realized.
A soft knock on the door broke Anne from her reverie. Her ladies maid entered with a tray of her midnight dosage of medicine. Anne struggled to sit up, coughing violently. Her maid hurried to her mistresses side, setting the tray down hurriedly before assisting her to sit up. Taking the dosage of medicine, Anne sank wearily back against the pillows, exhausted with the simple task.
"Were you able to sleep, Mrs Darcy?" her maid softly inquired.
"No, I was not," Anne sighed. "My mind is too much on my family. I will miss them so."
The maid nodded, but didn't respond. What could she say to ease her mistresses obvious distress?
Anne smiled and thanked her for her service. After inquiring if Anne required anything else, she quietly left her mistress to her thoughts.
As she walked down the hallway, the maid prayed that her mistress would receive some respite and that her family would be comforted in these final days.
After the maid left, Anne's thoughts wandered again to her son. Her Fitzwilliam. She fought back tears as she thought of all she would miss in the coming years. He was so good, her Fitzwilliam. So devoted to his family, loyal, kind and responsible. Even at sixteen years of age, he was more mature than other young men his age. She knew her progressively weakened state distressed him. Her failing health had caused her once care free son to become more serious and reflective. She could not remember the last time he had laughed, truly laughed. A boy of 16 should not have such a heavy burden to bear. Despite his pain, he unselfishly spent hours with her, reading to her, talking, or just sitting in silence. His presence comforted her and he willingly gave whatever time he could.
He would attend Cambridge in a few years. Due to her fragile health, he had not wanted to leave home to be schooled as most boys of his station. He had been tutored from home so he could remain close to her, close to Georgiana.
Georgiana. Her precious, precious girl. Even at four years of age, she bore a striking resemblance to Anne. She was worth every pain, every tear, every prayer offered. No sacrifice was too great to give her special girl life. Georgiana did not fully understand the gravity of her mother's illness. She would dance into her mother's room each day to show her a picture she had drawn, or to share with her what she had learned that day. Her mindless, girlish chatter filling the room eased her heart. She was so full of light, her Georgiana. A ray of sunshine in her otherwise bleak, pain filled days. She made Anne forget her illness for a time.
For the first time in her life she wished for her dreams. She wanted to 'see' her children happy. To see their life since she would not be able to share it with them. A few stray tears slipped down her wan cheeks as Anne began to pray. In the midst of her pleadings to her God she quietly succumbed to sleep.
Anne woke with a start, sitting up quickly, her mind in a whirl. At last! She needed to get it down before she forgot. The remnants of her dream already starting to fade, she quickly reached for the bell beside her bed and rang loudly. Within moments, her maid burst in her room afraid that something had happened.
"Quickly! I need paper and my drawing pencils!" Anne did not give her maid the time to greet her. Trying to climb out of bed, her startled maid rushed to her side. "No Mrs Darcy! Please don't get up." Anne, gasping for air fell upon the bed in frustration.
"Please, hurry! I don't have much time!"
"Ma'am?" the maid asked with confusion evident in her voice.
"Paper and my drawing pencils, Abigail!" At the shocked look of her maid, she softened her tone. "Please, I don't have much time." I must get this down before it starts to fade, Anne thought frantically.
"Of course Mrs Darcy, I will get those right away." Bobbing a curtsey, her maid quickly went into her mistresses sitting room.
Moments later she returned with the needed materials. Placing the portable writing desk, paper and drawing pencils on her mistresses lap, she quietly asked if there was anything else she required.
Grabbing a pencil, Anne positioned the paper and began to draw. Brusquely she said "No, thank you Abigail. That will be all. You may go."
The maid left, confusion clearly on her face. Anne paid no mind to her maid as she quickly and quietly left the room. Her maid forgotten, Anne began to draw the lovely woman that had appeared in her dreams.
Hours later, Anne slumped against the pillows and closed her eyes in exhaustion. Several times she had been interrupted by various persons trying to get her to rest and take her medicine. She had ignored them all as she had feverishly sketched, desperate to get the woman down on paper before the image faded from her mind. Even the soft and gentle pleadings of her husband had been met with nothing but a brief acknowledgement.
Anne sat up and looked at her drawing, checking for any flaws or defects from the woman she had seen so clearly in her dream. Anne wished she had time to add color. Pencil could not capture the richness of her dark mahogany hair or her beautiful brown eyes, her best feature. They lit up her face with intelligence and good humor. She had spent the most time trying to get the woman's eyes just right.
"Perfect. She's perfect," Anne softly murmured to herself. Anne knew that this woman was her Fitzwilliam's perfect match. She had seen this clearly in her dream. Anne smiled contentedly.
All she needed to do now was share with her son her secret. She had decided to tell him everything, including her decision to conceal her dreams from her husband and his reaction to her dreams. She didn't want Fitzwilliam to make the same mistake she did. Putting aside the drawing she finally allowed herself to sleep.
Fitzwilliam Darcy strode quickly down the hall towards his mother's room once more wondering what brought on her summons during his studies with his tutor. She never interrupted his lessons and he was left wondering if something was wrong despite the housekeeper's assurances to the contrary.
Coming to her door, he quietly knocked and waited for her to call him in. After a soft, "come in Fitzwilliam" he pushed open the door and hurried to his mother's bedside.
"What is the matter mother, are you well?" Fitzwilliam dreaded the day when a summons would mean his mother was saying goodbye. He knew that she was very ill and despite the doctor's warning that she had very little time left, he hoped and prayed that the doctor was wrong. He could not imagine his life without his mother in it. She was his anchor, his confidant, his best friend. She was the one who understood him the best. His father tried, but he was all about duty and responsibility. He knew his father loved him, was proud of him but he had certain expectations and he did not take the time to truly know him. His mother was different. She saw him, not as what was expected, but as he truly was. Despite his flaws, she loved him unconditionally.
His mother was sitting up in bed holding a paper in her hand. Fitzwilliam paused, searching his mother's face. Something was different about her today. Despite the lack of a smile on her face, her eyes betrayed a nervous excitement.
"Pull up a chair Fitzwilliam, I have something very important to share with you."
Sitting down, Fitzwilliam took his mother's hand and waited.
Looking at her son, Anne took a deep breath and began her story.
Fitzwilliam sat in his darkened room, lightened by a single candle. The shadows from the candle danced erratically on the walls, mirroring his jumbled thoughts. He thought over the conversation, the confession his mother had imparted earlier that day.
Truth be told, he didn't know what to think. On one hand, he trusted his mother implicitly, she had never misguided him before. But what she had shared seemed so fantastical, so unlike anything he had ever heard before.
He stared down at the two pieces of paper, one in each hand. The paper in his left depicted his father. He had always thought his mother was a gifted artist, her renderings so lifelike they seemed to come off the page. He remembered the countless times his mother had sketched his sister and himself.
His father was portrayed accurately down to his signature smile and serious eyes. He must have been about 28 when the picture was drawn.
"Could it be possible?" Fitzwilliam shook his head, clearing away his doubt and misgivings. He wanted, needed to believe his mother's story.
His eyes wandered automatically to the picture in his right hand. He gazed at her in wonder and awe. She was beautiful. Even his inexperience and lack of familiarity with the opposite sex, he knew this was so.
The woman's body was facing slightly left, with her head turned toward the front. Her hair was down, an abundance of curls flowing down her back. What struck him the most was her eyes. They were full of laughter and mirth, sparkling with good humor and intelligence. His mother said that her eyes were a deep brown and her hair a dark mahogany. Her lips were slightly parted and she appeared to be about to say something. Judging by the sparkle in her eyes, something amusing. Fitzwilliam smiled.
"Can this really be the woman I am meant to marry?' He couldn't wrap his mind around it. He couldn't deny what his mother had told him about his father. The picture in his hand confirmed his mother's account. No, it had to be true.
Setting down the picture of his father, he gazed at the drawing of the woman, tracing her face lightly with a finger. His mother had given him very little information about the woman. The only thing she could say for certain was she kept seeing this woman at a ball; specifically his Aunt and Uncle's Twelfth Night Ball. They held it every year and was one of the most sought after events of the ton.
"Who are you?" He whispered. "Where are you?" Despite his mother's assurances that she would show up in his life when the time was right, he worried that he would miss her somehow. That she would marry before he could meet her, or she would not even like him! He quickly banished that thought.
Shaking his head he stood up, picking up his father's picture and the candle, he walked to the hidden safe in his dressing room. Kneeling down, he opened the safe and carefully placed his father's picture inside. Holding the woman's picture carefully in both hands he quietly whispered, "I will find you. Wait for me."