Sealed in Wax
cross-posted at the dwg. meme-fic: five things elizabeth bennet never wrote to fitzwilliam darcy.
i. Out frog marching sisters to visit dentist's office. 'Pologies – had to rush. Key's under the doormat – Jane will be back at six. Good luck, Chuck!
Their first note is taped to her apartment door, scribbled on a scrap of Gregg ruled notebook paper, in orange crayon. (crayola he thinks wonders if he's crazy for knowing that) It's not necessarily to him, this note, but he is the recipient because he's the one reading it (and when elizabeth bennet is concerned he's learned not to be too fastidious). Her handwriting is not particularly elegant; legible in a square sort of way, but it lacks cadence, he thinks, head cocked to one side, lacks flow, smoothness, ease. Too cramped, he thinks, head now tilted to the other side, she's probably using the wrong muscles. Finger-drawer, he thinks, wishing but unable to manage a sneer – finger-drawer, for not using the correct (proper) forearm and shoulder-girdle muscles. Hn. He wonders who had taught her such indifferent penmanship, wonders if this handwriting had just been a product of crayons and haste, wonders if she'd ever dotted her i's with hearts, wonders what she'd do if he bought her a fountain pen. Probably use it to stab his eyes out. He smiles, because there's no one to see it, smiles, eyes crinkling merrily and dimple in his left cheek and only twenty-eight years old. He forgets, sometimes, what humor is and reasons to smile and how old (young) he is.
The moment passes, and he's once more Fitzwilliam Darcy, austere and somber. But he takes that note, gently peels the tape off the door – takes it and folds it and puts it into his coat pocket. Keeps it to remember, some other day, remember lilting laughter and fine eyes, kisses-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow and happily-ever-afters.
"They weren't at home," he tells Charles on the phone later that night, because it's technically true. "I – don't know when they'll be back – " and he doesn't know when Elizabeth and Mary and Catherine and Lydia will be back – " – so why don't you call them tomorrow morning?"
"Will, it's only seven – and I promised to call Janie tonight!" It's not an exclamation, not a declaration, despite it's wording – Charles is asking, questioning, pleading. May I call her?
"Hn," he replies, because 'hn' is such an unsatisfactorily ambiguous answer. Because 'hn' means absolutely nothing, and however much good he'd be doing Charles, Fitzwilliam Darcy does not like to lie. Because 'hn' is deterrent enough, and Charles will not be calling Miss Bennet tonight.
-ii. My dear Mister Darcy, she writes the second time in an email, furious. She's even spelled out 'Mr.' Thank you very much for that text to my cellphone last night. I'm sure four-syllable adverbs were indispensable, and I'm also sure that whatever network you operate under is only too happy to provide you with, I am assuming, unlimited text messaging. However, some of us are neither so blessed nor so fortunate as you. Do I sound bitter? My sister tells me that I sound bitter. I am not bitter. While text-speak is excessively diverting and also saves me money, I am sure phrases such as 'c u l8er, 10s3r' must cause your eyes to bleed, so I quite understand your reasons for including such words as 'appreciably' and 'preparatory' and 'salient.' Indeed, as an English major, your very correct and very proper spelling, prepositional phrases, and compound-complex sentences (all requisite, indeed, in a text message to my cellphone) made me very, very happy and when I receive my phone bill this month, I shall make a toast to you, sir, and I beg to remain, –&etc. –P.S. I am not quite sure if you've inferred this from my missive, but I'm quite sure your message has also made my network provider exceedingly happy as well (in their pants). Such concision, such succinctness, even terseness, you demonstrated, Mister Darcy –you set, as my esteemed cousin says, a "most exemplary example." Mad props to you, I'm sure.
He stares at the laptop screen for a few moments, silent, blinking – then leans back, tilts his head so that he stares up at the ceiling. There's an odd sensation near the corner of his mouth; he realizes that his lips are twitching. Something rises up his throat, feathery and ticklish, and it escapes as a chuckle, a low, deep, amused chuckle, before he throws his head back and laughs. He has a nice laugh, Fitzwilliam Darcy – curiously boyish, charmingly good-natured, like pine-winds or a bamboo flute – happy.
"My apologies, then, Miss Bennet," he says to the empty room, still smiling, still chuckling, still happy. He hasn't had such a tongue-lashing since second grade. But she's always been odd like that, hasn't she? Weird, even? Makes him smile, makes him laugh, makes him happy, makes him crazy, probably causes him aneurysms and the onset of early senility – "My gratitude, as well."
That's a strange feeling, gratitude. He can't remember the last time he'd been grateful, usually tries to avoid such occassions. He'd always associated a certain sour feeling of debt, of owing, with gratitude – but Elizabeth is odd and weird and special, and inspires a gratitude that felt strangely like warmth, or freedom, or forgiveness, or lov—
He stands hastily, shakes his head because he is going mad. Absolutely nutters. Stark-raving lunatic. Elizabeth Bennet, he decides, ought to come with a prescription dosage, or a Surgeon General Health Warning. 'Overdose might prove fatal.' Yes, he thinks, flopping back down into the chair – that would do.
-iii. Buy me a gift, she writes on his Christmas card, which he hadn't hoped to receive, something nice and un-cliché. Like – a lamp. Or a Russian dictionary. Or ear plugs. Or dinner. And if you make me laugh with your present (you remember that I do love to laugh), I'll give you your gift. And maybe apologize. Because I think you deserve an apology. – Bennet.
He likes the card, because it's sparkly and whimsical and has Tigger on the front, quintessentially Elizabeth, who still writes with the cutest, legible chicken scratch he's ever seen.
Parker, he thinks, Parker has a nice Vector set, though Rotring's Pelikan might be prettier. Filaco has a fine regular nib – but she might prefer Osmiroid's chisel-point. Platignum, maybe? Hn.
"You bought me calligraphy pens," she says slightly accusing, when he opens the door.
"Hello to you too, Miss Bennet," he replies gravely, and then smiles. She arches an eyebrow, which promptly disappears beneath her fringe of bangs – this is her quizzical expression, half-uncertain and half-mocking, because when had he last smiled at her?
They don't suit her, the bangs. She has a nice forehead – high and clear and smooth, a lovely canvas for her frequent brow-arching. "Since when did you have bangs?" He asks, not because he's curious, but because he can't stop himself.
"Since I turned emo," she replies, scowling unconvincingly. "When did you cut yours?"
But he smiles, shakes his head, is silent. They stand outside Charles' apartment door – he hears faint strains of White Christmas and the clinking of champagne classes from within. Someone laughs, the low babble of voices continues, and he likes it better outside in the darkened hallway, him and her and quiet. "How have you been, Elizabeth?" He asks, again not curious but unable to stop himself. She's turned him compulsive.
"Oh," she says, blinking, as if flustered, but Elizabeth Bennet never gets flustered, "Oh. Um – well. Yes, I've been – well. And you?"
He smiles again, that close-lipped smile, eyes dark and happy, will not answer her. "Would you like to come in? Something to drink?"
"No, no," she shakes her head, hair tumbling in soft masses over the curve of her shoulder. "I just – I came to give you your gift. Um – I liked the pens, you know, that, um, you gave me – I have absolutely horrendous handwriting, compared to yours anyway, which is odd, if you think about it, because girls are supposed to have neater penmanship than boys, but – yes, they made laugh. You – you mailed them to me."
"I did," he replies, not answering her question of why. "You didn't have to give me anything."
"Yes, well," she sniffs, "Too late for that, what? And I did promise, since you made me laugh – and, well, it's nothing wonderful, but I thought you might like it." She holds out a book – a children's book, with a familiar teddy bear traipsing across the front cover. "I – didn't wrap it – too many sisters, you know, too many presents, not enough wrapping paper, and I thought you might not like your present wrapped in newspaper and – yes."
He half wants to laugh, half wants to gape. "Winnie the Pooh," he says, and what he really wants is to kiss her.
"Yes – it's a very relaxing read, and I thought it might help you with stress or whatever you need help with, not that I'm saying you need help – er." She blinks rapidly, brows furrowing. "Er – sorry?"
He smiles again, to tell her that it's all right. "Thank you, then, very much. Sure you wouldn't like to stay?"
"No –" she steps back, fidgets with her hands, "No – um. Look, Will – er, Fitzwil – er, Mr. Dar-"
"Will's fine," he tells her, Will's preferable.
"Will – I'm – I'm sorry, I really am, about –"
"Don't. Please?" He doesn't want her apologies, because he has no use for apologies, and doesn't think she needs to apologize in any case. "It's over and done with, and I like your present so it's – it's all right. You weren't in your best element, and I was terrible, and –"
"Oh, but what I said to you!" She cries, coming very close to wringing her hands. "Do let me apologize – I've been horrible to you, absolutely horrid, I –"
He holds up a hand, forestalls her. "Please. It's fine. Let's – forget it, shall we? Start over?" He holds out a hand, and she looks at him a very long time. "Elizabeth?"
"All right," she says, some peculiar expression on her face. Takes off her glove, shakes his hand. "All right."
"All right," he echoes, because she's never looked at him like that before.
"Well, Happy Christmas," she lets go of his hand, takes another two steps back. "Thanks for the pens, again – very nice pens. Must've cost you –"
"Did they make you laugh, truly?" He asks, because it's uncomfortable talking to Elizabeth about money.
"Oh," she says, with a lopsided grin. "Like a pirate," covering one eye with her hand, "Har har har. Very droll. Now every time someone says 'fountain pen,' I shall be quite discombobulated with laughter. Aren't you pleased?"
He is, and smiles because Elizabeth Bennet makes him smile more than is entirely healthy. She's staring at him again with that peculiar expression, asks, "Why did you mail them to me, William?"
William, he thinks, and tells her, "I thought you might not have wanted to see me."
"William," she says again, and he likes that, likes how she says his name. "Why did you cut your bangs?"
"Wouldn't you like to know," he answers, and grins when she sticks her tongue out at him. "They got too long – people at the office thought I wore Dickies and head-banged to heavy metal –"
"You!" She gasps out, laughing, and he's not insulted. "That's – that's beautiful. Happy Christmas." She waves to him, turns to go. "Head banging –" she says to herself, laughs delightedly.
"Elizabeth," he calls, and she, halfway down the hall, turns around, still smiling. Dinner tomorrow? "You didn't – really turn emo?" He asks instead. "Why did you grow bangs?"
"No. And I - because I liked yours."
v. Fitzwilliam Alexander Darcy, I am going to saw your testicles off with a spork. –Beth.
The woman, quite obviously, has issues, and he's aware of that – has been aware of that for a long time. Still, he's not used to receiving threats of castration – and why had she signed it 'Beth'? 'Beth' was such a – such a mild, gentle, kindly-disposition-ed name. A little woman. He doesn't know what he's done now, doesn't know why she's so furious, doesn't know why he's being held hostage in his own kitchen by his own sister.
Elizabeth's handwriting has improved at least, he thinks to himself consolingly.
Georgiana sits across the table from him, humming happily, peels an apple. "Want some?" she offers.
"No," he says, sliding his chair back to stand up.
"Sit back down," she says, "Lizzy needs to talk with you."
He's never heard 'talk' pronounced so ominously. "She gave you this note to give to me, so you were there when she threatened me with – er, hmm. Why's she mad?" He asks, but Georgiana shrugs, continues to peel, hums something Celtic. Loreena McKennitt, he thinks, tapping his fingers in rhythm - Lady of Shalott.
Elizabeth, when she arrives, bursts through the door, an explosive whirlwind of fury and temper and flashing eyes. "Why wouldn't you tell me? How long did you expect to keep me ignorant? What possessed you to go and try to fix everything, Mr. Fix-It?" She demands, hands akimbo. Georgiana slices the apple into eighths, and, munching, peers calmly at her brother.
"Huh?" He says, eloquently.
"Georgiana," Elizabeth smiles flintily, "Would you mind leaving us along for a few moments? I need to rant at your brother, and I fear it may involve the usage of quite a number of profanities."
"Right," says Georgiana, blinking owlishly – gathers her apple slices and meanders out of the kitchen.
"Beth?" He asks, because she's standing nose to nose with him. Or rather, forehead to chin, and she notices this as well. She holds up a finger, motioning him to wait – disappears for a moment before returning with a small stepstool. She's still not as tall as him, but the difference is less glaring. "Beth?" He asks again.
"I," she tells him, sternly, "am most seriously displeased."
"Beg pardon?" He says, before she takes his face with her hands and pulls him down. Kisses him. Hard.
"Okay," he says, a while later, nodding. "Okay. Um -"
"You saved my sister," she says, wonderingly.
"Oh," he says, and everything's not so okay anymore. "Well – I hadn't – hadn't meant for you to know – I'd really rather we be selectively amnesiac about this, um – how'd you find out?"
"You saved my sister," she continues, playing with his collar, then moving on to the hair at his nape. It feels – odd, ticklish in a good sort of way. He thinks he likes it – also likes how her other hand rests on his shoulder. "For me."
"Er." He says, because, well, yes, he had. For her.
"You," she tells him, looks down at the floor for a moment, then back up. Meets his eyes, smiles. "You are the most obtuse, misguided, ridiculous fool of my acquaintance and you – are a good man."
"Are you crying?" He doesn't know whether to be alarmed or worried or amused.
"No," she bites out acerbically, so he does his best to ignore the tears tracking down her face. "I – I don't know how to thank –"
"I don't want your gratitude or your – your debt or thanks or – Beth, really. It's – it's my fault really –"
"I told you! You really are the most obtuse, misguided, ridiculous fool of my acquaintance!" And just like that, she's furious again, poking him in the chest, and the woman has such sharp fingernails. "Why wouldn't you tell me? How much did you spend on him this time? Ten thousand? Twenty? How can this possibly be your fault? I warned you about this, didn't I, Darcy? Taking credit for other people's folly? I warned you about your ego creating its own gravitational field –"
And because there's no helping it, because she's turned him compulsive and crazy and happy, he throws his head back and laughs.
"You're beautiful," she tells him, when he looks at her again, and there's that wonder in her eyes again. He starts, confused because he's never been called 'beautiful', and she reaches up to brush a stray lock of hair back from his eyes – "You're beautiful. When you laugh."
He doesn't know what to say to that, but she doesn't seem to require an answer. He pauses – then, uncertain, asks, "Are you really going to saw my testicles off?"
Her eyes sparkle impishly at him, and he knows, then, there, that he's going to marry this woman. "I – think they might be more useful to me if you kept them."
He stares at her, eyes round, and she, before the full meaning of those words sink in, leans forward, wraps her arms around him, hides her face in the crook of his neck and shoulder. Is hugging him. "Thank you," she tells him, quiet, and means it. "Thank you."
He still doesn't want her gratitude, of course – but she's hugging him, and that's something he can focus on. "It's all right," he says, tentatively hugs her back. Lowers his head, buries his face in her hair, and she doesn't draw back. "I – for you, Beth. All for you."
v. In saeclva saeclvorum, penetalia mertis. –ED
He can't understand what she's engraved on his wedding ring, and she won't tell him. The sunlight filters pale and golden through the window curtains, and her dark hair is starkly beautiful against the pristine whiteness of the pillows. "Like Lord of the Rings," he squints at his left hand, "isn't it? You've got some heinous, nefariously diabolical plan, haven't you?"
"Stop inspecting it," she pokes his stomach, "You're such a girl. And of course I do."
"A girl?" He pulls a face, because he's young and he's happy and he's in love. "A girl?"
"Oh, darling – it's all right." She pats his cheek sympathetically. "Being female is – well, apart from the monthlies, it is quite superior to being male. And why should you wonder – I hear my brother Chuckie thinks that I wear the pants in this relationship, so you see –"
"A girl," he says, narrowing his eyes, and props himself up on an elbow. "Right, Mrs. Darcy – " reaching forward, pinning her to the bed, and she squeaks. There's a pause, and Elizabeth's breaths turn rapidly shallow. "Would you care to repeat that?" He asks, from the general vicinity of her collarbone.
"Uh –" she says, more intent on her poor nerves, which, while all aflutter, aren't doing that poorly at all. "Um – I believe I said that you're such a girl – Will, no, Will – oh—"
The greater part of the morning is spent proving her wrong.
.:for ages and ages forever, heart of hearts:.
Parker, Filaco, Rotring, Platignum, and Osmiroid are all (very fine) brands of calligraphy or fountain pens. Darcy ended up buying her several of Sheaffer's No Nonsense. (He thought she would appreciate the name.) Connection of Winnie-the-Pooh to Taoism was yanked shamelessly from melpomene melancholic Movie/Pirate reference? Couldn't resist.
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