Disclaimer: Jane Austen's estate owns the characters and settings of this story, apart from those original to the author or with historical basis. The story itself belongs to the author and no profit is being made from it.

War and Lace . . . Continued

Act Six: Longbourne . . . Finally

The first thing Kitty noticed was the persistent 'tap . . . tap . . . tap . . .' on her window pane. She rolled over in bed, pulling her long tangled hair out from under her head with a sigh, and tried to go back to sleep.

'Tap . . . tap . . . tap . . .' This was worse than sharing a room with Lydia. What was it? An owl? A tree branch? She pulled her pillow up and pressed it against her ears.

'Tap . . . tap . . .TAP!' With a snarl, Kitty pulled herself out of bed and stormed to the window, dragging aside the curtains in the darkened room, and peering out. No wind. The tree outside her window was still, and there was nothing on her windowsill. But looking out and looking down, she saw something. A movement. And then the moon came out from behind a cloud and there he was. Bathed in an iridescent glow. Eerie and white. Her Major-General, his hand frozen in the act of throwing another pebble. Waiting for her. Looking up for her. He had come. For her.

Clutching her hands to the embroidery at the collar of her nightgown, she suddenly felt naked beneath his scrutiny and frantically tried to comb out her long hair with her fingers. How had he known this was her room? And then she saw. Her handkerchief. The one he had asked for his prize during the Poque game, so long ago. She had hung it from her window frame. Wistful thinking perhaps, a damsel waiting to present a token to her knight, but it had worked, he had come. And he was smiling.

She raced out of the room, her bare feet making no sound on the plush carpeting as she pounded down the stairs. He had come! Her white nightgown billowed around her as she rounded the corner and slammed into the east side door. And then, fiddling frantically with the lock, she tore it open, shot the bolt back and pulled open the door. Shivering at the cold early-spring temperatures, she went out questing, searching for that reassurance that he was still there.

And there he was.

Standing. Proud. Slightly hesitant as he shifted his weight backwards. He wasn't sure of her. Not certain she wanted him too. Oh god how she wanted him.

Meeting his eyes, she saw the pleading in them and, with the slightest smile, she reassured him of her intentions. And that was all he needed.

She went to him and they embraced, his strong arms holding her stiffly against him and then, more sure, relaxing into her. She felt the slight bristles on his chin brush the side of her face as warmth suffused her entire body, and she turned to look at him.

"Miss Bennett." he said, searching her face with his brown eyes, drinking it in. "Kitty. I do love you."

"And I love you, John." she smiled then at the sound of his name. A true smile that lit up her face and threatened to outshine the moon.

And then he kissed her. And then she kissed him.

When they finally separated, some minutes later, the Major-General, breathing hard, asked his question. "Kitty. Will you─ Stop giggling!"

"I'm sorry." She grinned, cupping his chin with her hands and feeling the bristles rasp under her fingers. "You tickle."

"Now, now my girl, when I was stationed in Egypt way back at the turn of the century," he began, a scold in his voice, and then broke into a roguish smile of his own, "My soldiers used to say exactly the same about me!"

"John!" Kitty broke into a peal of laughter, not even attempting to keep quiet in the jubilation of that midnight estate. "I sincerely hope you've been keeping all your kisses for me."

"All my life long." he reassured her softly, "Never have I even considered another woman. Never has one come close to my ideal. Not in mind or spirit or body. Except you, Miss Bennett. My handful. My challenge. My impossible perfection." And taking her hands in his, he sank to the floor, cursing a little at the creaking in his travel-weary joints as he did so, and looked up at her. "Now Miss Bennett, my beautifully imperfect perfection, will you make an old warhorse happy? Will you be my equal, Kitty? My wife?"

"No." she shook her head and sank down beside him, taking her hands back and wrapping them protectively around him again, as he started back in horror. "I will not. I will not be the wife of an old warhorse," but then she reassured him. "I will be the wife of a man. A real man. A vigorous soldier. A perfect gentleman. And my imperfect perfection. I will be the wife of you. And it will make me so proud."

And then he kissed her again for a long time. Removing his cloak and wrapping it around her prone body for warmth as they stayed there in the grounds, on display for all to see but none to witness, lost in each other and the all encompassing strength of their love.

As they broke apart one final time, he said "Good night," not really wanting it. Not wishing it so, but feeling it to be proper. But she would not let him go so easily.

"Yes." she replied, meeting his eyes in that forthright way of hers and seeming to will her words into his very soul. "It will be a very good night." It was her choice, her invitation and her instruction, and he had not the power within him to refuse her anything.

At first tentatively, and then with growing passion, they gave in to each other. Shared in each other. Finally whole. Finally one. Underneath that luminescent moon. In full view of the world with no embarrassment, no apology, they bared their souls and then their bodies on that wintry night, as he took her and gave himself, tenderly and reverently and with increasing passion and wild abandon against the east side door.

When Lady Catherine De Bourgh found out about their engagement, there was no way of consoling her, nothing anybody to say to make it right. And whilst all others about them realised, once they had gotten over their initial surprise, what a perfect match the soldier and the silly girl made, and ignored with impunity the undue alacrity with which their first son was born into the world, she would make no such concession herself.

It was the Bennett disease. Yet again bringing her family low. And it was impossible and frustrating all at the same time. After all, how now could her dear Anne ever possibly find a husband of her own now? It was her lot in life for her family to be brought low by Longbourne, but then there were no Bennett sons.

The End.