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After a tragic accident, Fitzwilliam Darcy is left for dead. His grief-stricken wife vows to do what is best for their children, including an ill-advised second marriage in the peerage.

Years later, Will Trevills leaves his happy life in Cornwall to discover the truth about his past. Thrust into a strange world after life as a fisherman, he gains a family he cannot recall. Lady Neston becomes Mrs. Darcy once more, and is grateful for her escape. But her husband questions his purpose as a gentleman, and cannot remember the love they shared.

Charged with bigamy, she may face the ultimate punishment, while the family she sought to protect has never been in greater peril.

Author's Note: And so here we finally are, dear readers! I am quite excited to share this one with you, but I would be remiss if I did not note that the scenario is COMPLETELY BONKERS and I am well aware of this. There are tropes. Lots and lots of tropes. I had fun with it, and I hope you will as well. In a way, it's as though A Generation's Secrets and Mistress had a fiction baby. If you enjoyed both of those and you don't mind a trope or four, I think you'll like this one. If not, this may not be your cup of tea, and I understand that.

I expect to post two chapters at a time (except this first part which by necessity is three), at first weekly while I edit the later parts and then potentially at a faster pace.

Warnings: contains scenes of rape and sexual assault as well as a depiction of an abusive marriage and more general physical violence.

The Crimes of Elizabeth Darcy


October, 1816

Chapter 1

Celtic Sea

There was a storm coming. Captain Blake knew it in his bones just as well as he knew it in the barometer. Specifically, he felt it in one bone, the leg he had broken in the year five, falling from the mizzen eight days before Trafalgar. It was as regular as a chronometer, that ache, always a harbinger of poor weather, always a reminder of what might have been. Blake knew his strengths as well as his weaknesses, felt certain he would have acquitted himself well in that battle and earned a promotion. His self-knowledge did extend to understanding it was just as likely that he would have acquitted himself well and died in the process, but this was not something he usually dwelled upon when his mind chanced to what might have been.

What had happened was his spending the entirety of the battle in the sick bay and never meeting with another opportunity to gain the Admiralty's attention, remaining a lieutenant for the remainder of his naval career. When he had inherited a modest sum from his uncle, he had determined the best thing to do was say good-bye to his dreams of naval glory and purchase a packet ship. It was not his dream, but it was a command, and it earned him as pretty a penny as prize money ever had – and unlike prize money, he would continue to earn those pennies now that peace on the continent seemed to be here for good.

There were things he had to contend with that Royal Navy captains did not have to consider – carrying passengers paid well, but as a general rule they were needy, lubberly creatures. This voyage was a rare exception; Blake had one passenger, a man who had booked two cabins under the unpromising name of Fitzwilliam Darcy. The captain had expected a personage every bit as pretentious as his name and had been pleasantly surprised by the man who had come aboard. Most gentlemen would not have booked a second cabin for their valet, leaving him instead to steerage, and still fewer of them would have sent that valet ashore from Falmouth Bay when the man had proven to be violently seasick. That act had been enough in itself to give Blake a fondness for his passenger, but still better the man seemed to have some knowledge of sailing, enough so that his questions at the dinner table were intelligent, and he readily comprehended Blake's answers. Nor did he ask too many questions, being of a quiet temperament.

Yes, Mr. Darcy was the easiest passenger Blake had known in some years, and he determined he ought to go below to tell the gentleman about the impending storm. His leg aching, he went down the stairway and into the saloon, by far the finest space in the packet. Nominally, it was Blake's day cabin, but passengers typically commandeered it for their use; it was to Mr. Darcy's credit that he had not begun to use it until Blake had invited him to do so. Although it was Blake's space, he still knocked upon the door and was promptly bade to please come in. The gentleman was seated at a table near the stern windows, using the light for what he was about at the writing-slope atop the table. He laid down his pen, turning to look at Blake.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Darcy. I wished to warn you that there's a storm coming."

The gentleman frowned. "Will it delay our reaching Falmouth?"

"It likely will, but I hope not by too much. 'Tis still a matter of days, not weeks." Blake hoped he had struck the right balance between reassurance and managing the man's expectations. Mr. Darcy did not speak often of his family, but when he did it had become clear to Blake that he was quite devoted to them and eager to be reunited.

Mr. Darcy sighed, and nodded.

"I'd recommend taking the air on deck while you can, sir. If it 'tis bad enough, I'll be required to batten the hatches down."

"Thank you, Captain Blake, I shall take your advice once I have written a little more here. A letter to my wife – I do not know why I write it when I will be the one to deliver it to her, but – "

The saloon was the one place on the ship with light enough to see a tinge of pink in the gentleman's countenance as his voice trailed off. Feeling suddenly awkward, Blake bowed and left the saloon, closing the door behind him.

Darcy waited until he heard the door click closed and sighed again. The thought of a delay at the end of such a voyage was unbearably painful, but there was nothing he could do beyond those pastimes he had already been using to occupy himself during this seemingly interminable journey: writing, reading, walking the deck of the Rapid.

It was a strange lull in his life, made stranger by the flurry of activity that had comprised his time in Halifax, relieving an incompetent man of his post and then interviewing new candidates to take on the management of his uncle's timber interests in Canada, all the while knowing that he needed to be done in the time it took HM Rapid to sail from Halifax to New York and back, picking up the mail and her lone passenger before returning to England. Darcy could have found passage on a merchant ship if his business had been delayed, but nothing would have been as fast as the packet.

He longed desperately for that first glimpse of England's shore and all it represented: home, land, family, love. Elizabeth. Little William. By journey's end he would have missed nearly three months of his son's development, three months of his wife's love. There would be duties ashore as well, of course; his steward's letter had indicated cause for deep concern over the weather, and he needed to look in on Rosings as well as Pemberley. His uncle might have other needs for him, too – with General Fitzwilliam in Gibraltar and Viscount Ashbourne useless for, well, anything, all that his uncle was too infirm to manage had fallen to Darcy.

Duty would have to wait until he saw his wife and son, though. Elizabeth and William first, everything and everyone else after. She had hinted to him in Falmouth that their family might expand, and Darcy prayed daily that he might have this confirmed upon his return, that he might have opportunity to marvel anew at both his wife's lovely countenance and her swelling belly. And he longed deeply for a son or daughter to add to his list of those most important people in his life.

He picked up the miniature of Elizabeth from its place beside his letter, gazing at her. It was as good a rendition as he supposed possible in such a small medium – no artist could completely capture the delightful sparkle of those dark eyes as she spoke teasingly to her husband, but it was close enough to raise that expression in Darcy's mind. Would she teaze him, when he finally handed her the thick letter he had been adding to every day during his journey? Or would those fine eyes be filled with tears, as they had been during their parting in Falmouth? William Darcy had never been a talkative man, but during this journey he had felt his loneliness, had thought of so many things he wanted to tell Elizabeth. This letter had been his outlet for them. He finished the line he had been writing, of his hopes of sighting Cape Cornwall soon, then added a few lines about Captain Blake's predicted storm, informing her he was going up on deck for some air while he still could. Then he dusted pounce over the paper and put both paper and miniature away in the writing-slope.

By the time he came up on deck, Darcy could sense the wind was picking up, and the sea with it. He was grateful Blake had recommended an airing – Darcy was too tall to walk without a significant stoop below decks, and so this was his only chance to walk about at a decent pace, although even that was slowed by the need to turn frequently, hemmed in as he was by the size of the deck. As he walked, he admired the sails, taut with the wind. It was strange, Darcy thought, that this was his first sea voyage, when he had grown up on tales of them from his father. George Darcy had been a midshipman for five years of his life – had intended to spend his life in the Royal Navy – but the death of his elder brother from fever had changed his life's purpose. He had been recalled home by his family and never went to sea again, but he had retained a fondness for that time and for sailing all his life. When he had inherited the estate, he had purchased a boat and built a boathouse on the large lake on Pemberley's grounds, and some of Darcy's favourite memories were of sailing there with his father.

He had not gone sailing after his father's death, though. Darcy had presumed he had forgotten much of his father's teachings, but his time upon HM Rapid had proven that he remembered much more than he thought he did. Much had come back to him in his observations of the seamen at their work, and Captain Blake had been good about answering his questions during dinner. Darcy intended to see what condition the old boat was in when he returned home; William would be getting old enough for it soon enough, and Darcy loved the idea of teaching little William of his grandfather's pastime. The child would never know George Darcy, but at least he could know something of him.

Over his head, the thunder boomed, and Darcy sipped his brandy. It rolled with the swell in the fine glass, part of the campaign set Darcy had borrowed from his brother-in-law, General Sir Philip Colbourne. Darcy was grateful to Colbourne for the loan of the wooden case with its padded compartments; somehow drinking proper brandy from a proper glass made him feel far more civilised, particularly since he was at present drinking it in the dim evening light of the saloon, endeavouring to read while the Rapid capered on the waves like a young filly on her first day under saddle.

There were other reasons for Darcy's gratitude towards Sir Phillip – far more important ones than the loan of some useful items for a long voyage. Chief among them was the way Sir Philip treated Georgiana, as a respectful, dedicated, and very often doting husband. Darcy had been hesitant, when Sir Philip had first asked for her hand. After what had happened with George Wickham, Georgiana had been reluctant about coming out into society at all, and spent her first season quite unenthusiastic about her suitors – her numerous suitors, for a young, accomplished lady with a fortune of 30,000 pounds. That had changed when she had been introduced to her cousin's comrade-in-arms. They had been Colonel Fitzwilliam and a newly minted Brigadier-General Colbourne then, and Darcy had worried over the difference in the ages of the general and his sister. Georgiana had made it clear she was in love, however, and with his cousin wholly willing to vouch for the goodness of Colbourne's character, Darcy had followed him in giving his blessing for the match.

Georgiana had become Mrs. Colbourne and then Lady Colbourne, for her husband had earned both a promotion to Major-General as well as a knighthood during the battle of Waterloo. These things had come at the cost of his arm, and surely the cost of some of Georgiana's innocence, as well, for she had spent the battle in Brussels. Darcy understood Philip's survival had been a near-run thing, and so he was particularly grateful General Colbourne had not made Georgiana a young widow. When war had resumed, this had been her brother's greatest fear.

Nay, Sir Philip had survived and resigned his commission, intending to take up a more gentlemanly life of leisure with his wife. Darcy longed to see Elizabeth and little William most, but he hoped he might see his sister and brother-in-law shortly thereafter. Perhaps by now she would have some of that same good news Darcy hoped Elizabeth was going to share, and he might learn that he was to become an uncle as well as a father once more.

The thunder boomed with an especially loud clap and a bright flash in the stern windows; Darcy started a little, laying his book down beside him on the cot. They had encountered a storm during the passage to Halifax, so this was not entirely novel to him, but nor did he like it. There was something he found deeply unsettling about being on a ship in such a situation, something that recalled him to what he could usually avoid thinking about, that there were but mere planks between him and oblivion.

A further rumbling of thunder followed, and then Darcy became aware of shouting, taking place on the deck above him. Worried, he sipped his brandy and listened, for how long he knew not. What he did know was that the shouting seemed to be growing more intense. Concern to know what was happening took hold deep within Darcy's chest, a tight, clenching sensation; he knew he would not be able to relax with such noises occurring unless he knew the cause – and knew the cause was not imperilling the ship.

Darcy opened the door to the stairway just far enough to get a goodly gust of damp wind in his face – clear proof that Captain Blake had not yet ordered the hatches battened down. This decided matters for him. He had been enjoying the lone passenger's perquisite of sitting in the saloon in his shirtsleeves, but located his coat before he would go up. This was less out of a desire to dress formally and instead because there were thirty guineas sewn within the lining of the coat – Elizabeth's idea and handiwork, just in chance he was robbed and had need of them. Darcy buttoned the coat and left the saloon, the shouting on deck even louder through the open companionway. The ship lurched as he climbed the ladder there, but Darcy held fast, emerging on deck to a dazzling, unexpected light.

There was one thing a captain feared aboard his ship more than anything else: fire. There were things he could do to endeavour to prevent it, and Captain Blake had done them, but there was nothing to be done about lightning. At sea, a ship's masts were the tallest objects for miles – a ship's wooden masts. Thus it was that Captain Blake was directing his crew as they attempted to put out the fire that was quickly spreading down the Rapid's mizzenmast, an exercise he feared would be futile unless the storm brought strong rain, and quickly.

The light from the fire was so bright it was impossible to see anything else after viewing it, and Blake walked over to the railing, closing his eyes for some seconds to let them readjust, so that he could see the present location of the rain. It was out there, a smudge on the horizon, but he feared the smudge was too distant. His mind was filled with the sort of calculations he needed to be making at such a time: the speed of his ship, the speed of those rain clouds, the speed of the fire. He longed to preserve his ship, but it was more important to preserve two other things: the men on board, and the mail.

Blake turned back towards the mast, bracing himself for the brilliant light, and in that light saw a new addition to his horrors: Mr. Darcy had come up on deck, and a flaming spar was falling towards him. It happened too quickly for Blake or any of his men to prevent its hitting Darcy's head with a force that sickened the captain. He ran to his prone passenger and reached him just after Dawson, the surgeon. Together they dragged him back from the burning pole, then Dawson began examining the wound on the gentleman's head.

Dawson was careful about the examination, and Blake had a suspicion of what he was going to say even before he said it: "I am afraid it is mortal. Awful luck, sir – awful, awful luck."

Blake nodded. He had seen his share of wounds in battle, and he felt a little of that peculiar naval mentality claim him. In battle, a man had to harden his heart against all sentimentality, had to throw his dead (and sometimes dying) comrades overboard, to prevent their getting in the way of the fighting. There was no need to do that, thank God, but Blake knew he needed to invest his time in the living, not the dying. Even in the time he had spent on Darcy, the fire had spread to the deck.

Blake stood and bellowed, "Man the cutter and the pinnace. As much water and biscuit in each as will fit." Then he turned towards the mate. "Evans, get the mail."

John Barton was the sort of seaman his captains always called sober and reliable, the sort who always followed orders, and followed them well. He'd been rated able for much of his naval career, and thus was the sort of man who was still able to gain employment during the peace. He'd liked Captain Blake, respected him, liked and respected the master and the mate, too.

It felt very strange to wish to disobey Blake's orders, which were to man the boats and leave the gentleman behind. The master, Harris, had put up some little protest, but he'd not pushed further after the captain had said, "I understand, Mr. Harris, but I cannot prioritize a body when I can carry food and water in its place."

"He ain't a body yet," grumbled Barton.

"Nay he ain't," replied Alfred Wallace.

"Ain't right, just leavin' him there," Barton said. He glanced around. Some of the men were hoisting down the casks into the boats, others half-heartedly continuing the now-futile attempt to put out the fire. Barton's eyes landed upon the skiff, the smallest of the ship's boats. The captain hadn't said anything about manning the skiff.

"We could put 'im in the skiff," said Barton. "Give 'im a chance at least. Better'n burning to death."

"Aye, now there's an idea," replied Wallace eagerly.

It was only when they picked up the gentleman that Barton realised Wallace's eagerness was because he wished to slip the gentleman's golden ring from his finger. Barton didn't like it, but he needed Wallace's help, so he didn't say anything of it. They dropped the gentleman in the skiff and put the oars in beside him, then picked up the whole thing to drop it overboard. It was heavy with the man inside, but they managed. Poor Mr. Darcy with his heavily bleeding head rolled away on the waves just as Evans bellowed, "Barton! Wallace!"

They ran over to the other side of the ship, the last two men to take their places, squeezing into seats on the cutter. Barton wished they could have done more for the poor gentleman, but he was glad of what they had done, of at least giving the man some sort of little chance. It wasn't much of a chance, he admitted, but at least it was something. Better than burning to death, for sure.

The guilt did not begin to gnaw at Captain Blake until they were rowing away from the Rapid. In his head, he knew he had done the right thing in leaving what was surely soon to become a body behind. In his heart, though, he recalled how much he had liked and respected the gentleman, recalled the wife he had spoken so fondly of. Evans had brought up the mailbags, but there was one letter Blake wished he had thought to get – the letter Darcy had been writing to his wife. If Blake could not bring her back a body, he might at least have brought her the letter.

For a brief moment, Blake felt an irrational surge in his breast, a desire to order them to row back towards the ship. It was too late and he knew it, however. The Rapid did not carry so much powder as the naval ships Blake had served on, but she did carry some, in chance war broke out again and she needed to defend herself. A few minutes later, the fire reached that powder and HM Rapid blew up, an even more blinding fireball against the night sky.

"We therefore commit his body to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body, when the sea shall give up her dead," Blake murmured, reciting what of the burial service he could remember.

Then he turned his attention to the task at hand, a task that would not be an easy one – bringing his crew through a storm in open boats. The rain he had longed for earlier was finally approaching, now deeply unwanted. Blake would think no more of poor Mr. Darcy until they reached land.