This story was written for the Super-Hero Playground at AHA. Ever since this playground theme was announced, this plot bunny kept popping. I tried to ignore it, because it's such a depressing subject, but it won't go away. In most parts it's autobiographic (not the superhero part, of course, among other fictional plot points). It happened a long time ago and I am over it, but I guess it wanted to be written. I'd love to hear your thoughts on it.

It's unbetad, so excuse my many grammar mistakes, typos and incorrect English expressions.

Warning: Violence & rape (not explicit) mentioned

It Came On So Gradually

I look around me in dismay, wondering how and when my life turned so wrong. I'm in a hospital, nothing too serious, thank God. Just a lot of superficial wounds in my back, arm and head, and a broken rib. I'm supposed to rest and I do try to, but it's so hard when your brain is replaying all those scenes that make you realize how stupid you are.

I'd be happy to tell you a story about my adventures in the secret service, dodging bullets and car chasing the bad guys. But the truth is much less exciting, unfortunately. Domestic disturbance, that's what they call it. The truth is that my husband threw a door at me. The truth is that in the span of five years I have somehow become such a weak, stupid woman that I needed rescue by a superhero from my own home.

My name is Lizzy Wickham, soon to be Lizzy Bennet again. I wish I could point out the exact moment that my husband became a monster, but I can't, it came on so gradually. I met George when I was seventeen, he was charming and smart and ten years older than me. He made me feel mature and sophisticated. Two years later we were married and George was working in my father's small company as a driver.

Working is a huge overstatement, as he called in sick more days than not. He loved to blame me for it, of course it was my fault that he couldn't go to work today because I gave him such a headache. At first it was just little things. I forgot to hang my robe and left it on the bed, the coffee didn't turn out just the way he liked it, I asked him how was work, I didn't ask him how was work. Well, you get the idea. He wasn't violent then, not physically anyway. He was just yelling at first, but then after a while he started punishing me.

He had a few favorite methods and he used them whenever I annoyed him in any way. He liked to wake me up in the middle of the night, pouring water on me or turn the light on and off until I woke up. One day he even flipped the mattress, with me sleeping on it. I was constantly tired because of it and my eyes burned all the time.

He also liked to lock me outside the door and hear me beg admittance. The first time it happened, I remember thinking I should go somewhere instead of waiting for him to open the door. I was trying to decide where I should go. My best friend Jane, a year ago she would have been my first choice, but she never liked George and we drifted apart. I haven't heard from her in a few months. My parents weren't an option, if they found out how he was treating me and then he'd apologize (he always apologized), it could be very awkward. And my mother would be sure to harp on my failure. Same goes for my aunt Gardiner, I love her but I didn't want her to know. I couldn't find a single friend I could trust.

Looking back, that should have been my first clue. I was a friendly girl, but in just a few years I have become lonely and friendless. I only now see how he managed to separate me from my friends and family. At first he told me he was the only one who knew me, the only one who cared. I only needed him. Then he turned it on me again, no one cared because I wasn't worth caring for.

My self-image went down the drain rather quickly. I had high hopes to have an interesting and fulfilling career, but he somehow managed to make me feel so stupid and inadequate. I moved from one job to another, always bored, unfulfilled and underpaid.

But, let us get back to my punishments. That day, I realized I had no one to turn to and it crushed my soul. I sat there, crying, with my back to the door for hours, until he opened it and let me in. I had to apologize for whatever I did to make him angry. Since then he did it so many times I forgot to feel shame. I just tried to walk around the mines, but there were too many.

His absolute favorite way to punish me was with my father's company's truck. He saved those to when we went to family celebrations or any other gathering. If I dared to have fun he'd accuse me of flirting and get upset. He loved putting me in the back of the truck, where there were no seats and nothing to hang to, then drive on the highway and pull the brakes suddenly. After he thought I was scrambled enough, he'd let me out and then the humiliation begin. He'd leave me on the highway's margins and drive off a few meters away. I'd then have to go to the car by foot. Of course, as soon as I'd reach the car's door he'd drive off and so on and so forth. Until he felt I was punished enough.

On our first anniversary, I had somehow managed to upset him though I'm not sure how. He decided he didn't want to celebrate. Then he got upset that I didn't plan anything and decided to take us on a picnic. He took us to a lovely ruin filled with greenery and after we ate the food I made, he threw me to the back of the truck, tied my hands and raped me.

That's when I knew I was screwed. Literally and figuratively.

I was alone and penniless. He took all of my savings and gambled them. That's what he did most of the time, gambled and smoked pot. And still, I did nothing about it. I tried to save a little but he always found out, which made him angrier. And whenever he was angry and I was at work, he'd called me and disrupt me at work. He once even came to the restaurant I worked at and threw a table when he thought I was flirting with a co-worker. So you can guess why I didn't stay long in any job.

I had no hope. I remember when I cooked for him I used to fantasize that I put poison in his food, or just something vile like dog's food. If I held a knife, I'd imagine myself stabbing him. I hated myself for thinking those things. I hated what I've become.

One day I went to the bedroom and found the sheets all wrinkled, though I was sure I made the bed in the morning. On my pillow I found an earring, not mine, but my little sister's. Lydia was seventeen, just the age I was when George and I met. You'd think I would be hurt, but do you know what I felt? Relieved. I was relieved because it meant he already had sex today so he'd leave me alone.

Yep, I was that pathetic.

And then a miracle happened. I got fired, again. And I found a job as an assistant in a huge company. My job was to help Mrs. Reynolds, who was the CEO's office manager. I worked hard and long. Now that my husband had someone to screw, he didn't mind that I was working long hours.

I came early, then on lunch break I'd eat quickly and then sneak to the archive. There was an empty low shelf there and I slept there for half an hour. It was my favorite time of the day, those naps. Afterwards, I would get back to work and stay much longer than I needed.

Mr. Darcy, the CEO, was very strict and not very kind, but I was working mostly with Mrs. Reynolds so I didn't care. When I just started working I heard him complain to Mrs. Reynolds that I had no idea what I was doing. Of course I didn't! I just arrived the day before! But I was used to much worse than that. This job gave me time to breathe and rest and Mr. Darcy could go hang himself for all I cared.

I worked there for a few months when one evening I found a few documents in the pile of papers I was sorting out that needed Mr. Darcy's signature. I went to his office to put it on his desk, because I thought he had already gone home, when I saw him there, dressed in tights and a cape. It wasn't just a costume, I could tell. He exuded power, he was Superman.

He turned when I entered and I froze, then mumbled an apology and ran from the room. I just couldn't believe it, my brooding boss is a superhero. I knew then that my working days here were numbered, but I kept on working and hoped he'd forget about it.

He didn't. The next day he called me to his office and I was petrified. It was the best job I ever had, I didn't want to lose it. Besides, just thinking of spending a whole day at home with George made me nauseous.

"Please sit down, Mrs. Wickham." He told me and I flinched. I hated my surname.

"Call me Elizabeth, please."

"Elizabeth, I wanted to talk to you about last night."

"I'm sorry," I blurted. "I thought you were out of the office and just wanted to-"

"It's alright," he interrupted kindly, to my surprise. I have never seen him look so kind. It was like I was talking to a different person. "You've been working here for quite a while and you are a devoted worker. I trust you to keep my secret."

I was so pleased I couldn't speak. All I could do was nod. I couldn't remember the last time anyone believed in me. Then he surprised me even more and asked me to work for him, as his Superman persona's assistant. Mrs. Reynolds was too busy with the company's work and couldn't handle more workload. Of course I agreed, I admired Superman's work for years.

A new assistant was appointed to Mrs. Reynolds and though I still sat with them in the same office, my job was completely different. For a while, I completely forgot I had a home and a husband. I was so immersed in the greater good that only on the way home I would remember what was waiting for me there.

I was completely devoted to my work and to Mr. Darcy, and I was way too happy. Of course George noticed. The punishments returned with a vengeance. I hardly slept, and when I came to work I feared George would call or come and wreck havoc.

And Mr. Darcy, the wonderful man that he is, he noticed something was happening. A few times he asked if I was okay but I couldn't tell him. What would I tell him? That his assistant is stupid and weak? He once caught me sleeping in the archive. I explained that I didn't sleep well and had to nap a bit, and since it was during my lunch break he couldn't do anything about it, but I could tell he was worried.

He tried to give me less work to do, which was the exact opposite of what I wanted. With less work I had more time to think. I started helping Mrs. Reynolds again, just so I'd have something to do. He noticed, again, and started giving me work again. He was very solicitous, sometimes bringing me coffee in the morning, sometimes bringing me lunch. He talked to me, a lot.

I think that's when I realized there are other men, better men than the one I had at home. Up until then I convinced myself that all men were assholes and I wasn't good enough for anyone anyway. But Mr. Darcy showed me that I was worth knowing and he did it in such a quiet way that I couldn't help but feel it was genuine.

One evening Mr. Darcy offered to take me out for a drink to celebrate. I was working there for one year, I didn't even remember it, but he did. We sat at a pub right across our workplace, drank a glass of wine and talked. And then I told him what I never said out loud before. I want to get a divorce. I didn't say why and he didn't ask. He just sat there and held my hand as I stared out the window. It was comforting. It's amazing how the universe gives you presents without you being aware.

That evening I came home and I felt immediately that something bad was going on. George was waiting for me. It was one of those days when whatever I did would get a reaction. The minefield was loaded and every move blew something up.

"What took you so long?"

"I… I went for a drink…"

Wrong answer.

"A drink." His eyes were menacing and I had a bad feeling at the pit of my stomach. "You went for a drink when your husband was waiting for you at home."

"I thought… I thought you had company." Though I was sure he knew that I knew about his affairs, it was the closest I ever came to admit it out loud.

"I had friends over and we were hungry. They kept asking where my wife was but you weren't here." He came closer and I backed away until I felt the wall behind me. "Then Piers said you're probably screwing your lover and they all laughed!"

He turned away from me and walked toward the door. I breathed a little easier, though it seemed strange for him to walk away. George hated to be laughed at, he would never forget this. But I just couldn't ignore the injustice of this. Why should he be upset with me when it was all Piers' fault!

"It's not my fault your friends are assholes," I said quietly, but he heard and turned around. I knew I was screwed.

With both hands he grabbed the sliding door that separated the kitchen and the living room and wrenched it from the doorpost. I tried to run but he slammed the door on my back and side. The handle is what broke my rib actually. Not that I realized it at the time. I was doubled over from the pain and George kept banging the door on me and then I heard a scream and the banging stopped. I turned to see George pressed to the wall by none other than Mr. Darcy, Superman. It's a good thing I couldn't talk or I would have given him away for sure.

Mr. Darcy tied him over and called the police, and then he lifted me and pressed me gently to his chest. I cried on his costume as he flew me to the hospital. He was with me the whole time, through the doctors' check up and everything, until I fell to a drug induced sleep.

When I woke up he was gone and hasn't returned for two days.

George is in custody, the police officer told me. I want to press charges but the officer is obviously taken in George's charms. She was very forceful in her inquiry and I feel I have no one to talk to. My parents didn't even come to visit me. My mother called but she sounded more upset about dear George than she was about me.

Well, there's nothing I can do now. I'm stuck here for a few days and then I'll have no choice but go back to my parents. I'd be too weak to try to find a new place or to deal with George. There's no doubt in my mind that I'm not going back to him. But I know I should have done that a long time ago and now I have to deal with this shit while I'm sick and broken.

There's a knock on the door and then Mr. Darcy is back. He's with a business suit now and he looks grave. I turn my head, I'm so ashamed I can't look at him. I hear him sit on the chair and then he takes me hand. I can't stop the tears, and they flow endlessly from my eyes down to my chin, like a fountain. He keeps holding my hand, rubbing his thumb over my fingers. I close my eyes and I feel him brushing my curls from my forehead, and then wiping the tears from my cheek.

"Everything will be alright, don't you worry," He whispers.

He then lowers his head slowly and kisses me softly on my lips. Nothing too outrageous, it's just a peck really. I open my eyes to look at him and I know. I know everything will be fine and I know that he loves me. It's there, written in his eyes. And I realize it was there for quite some time. And I know then that I'm ruined for any other man. I know he won't do anything about it. He is a gentleman and I'm still married. And I know that it's too soon, the scars need to fade, both inside and outside, for me to move on. But he'll wait for as long as I need, I'm not alone.

I know I'm going to be fine.

Just to answer a few questions in advance, I'll tell you that I'm now happily married to a wonderful man, we have 2 sons and this horrible episode is behind me. I wasn't saved by a superman, but had to save myself. It worked for the best, I guess :) My parents were very supportive and my ex-husband did not cheat on me with my sister, but with complete strangers (yes, multiple). Most of everything else actually happened, with minor changes (I did not break my rib).

So you see, I'm pretty sure that Lizzy is happy too :)

Thank you for reading.