Every person in the room save Lady Catherine knew what was really being asked. A third set could only mean one thing, and the room fell eerily silent while awaiting her reply.

Elizabeth found herself astonished with the question, but even more surprising, she knew her answer right away. Somehow, through some preternatural sequence of events, the two had gone from enemies to acquaintances to friends to lovers in less than three hours. That was not really the most surprising part though. What was truly remarkable was how thoroughly comfortable she was with the decision. There was no doubt, no uncertainty, and no nagging little feelings that she was doing anything except what was right and just and natural. Their choices had been made simultaneously, in that shared moment of time in the middle of the crowded assembly hall when nobody else in the world existed.

She felt certain that it was not destiny. With a different reaction to the slight that began the evening, perhaps she might have missed her chance for months or years, or perhaps they would have never come together at all. But come together they had.

Everyone close to the newly acknowledged couple needed no words to ascertain her answer. It showed in her face with a look of heartfelt delight that lit up the entire room with its intensity. The gentleman's corresponding expression was similarly unambiguous, and the reaction of the attendants spread out from their center like wildfire.

When Elizabeth finally regained the power of speech, she smiled even more broadly at the gentleman, and said, "I shall be delighted to dance with you, Fitzwilliam."

Darcy held out his arm, Elizabeth put her hand on it, where it naturally belonged, and raising her voice a bit said, "Sir William, if you please!"

Sir William clapped his hands together, shouted, "Capital! Capital!" And signaled the musicians to begin.

There was a mad scramble among the men to quickly find partners for what was likely to be the most memorable dance in Meryton in years. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were entirely unaware of any of this, nor of whether Lady Catherine had relented, or how Anne or Georgiana were taking it, or what the colonel or Mr. Bingley thought, or how John Lucas's beating of Wickham was progressing. They had only eyes or ears for each other as they lined up for their third set.

As the music started, they began in silence, but a very different silence than the first dance. This was the silence of two that knew nothing need to be said when it was already understood.

The companionable silence lasted for as long as Elizabeth's impertinence could stand, and when she decided that love and levity must truly be handmaidens. She said, "Fitzwilliam, perhaps we should have some conversation. A very little will do."

Her intended let out a voracious laugh, which a few hours ago would have caused derision, but now just brought him back slaps from complete strangers, and he did not mind in the least.

At length, Darcy pulled her momentarily from the set so that they could in fact have just a little conversation.

"Elizabeth, I am afraid I must confess a weakness. I cannot think on more than one conversation at a time; and my mind is entirely consumed with the conversation we will have on the morrow. I will only propose marriage one time in my life, and it must be done right. A proposal of marriage must talk of honor and duty and family, but mostly it must talk of love. Love for your spouse. Love for your children. Love for your estate and your dependents. All must be spoken. All must be discussed, but most importantly, all must be felt… for have not the slightest doubt, Miss Elizabeth Bennet. You are the love of my life, and you will have my heartfelt gratitude for saving me from myself, and my undying love until my dying breath."

- The End -