Fumbling towards ecstasy.
Chapter one. Wedding Jitters
Elizabeth Bennet stood before the mirror in her room staring at her reflexion. In less than an hour's time she would be married. In under minutes she would be Lizzy Bennet no more, but Elizabeth Darcy. She would leave all of her family and friends and throw herself into the power of Fitzwilliam Darcy. Jane had been married before her to Mr. Bingley with his red hair, bright eyes and ready smile. She had been in ecstasies as she stood next to him awaiting the priest to make the declaration of "man and wife", and Bingley had been all but beside himself with happiness. Now it was her turn. The snow was barely gone and a chill was yet in the air and her wedding would be today. Darcy had paid for the entire wedding, spoiling her at every turn. Her gown was made of a thin ivory silk that opened up at her feet to reveal an under gown of a pale rose silk. It had long fitted sleeves that puffed at the shoulders and all but covered her hands and a long train that floated behind her so light was the material. The collar was high and came down into a V- neckline that was relatively low, but hardly scandalous. Along the edge of the collar, neckline, and underneath her bust was a delicate floral embroidery of pink flowers and pale green leaves and hanging down the center of her gown were three similar vines of pink and white flowers and green leaves. Her dark brown hair had been fluffed and woven into a large broad knot at the base of her neck, with one twisted lock wrapped around her head. Her bangs had been curled slightly and a pyramid of pink and white flowers anchored a floor length veil of thin, virtually transparent, white silk. Around her long slender neck was a short golden chain with an oval locket that Fitzwilliam had given her for no apparent reason. In her hands was a bouquet of white and pink lilies tied with white ribbons. She pressed her lips together and sighed, hoping to calm the violent nerves that had sprung up in her belly. The door opened and she turned to see Jane enter.
"How are you dearest?" Jane asked. Lizzy smiled winningly but ruined the effect by biting her lip and looking down at her feet.
"I hardly know. I feel unbearably happy and sick all at the same time."
"Yes, that is how I felt when I married Dear Charles, but once I saw him I felt much calmer," she said, taking her sister's hand in her own. "I saw your Mr. Darcy on my way here… he was rather agitated.
"Was he?" Lizzy asked, her face lighting up.
"Oh yes, wringing his gloves, literally pacing a hole in the rug. It would have been funny if he had not seemed so pathetically nervous."
"Well, that's much better," she said mischievously. "I can bear my agitation much more cheerfully now, knowing that he is behaving much worse." Jane smiled and shook her head and Lizzy giggled. Suddenly, her face fell and she gripped Jane's hand. "Is it wicked of me, Jane?" she asked fearfully.
"Oh no, Lizzy!" She smiled at her sister. "You could never be wicked. Well, not very wicked… certainly not too wicked. I daresay that that is what drew Mr. Darcy to you in the first place; Your well-meaning wickedness," she teased. Lizzy smiled and nodded before glancing at her reflexion in the mirror again.
"Well then, enough of this nonsense, how do I look? Shall I disgrace him, or terrify him?" she asked. Jane laughed and embraced her warmly.
"You look happy, Lizzy, and beautiful, truly beautiful."
"Shall I rival you?" she asked laughingly.
"Yes, dearest, yes I believe you shall!" Jane said, kissing her cheeks. "Lizzy, I am so happy for you. Can you believe it? The pair of us, wedded so happily? And now our parents and sisters will want for nothing!"
"Jane…" Lizzy said smiling at her sister. "Yes it is rather dreamlike… to think, both of us in love and married to rich men… who are sensible and wonderful. It is unreal and yet it is, and I for one intend to make the most of it!"
"Oh, Lizzy! What a thing to say!" Jane cried before dissolving into fits of giggles with her sister. Elizabeth walked over to the window and looked out of it at the carriage that had just arrived.
"Although… I must admit Jane… My Will… I love him to distraction and all his fortune and beauty and connections would be nothing to me if I did not love him so dearly." She sighed wistfully and looked at Jane. "He is so good, Jane, it is almost unnatural; at times I feel I hardly deserve him!"
"Dearest, you do deserve him; if you didn't, then you would not be with him. What is for you, shall never go by you."
"Yes, yes that is true." The door opened again and Mrs. Bennet entered fretting and bustling.
"Oh, Lizzy! My dear, you look so pretty! And your dress so richly made! Oh, is that French silk?"
"Mama!" Lizzy said, half amused and half annoyed.
"Oh well, but you look so stately; oh I hope that you shall not forget your poor mama!"
"Mama, there is no need to worry about that," Elizabeth said, hugging her tight. "I shall visit you often and you shall always be welcome at Pemberley."
"Oh, well, that is good too! Oh, well, it is time you were at the church, Lizzy."
"All right mama, I am coming," Lizzy said picking up her train and veil, hooking arms with Jane, and making her way down the stairs to the carriage.
If there was one thing that annoyed Fitzwilliam Darcy it was his propensity to be nervous about the silliest thing. Here he was, about to be married to the woman that he had been in love with for the better part of a year and he was about to jump out of his skin. It was utterly ridiculous. He had fought for her love- gone to hell and back for her- and now that he had her, he was terrified. The only things that kept him from bolting that second were the facts that he was standing at the front of the church in front of the congregation, his cousin who was standing next to him would never let him live it down, and he couldn't seem to uproot his feet from the floor. He knew that he was being irrational, that he loved her beyond reason, and that there was no way that she would accept his hand if she had any qualms about his character or the depth of her regard for him.
"You would do well to put those gloves on Will or you will do them irrevocable damage," Richard said. Darcy glanced over at him sharply and met the amused brown eyes, immediately feeling foolish.
"What? Oh yes, of course," He said, moving to put them on. His hands were starting to feel rather cold, which of course was the entire purpose of him having gloves. He was resplendent in his blue coat (tailored to perfection) and matching waistcoat that highlighted the pale blue of his eyes, his cravat tied in a complicated yet elegant knot.
"I am." He replied a bit petulantly, just before realizing that he truly was not breathing. He inhaled and then exhaled trying to ignore the smirk on his cousin's face. It would not do to pass out at the altar on his wedding day. He looked down at his hands and decided that he needed to concentrate on breathing. Suddenly, the bridal march started and his body tensed again, so quickly that he would have sworn on a bible at that point that he had pulled a muscle. He saw Jane Bingley walk up the aisle as the matron of honor. She smiled at him reassuringly and he smiled back. At least, he hoped that he smiled back but it might very well have been a grimace. Next was Mary Bennet (her face composed and nearly bored, but still she managed to give him a smile as well) followed by Kitty who was giggling as was her wont.
He looked up at the doorway and saw her on the arm of her father, his pale, little elf-queen, his darling Lizzy. The combination of the flowers and her diaphanous veil, set against the winter sunlight streaming into the church, truly made her look like a fairy. She had her mischievous smile on her face, her brown eyes sparkling. For a moment his heart truly stopped, and he could not bring himself to either breathe or think. How perfect she was! "Oh Lizzy…" he whispered softly with a sigh. A slight smile curved his lips as he felt his entire form relax, and when Mr. Bennet placed her hand in his and she took her place at his side, his smile broadened. She glanced up at him and he looked down at her with a smile before staring down at his boots. Truly there had never been a more beautiful creature than she. The pastor gave his sermon, but he hardly heard it. All he could hear was her quiet breathing, all that he felt was the warmth of her slender body against his arm, and he burned to take her hand into his. If only she was not holding that damned bouquet!
"Fitzwilliam"- his head snapped up to focus on the pastor - "Alastair Emmanuel, wilt thou take this woman to thy lawful wedded wife? Wilt thou love her, honor her, cherish her and forsaking all others keep thyself only unto her, until death?"
"I will," He said softly, his deep voice echoing throughout the chapel.
"Elizabeth Alexandrina, wilt thou take this man to thy lawful wedded husband? Wilt thou love him, honor him, serve him, and forsaking all others keep thyself only onto him until death?"
"I will," She replied looking over at him, a world of love in her eyes. He smiled and nodded and then heard nothing after that for the rest of the mass save for the proclamation of husband and wife at the very end. They hooked arms and strolled down the aisle, to the sounds of violins and showers of rice, toward the awaiting open carriage riddled with garlands and ribbon. They climbed in and drove off to the wedding breakfast that was to be at Longbourn, during which Darcy sat next to Mr. Bennet as it was the only way to retain his sanity in this house. Between Mrs. Bennet's embarrassingly talkative nature, Kitty's giggling, and Mary's maudlin opinions, the older man was his only solace. Soon he found he was enjoying himself as Elizabeth and her father provided him with a constant source of entertainment. Perhaps with time he would learn to simply be amused by Lizzy's silly relations, but until then he would stay close to his beloved and her father. After the toasts were made, and conversation had waned, they decided that it was time to be off. He watched as Elizabeth- who had changed into one of her traveling gowns, this one was a sky blue - talked with Jane, her typical smiles in place. He loved her smile: there was always a hint of mischief in it, and now that he was her husband he had the right to stare at her as much as he wanted without having to think of others.
"Oh, my dear Lizzy! My darling girl, how happy you must be!" Mrs. Bennet's cries tore him from his reverie to see an amused Lizzy embracing her mother. "Oh, I don't know how I shall do without my two eldest daughters!"
"I am certain that your nerves will bear the loss quite tolerably, my dear," Mr. Bennet replied, and Elizabeth laughed. Darcy decided that he would never really grow accustomed to his mother-in-law's constant chattering (even if he amused himself with Lizzy's sly remarks and witty conversation), she was perfectly ridiculous. Her husband, Mr. Bennet however, had become a kindred spirit. The man was the reason Elizabeth had turned out the way she had. He was relatively quiet, intelligent and had a wicked sense of humor. Darcy watched him embrace Elizabeth tightly, saw the tears in his eyes, and realized the thing that seemed to set him apart. He loved his daughters, especially Lizzy, and it was rare to find a father who cared about his daughters. Most were simply preoccupied with marrying them off, but with Mr. Bennet, their liking was the principle thing. It may not have been the most practical way to look at things, but it showed a depth of character that Mrs. Bennet seemed to lack altogether. He almost pitied the man, having taken away the last bit of sense and reason from his house. "Goodbye my Lizzy," her father whispered.
"Oh papa, it is not goodbye." She replied.
"I suppose, but I shall need an invitation to see you now," he teased.
"Absolutely not," Darcy said sincerely. "You need never ask."
"You are most kind, sir." Mrs. Bennet cooed.
"Kindness has nothing to do with it, madam, we are family now for better or worse," he said, sharing an amused look with her husband.
"For better of worse indeed, aptly put my boy," Mr. Bennet said with an amused twinkle in his eye as he shook Darcy's hand. "Well now, that's enough of that, go on now; go on, off with the both of you." Darcy waited for her to hug her three sisters and say the rest of her farewell's before helping her into the carriage and they set out toward Pemberley. She leaned against him with a sigh and he smiled, wrapping an arm around her pulling her close.
"Thank God that's over," he said. "Your family is exhausting, in the best sense." She let out a moan in response. "When I saw you coming towards me this morning, I thought that I was going to disgrace myself by fainting." She giggled at that.
"Did you indeed?" she asked, looking up at him.
"It was not my bravest moment, I can assure you," he replied kissing her forehead.
"Not very debonair at all, my love," she teased poking his stomach.
"Mmmm," he replied chuckling softly.
"You have quite shattered my illusions of your brave and indomitable nature," she said, her eyes twinkling, and he laughed. "Fainting at the altar, rather dashing indeed." He glared at her playfully and pressed a soft kiss on her mouth.
"Hush, you," he muttered against her lips and she giggled again.
They sat there in a comfortable silence for a while, staring out the window at the passing scenery, and he felt that he could have sat next to her forever just like this. When he looked down at her a half an hour later he was met with the most disturbing sight. There were silent tracks of tears on her cheeks, her eyes that were once merry were sad and almost lonely.
"Elizabeth? Dearest, what's the matter?" he asked, holding her away from him to see her face. She looked up at him and swiped at her cheeks, trying to hide her face. "Are you… are you not happy?" he asked carefully, nearly dreading her response.
"I am," she replied quickly, touching his face in reassurance, and he let out the breath he had been holding. "I am happy. I just… it had never occurred to me how much I shall-"
"Miss them?" he asked. She looked up at him and nodded with a wry smile.
"With Bingley being your best friend I could hardly avoid Jane but… Papa… and yes, even Mama… and Mary and Kitty, I shall miss them. They shall be so far away now." He nodded in understanding before pulling her into his lap, holding her close. She wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her face in his neck, breathing in his warm, crisp scent, allowing herself to be comforted.
"We will send them an invitation as soon as we are settled," he said. "Will that suffice?" She nodded and sniffled.
"Yes. Thank you," she whispered before a sudden yawn.
"Ah ha. There's the rub. You are tired."
"You said it best, Will. My family is exhausting." He smiled at that.
"Well, get some rest then, I will wake you when we reach the inn." She smiled sleepily and, with her head on his shoulder, she drifted off.