Title: A Maneuvering Business
Rating: Err…uh…we'll call it 13+. Because occasionally, in their starched shirts and high-waisted dresses, they have very veiled and polite references to sex and naked ankles.
Genre: Insanity in fic format. (Otherwise known as very, very AU/romance.)
Summary: "Marriage is indeed a maneuvering business." Mansfield Park
Author's Note: This fic is the highly crack!ified result of an extended conversation with controlfreak80, too much sugar, and my 50th viewing of the Colin Firth edition of Pride & Prejudice. Suddenly, there was a whole mess of people prodding me to actually write the insanity. (You know who you are. I curse you all.) As I obviously have no willpower at all, I caved, thus producing the crack!fic before you. Of course, somewhere along the line, it sort of…spiraled completely out of control, taking on a life of its own. The end result is a very long AU fic that utilizes pretty much every cliché known to man, rips off a part of almost all of Jane Austen's plots, and is probably insufferably OOC. But I tend to think it's rather lovable despite all that. As always, thank to my betas: controlfreak80, caroly214, and kate98.
Dedication: I don't normally bother with dedications, as I tend to think it's a bit pretentious for fanfic, but this had to be dedicated to controlfreak80, who's been there listening to me ramble and obsess over this fic daily since the crazy night of LJ posting that spawned it. I feel like it's nearly as much her baby as it is mine.
"Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings."
Small towns are worlds of their own, predictable in their tedium and intrigues alike. The village of Gateshire, England, was not unusual in this regard—it had long ago established its own particular daily routines and scandalous characters and was quite content to continue in this mundane fashion. The post always arrived every other Wednesday, church on Sundays consistently ran over by eleven minutes, and everyone knew that the cobbler's daughter in town could repair a shoe a week and a half before her father would even begin.
Perhaps it was not the most exciting way of life, but most residents of Gateshire found it acceptable enough. There was always something to do, someplace to go, and someone to gossip about. And if these events all seemed important at the time, but were later reflected upon as rather insignificant, well then, there were worse things than living a harmless (if somewhat inconsequential) life.
Of course, nothing stays the same forever, not even places like Gateshire. People come, people go, and society adapts as it sees fit. One event that precipitated such a shift in society was the news that the long-abandoned estate of Cheyenne on the north side of town had finally been purchased.
While not quite the largest of the local estates, Cheyenne Manor came in as a close second. Anyone who had the means to simply buy such a property, sight unseen, was worthy of plenty of speculation. It wasn't long before the rumors began to circulate about the new landlord and his background.
It seemed to be a truth universally agreed upon that he was a war hero of some kind—well respected in the army and regretfully retired before his time. That singular fact was the only detail that could be agreed upon by the general population, the rest of the reports being so dissimilar and some so ludicrous that no one knew quite what to expect with his approaching arrival.
Some insisted that he had married a foreign savage and had spent time living among them in Africa—and not in one of the more civilized ports of harbor set up on the southern-most part of the continent, either. Some heard that he was a deaf-mute, having lost his senses in some undisclosed battle on distant soil. There were reports of blood feuds and exotic pastimes and some horrible tragedies, all so muddled that no sense could be made of them.
Perhaps the most disturbing to some was his supposed Irish heritage, but it was easily dismissed because no one knew of any Irishman rich enough to afford luxuries like the grand Cheyenne Manor.
In actuality, Colonel Jack O'Neill was Irish, but the connection was such a distant one that all he had retained from the oft-cursed island was his surname and his somewhat questionable sense of humor.
As for the other reports, well, there was a strange mixture of truth and falsehood in them that only the man himself could clarify—and he was certainly in no hurry to do so. When he finally did arrive just after spring planting, the rumors were left by the wayside as people became fascinated by the oddity that was the actual man.
He had brought with him scant few belongings, two general servants and a notoriously efficient Man of Affairs named Walter Harriman. Perhaps most scandalous of all was his last traveling companion—a tall, large, and completely foreign fellow who rode in robes of unknown fabrics and had skin the color of freshly-plowed earth. As if that wasn't enough, tattoos in an alien tongue glistened on his skin in black and gold and his name was unlike any Christian name the residents of Gateshire had ever heard—Teal'c.
The town at large may have been able to digest these particular oddities easily enough, especially for a high-ranking military man of wealth (and conveniently, handsome appearance) such as Colonel O'Neill. But before the town had a chance to adjust, the newcomer's questionable behavior only increased. He refused to visit anyone, even his closest neighbors the Langfords, who were widely known and respected. When people went to visit him, as decorum demanded of new neighbors, he was in turn either moderately civil or downright abrupt. He rejected invitations to parties and balls, and generally holed up in his newly acquired house without much regard to the opinions of those who surrounded him, which is, as everyone is well aware, the worst sin of all in a small town.
In truth, it was his intention to offend no one; Colonel O'Neill had the sole desire to be left to his own devices and mind his own business. The country, he had thought, would offer more solace and peace than the hectic and overwhelming pace of life in London. Whether that idea had any merit, he was, as of yet, uncertain.
A fortnight after his arrival, the general consensus was that Gateshire was wholly unimpressed with Colonel O'Neill. Behind closed doors, however, no one person had been the object of so much discussion since the Earl of Langford's niece, Vala Maldoran, had run off with a traveling band of gypsies while she had been visiting her great uncle for the summer. Men thought he was rude and brilliant in turn, women believed him to be mysterious and romantic, and children began to dare each other to sneak onto Cheyenne Manor's land as a test of bravery.
Jack O'Neill was predictably oblivious to it all.