Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

'Prologue'

Summary: Whatever happened to poor Mr. Wisley? A Becoming Jane continuation (of sorts).
Disclaimer: Neither "Becoming Jane", nor its characters (Jane, Lucy, Mr. Wisley, etc.) belong to me. I did, however, take the liberty of giving Mr. Wisley a first name. "Sometimes affection is a shy flower that takes time to blossom" belongs to the "Becoming Jane" script/movie.


Spring 1805

Shards of early morning sunlight coruscated through the dense foliage of Selbourne Wood as Jane leisurely sauntered down the path with her friend. The earthy smell of wet moss permeated the air, while the soft chatter of the birds was absorbed by the otherwise quiet wood. The pair walked side-by-side, their speech occasionally interrupted by an exclamation of appreciation as they passed any particularly impressive scene of nature.

"You know, Miss Austen, I seldom take the time to appreciate nature as you do," he said, as he craned his neck back to admire the canopy above them. "I believe it is a fault which must be rectified." He clasped his hands behind his back and his posture returned to its usual hunched form as his personal regard would allow.

"Indeed, I'm sure I'd become wild if I could not enjoy this peacefulness at my leisure," she responded, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. He stole a glance at her in time to see the smile slowly evaporate from her visage. He gazed at her in earnest--he knew the pain of losing a parent, and it saddened him to see her false bravado; it seemed as if the untimely death of the late Mr. Austen had brought about a plague of silence to the usually spirited family. Indeed, he found Jane's forced liveliness to be very disagreeable.

"Jane... how are you, honestly?" The gentleness in his voice stirred up her grief momentarily, but she quickly crushed the feeling and responded in a too-bright voice,

"I am well enough, James, thank you. Eliza and Henry are extending their stay so that we may settle our affairs, and Cassie and I are taking care of Mamma." He sensed that she did not wish to discuss her father's death any further, and though he wished to comfort her, his awkward male conscience hadn't a clue what to say next; luckily, Jane knew him well enough to understand his sentiments and changed the subject before he drew into himself. "I am currently working on my first novel, you know. I've been trying to title it for some time now, but I do think I shall call it Sense and--"

"I think I may ask Miss Lefroy to marry me." He was so lost in his thoughts that he did not see Jane stop and stare at him in alarm; he was several paces ahead of her before he realized he had left her behind.

"James Wisley, I cannot fathom you. Was it not three years ago that you expressed your sentiments to me that you also wished to marry for love instead of duty? Lucy Lefroy! Ah--You barely know each other!" she exclaimed in disbelief as Wisley stood motionless. "Lucy--quite possibly the silliest girl in the county? I flatter myself that I know you well enough to tell you now that it is a nonsensical idea!" He was silent for a moment longer, the insecurity in his eyes apparent to Jane until he averted his gaze.

"She is not so undeserving as you say, Miss Austen..." he began slowly, "in fact, I find that there are many agreeable qualities she possesses; Miss Lefroy is almost always in an agreeable mood--"

"When she is not sulking for not getting her way," Jane muttered.

"She is a most vivacious and charming character--"

"Indeed, too vivacious."

"Beg pardon, but did you say something, Miss Austen?" Jane discreetly sighed.

"... Do you love her, James?" she gently inquired. He features relaxed somewhat--though the shell of his ear burned a reddish-pink--and she watched the corner of his mouth twitch before he looked away.

"I believe I do, Jane," he breathed, the sincerity in his voice moving her with compassion. "However... I--I know she would not have me though. I lack the charms to win her affection..." Jane's mind was buzzing with effort as she attempted to choose her next words carefully, so that her friend's ego would not be damaged further.

"Sometimes affection is a shy flower that takes time to blossom." He looked up at her with surprise.

"Patience, James... If you truly love her, your actions and your honor shall win her in time, I am sure of it. You needn't preen and make a fool of yourself like those other beau."

"Indeed, I think myself quite incapable of preening," he said with a small smile.

"I should hope so!" Jane laughed lightly. "But we shall have to see how you hold up against the other eligible men at tomorrow evening's assembly!" Wisley quirked a smile in response and offered Jane his arm; the two continued their walk--both parties became absorbed in their thoughts.

How does one fall in love with a person they barely know, Jane wondered. With that thought, memories of Tom, uninvited, flashed through her mind's eye, and she helplessly indulged in them for a moment. She recalled their first meeting, and how even then, there had been some feeling--some spark of attraction... No, there was no such thing as true love at first sight, she decided; but, there was attraction which would slowly evolve into affection... and, in turn, affection would eventually transform into love. Now, if only Lucy could deserve him.


A/N: Hello out there! I've been wanting to exploit the plot bunnies surrounding Mr. Wisley for some time now, and I have finally given in. If anybody reads this... you might be wondering, "Say, why the strange title?" Well, it is an expression that, in less poetic terms, means "between two equally difficult alternatives." It is derived from the nautical world and this site explains it quite nicely: users./gswithenbank/sayingsb.htm

Anywhoo, I will try to have the first chapter up as soon as time will allow. Thanks for reading!

Constructive criticism/reviews are encouraged and greatly appreciated!