A/N: I know what you're thinking...cough, horror, holy mother of….! She updates! I'm surprised you haven't abandoned this story in droves, LOL I can only offer my profuse apologies and endeavour to do better.

I love all your reviews; they're such fun to read! And I have to admit I'm pretty impressed with the various methods of torture and punishment you've come up with for the vile Lord Hartfield.

Though Kika57's curse that 'he be infested by the fleas of a thousand camels in the groin and armpits' has to be my favourite so far! LOL, remind me never to get on the wrong side of you lot!

Part 14- 'Let Your Hands Be My Saving Grace…'

As Bingley had rightly predicted, Darcy's anger gradually abated and aware now of the need to speak to his sister he sought her out. She sat in the domed temple at the far end of the Netherfield estate.

He studied her quiet, resolute air as she sat on the stone seat; her head bent low, her brow furrowed as she discounted all outside distractions and buried her head resolutely engrossed in the book she was reading. He realised with a quiet smile how truly similar they were, he found comfort in balancing books, crossing out numbers and dealing with the cold factual distinction that resided in sums.

Georgiana was the same, she found comfort in the books she read, words and ideas that transported her to another place, far away from the misery of their shared past. Far away from the cold truth, a brother who had given her reason to be disappointed.

Her disgust with him he could not have doubted, nor could he truly have found reason to blame, the sort of man she had heard about at the Hartfield dining table had been precisely the kind of man he had warned her about. Precisely the sort of man he taught her over the years to be wary of, the sort of man he had taught her deserved nothing but the sharpest of her discontent.

And now, now to her he was that sort of man. He owed her an explanation, a truth an answer to all the questions he knew must be hounding her every thought.

He could not ignore how tired he was, how indignant of the fact that such an explanation was required, it was the precisely the thing he had hoped to avoid, that his past would be remained buried, his shame never revealed, to his sister at least.

After the death of their parents he was forced to suffice as both parents, to offer the kindness and understanding of a mother, and the guidance and example of a father. The duties of both fell upon his shoulders; they had both been so young. The removal of their parents had come through a brutal, unbidden force, a travesty that had swept through their lives, a dark cloud settling on both their hearts.

But as steeped as he was in the bitterness, the unfair circumstance of it all, she had been the light, little Georgiana, forced to be wiser than her short years, proving herself to be more than just a sister to him.

It was she, with her lithe pale hands that held tightly onto his at the funeral, her warm hands that had braced his shoulders as they had sagged heavy from the weight from all the responsibility that had been thrust upon him. Her strong hands that held on as they had been forced from their home, held on as they had watched their livelihood burnt to the ground, held on in those nights when he wept openly, when the fire that had burned down the mill had burned away part of his soul.

Georgiana's hands, warm, steady, healing, the hands of a sister, the hands of a saviour, his saving grace.

Now the hands that held tightly to the pages of a book, held tight ignoring the presence of her brother even as he stood before her. He had recognised her pointed conversations with Lord Chaston had been her attempt to rile him, her thinly veiled pointed barbs of revenge, knowing he would disapprove she had pushed all the more.

And it made his heart ache, his sorely tried heart, for so long finding comfort in the cold objectivity of numbers and sums, and now forced to realise that he stood to lose another he loved. He loved Lady Hartfield, but it was not enough, and he loved Georgiana, more than the idea of life itself, but to lose her as well was too much, too much to be borne.

He sat down heavily beside her, her golden tufts of hair caught slightly in the breeze but she kept firmly to the pages of her book. For so long he had dulled himself to sensations, believing that in feeling too much there was only disappointment, there was bitterness and loss.

And oh, how he felt it now, how he wished he could dull himself to sensations now, to cut away that part of him that felt this so acutely, the misery from the loss of a vain love, the disappointment that held fast in the tear stained eyes of a beloved sister.

She turned slightly, and he sighed, passing an aching hand through his hair, he spoke softly. 'Georgiana do you wish to punish me?' she turned her head away.

He carried on all the same, he would talk to her back if need be, but she would listen. 'Do you remember that time I pressed you to go outside with me, you couldn't have been more than six years old, it had been raining the day before but I goaded you into climbing that hill behind the factory.'

He leaned back in the seat, she kept her place, Darcy smiled slightly at the memory, 'The ground was slippery underfoot and you fell in the mud. You cried, do you remember, you cried and came to me because the dress was new and you were afraid that mother would be angry.'

Her shoulders tightened and he saw her body stiffen, she recalled the event perfectly. 'Do you remember Georgiana; I took the blame by saying that it was I that had pushed you. You didn't want me to lie but I did it anyway because I was worried for you.'

Georgiana turned to look at him at last, her smile one of bitter reproach, 'I can't help but feel brother that this charming story has a purpose.' Her tone was deliberately biting and sarcastic, and though it caused him anger he chose to ignore it.

He leaned forward, 'I wanted to spare you, I thought you too young, too innocent, too much of a child to suffer any anger or reproach from a loving parent over something as petty as a dress. That is my reasoning now Georgiana, ' he moved to take her hand in his own but she pulled away, 'I wished to spare you from this, at times I still think of you as a child Georgiana, my innocent little sister.'

He sighed, 'Yes my actions were reprehensible but my concealment of them was not through any intention of deceit, but to spare you, to spare my family…'

'To spare your family?' she repeated with some disgust, 'do not pretend brother that was your first consideration, you concealed your actions because you knew how they would be perceived, and how you would be perceived, you gave no consideration to the feelings of your parents should your past ever come to light, nor did you give any consideration to the feelings of your innocent little sister.'

And with that she seemed to dismiss him, snapping her book shut she stood up to leave, but he took a hold of her wrist firmly and pulled her back down to the seat. 'You will listen to what I have to say…you WILL hear me speak!'

His tone was intentionally harsh; the memory of another dismissing his words as easily caused him to be rougher in both tone of voice and action than he had ever been with her. She smiled disdainfully at him.

'Then speak brother…speak and bring me to understand what I have this long night prayed could never be true, speak!' She shouted at him, and for the first time in their lives, the brother and sister found themselves at an impasse.

Belief lost, a hope betrayed and the innocuous actions of youth had come between them.

He stared at her; she had grown, beyond her years, beyond what he had been willing to admit, now, now he was forced to confront the ripples his action had caused, ripples that had travelled far and affected more than he could have ever understood.

He chose a different approach, 'What do you think of Lord Chaston, truly Georgiana what is your opinion of the man.

She chose to feign ignorance, and infuriated him all the more, 'Whatever can you mean brother, truthfully? To the extent of my knowledge I do not believe I have a precedent that requires concealment.'

She was being deliberately coy and he hated it, such games were not meant to be played, not between them.

He struggled to maintain his composure, 'You know his reputation Georgiana, surely, as reasoning prevails you must not, you cannot approve.'

She laughed outright, 'Lord Chaston is charming, well spoken and ever the high bred gentleman, whatever could there be to disapprove of?'

'Georgiana! His reputation as a gambler, and a profligate, opulent wasteful man…'

She turned to look at him a directly, her words deliberately short and cutting, 'But if we are to form an opinion on past misdemeanours and reputation than surely you would not fare well either…brother.'

He shut his eyes and resigned himself to the austerity of her words, 'I cannot say your resentment is unfounded Georgiana, I am heartily sorry that I have not been entirely truthful with you.'

He took her hands forcefully this time, forcing her to listen, 'But you know, you knew even then of the disagreements that subsisted even towards the end between father and my self. You remember, how far apart we were during those last years, what good would it have done to expose the whole? What purpose would it have served?'

'I would not have doubted you now!' She spat the words at him with a menace he had never anticipated.

He looked up sharply at her, and his world seemed to fade into black, receding into the far shadows he had once upon a time pulled it from, it was too much, it was all too much. To have lost, nay to have never had the love of Lady Hartfield, the sting of her rejection fresh in his mind still, and now, now to have gained such bitter disapproval from a dear sister. For his aching soul it was too much.

He grew at once angry and dejected; bitterness soured every one of his senses. 'It was a single mistake Georgiana, a lifetime of being your brother, your guide, a lifetime of taking it upon my self to care for you. All these years of being both parents, yet you doubt me? All the sacrifices, all the pains I have undertaken…yet you doubt!'

Her eyes grew wide, 'You resent it?' Her words were barely a whisper as the extent of his words sank in. 'That mama and papa died, and you were forced to take responsibility for me. You resent it?'

She repeated the pain in her voice clear, of course, she had burdened him, weighed heavy, and a responsibility he had neither cared to have nor asked for.

Darcy at once sorry, he brought her close into a crushing embrace; pressing her close to his chest he gently stroked her hair, before taking her face in both hands and gently kissing her forehead.

'No, dear girl I could never resent you, you are my sister, my darling, wise beautiful sister, I only wish I could have done so much more for you, and that I was not such a grave disappointment.'

He released her and leaned back into the seat, he was resigned and tired, oh so tired. 'I know dear Georgiana that you are too sensible a girl. I need not fear your judgement; you will not allow yourself or rationality to be clouded with regards to the likes of men such as Lord Chaston, especially through resentment of a brother and his shortcomings.'

His words broke through at last, she shook her head and pressed close to him, 'No, no I don't resent you brother, and I have never wished to hurt you, by word or deed, forgive me.'

She took both his hands in her own and kissed them, they were so cold, and she realised with alarm he was shivering. Darcy smiled gently at her, the faintest of tears brimming at his eyes.

'Don't resent me Georgiana, I beg of you, save me…save me from myself. I need you now, so very much. Take care of me…'

Georgiana wrapped her arms about him in a fierce hug, she held on tightly finally realising that a great deal was happening with him, much more than she had realised. And all at once she grew protective of him as she had want to be over the years, even when they had been young and she had been so very small, when he had towered above her, in height and stature. Still she had even then tried to protect him.

As she would do now, true he had made a mistake and it was unfair of her to carry on punishing him. And she realised why she had been so angry with him, for so long she had been wont to think him infallible, resolute and perfect.

But he was not, and yes the realisation had been painful, but now she must own that he was not perfect, he was still her brother, still trustworthy and genuine in all that mattered, but he was human, prone to the same mistakes.

And she must allow him to be subjected to the same level of objectivity and judge him in a manner that was fair to them both.

She held the book close in her hands, in between the sheets, pressed between a folded note was a small flower. She had found it tucked in between the pages of her book, and she knew at once who had put it there, Lord Chaston.

She thought back to the conversation she had that morning with her brother, he relied on her judgement; she would not disappoint him, he trusted her to make the right decision with regards to men like Lord Chaston.

She held the flower in her hand, and looked towards the fire roaring in her room, she would make the right decision, she would not disappoint.