Disclaimer: This story is in no way intended for monetary gain. It is simply fulfilling my long standing need to see some of the marital happiness that the Darcys surely enjoyed.
Elizabeth Bennet had always considered herself to be fairly intelligent. Indeed, her lively wit and sound judgment had always been a point of distinct pride. Granted this last year had delivered quite a blow to these assumptions; discovering that she had so misjudged Wickham and Darcy had not been something she had easily overcome. But she had overcome it, due in large part to falling desperately in love with and agreeing to marry the latter of those gentlemen. But she now knew herself to be completely mistaken.
She should have eloped with Fitzwilliam a month ago.
Indeed, he had offered just that after enduring two days of her mother's desperate attempts to show him every possible attention. But as he whispered this in her ear as they walked in the woods—blessedly alone for the first time in days—she chose to think he was simply teasing her. She now wished she had taken him seriously. For although it would have grieved her to leave her father and dear Jane, this pain would have been small in comparison to the pain of watching her beloved Darcy having to endure two months in the company of not only her mother and younger siblings, but her Aunt Philips and cousin Mr. Collins—the latter having fled to Lucas Lodge with his wife to escape the storm of Lady Catherine's displeasure.
That was another reason that Lizzy now fervently wished that they had eloped. For Lady Catherine's displeasure had been so great upon hearing of her nephew's engagement to the inferior Elizabeth Bennet, she had sent scathing letters not only to Darcy but to all his relations, demanding that they denounce the union before it had even taken place. In addition, she had once more made the journey to Longbourn, this time to scream insults at her nephew. She hadn't even troubled to lower her voice. A misfortune, for Mrs. Bennet's fear of both Lady Catherine and Mr. Darcy was enough so that she had momentarily given up her favorite pastime of listening at the door, and so this conversation actually had had a small hope of remaining as private as it was intended to be. Instead it had been whispered about in all the drawing rooms in the neighborhood, further adding to the gossip and speculation on just why the grave and unlikable Mr. Darcy had chosen to marry Eliza Bennet.
The neighborhood in general had been unable to come up with a satisfactory answer to this extremely interesting question.
For several days after this interview, Darcy had returned to his previously abandoned mask of hauteur and reticence; this was not greeted with much satisfaction by his fiancé. His mask was only lifted with the arrival of Colonel Fitzwilliam and Miss Darcy, together with a note from the Earl of Matlock to his nephew concealed in the Colonel's waistcoat. Georgiana, who was nearly as eager for the marriage as her brother, quietly told Elizabeth that her uncle the Earl had been so enraged by his sister's actions that he had written to give his consent to his nephew and praise his choice of a lady who could only be truly remarkable to have incited so much of Lady Catherine's considerable ire. It would seem that the Earl took great pleasure in acting directly contrary to his sister's wishes. Perhaps he was also sensible that it would be nearly impossible to get Mr. Darcy to change his mind once it had been made up. Elizabeth chose not to question his motives and was simply relieved that he had chosen to act in such a way in the first place.
Darcy would have married Elizabeth without this consent, but his having it relieved Elizabeth of the fear that he would lose his whole family in order to gain her. She could not have borne the guilt.
It was perhaps a good thing that, as Elizabeth was desperately coming to the conclusion that she must grab Fitzwilliam and make a mad dash with him to Scotland, yet another visitor arrived at Longbourn. And this time it was the welcome Aunt Gardiner, together with her deserving husband. Nothing could repay Elizabeth for the injury caused by her own family, but Uncle Gardiner was one of the few people Darcy actually enjoyed conversing with, and Aunt Gardiner was quite useful in preventing the excesses of her sister-in-law and giving Elizabeth some much needed respite from the tedium of her family.
About a month after the engagement had been formed and a long month before its completion, Lizzy was intent on enjoying just such a respite. But she did not mean to do so alone.
She had escaped into the shrubbery, leaving Hill with instructions to give Darcy a note as soon as she was gone. The note contained one phrase: I have changed my mind. Lizzy knew full well how Darcy would interpret the note, and she meant to tease him, even if she could not be there to watch his face as he read it. It was fortunate that Lizzy was not there, for Darcy was sure she meant she could no longer marry him and his face had gone so white it had caused Jane to be seriously concerned for his health. But Darcy did not give the ever solicitous Jane long enough to ask after his health. He hastily excused himself and managed to restrain himself from running until after the door had been shut behind him.
He found Elizabeth sitting on a bench, happily looking out at the view, her face turned away from him so that she did not see him as he stood watching her. And he watched her long enough to memorize every detail of her appearance. Then he intruded upon her thoughts thus:
"You have changed your mind about what?"
She turned towards him, eyes dancing merrily, and considered him for a few moments before responding.
"I no longer want to be married from Longbourn; I want to elope. Today."
The colored returned to Darcy's face leaving his cheeks flushed with happiness.
"You don't think that your father and uncles would chase after us if we did?"
"I do not care."
"But I do. I should not want your father to run me through before ever I have a chance to marry you."
"Better that then you coming to the conclusion that you truly do not wish to marry me."
"And what could possibly make me think that?"
"I fear it is inevitable, between your family and mine."
Before responding he walked to her side, took her hand, and raised her up beside him. Then he gently tilted her chin up so that she was looking into his eyes. He looked at her for a minute, allowing Lizzy to realize that she had never before noticed the green flecks in his eyes, before he spoke.
"Nothing in this world or the next could ever make me not wish to marry you."
The brilliance of her smile was matched only by the love in his eyes.
"So you can bear with my family for another four weeks?"
He slipped his arm around her waist and drew her to him, causing her to give a soft sigh of shock mingled with pleasure.
"If you let me hold you I can bear them for quite a bit longer than that."
Elizabeth agreed that this condition was more than acceptable, even if it was a bit scandalous, and she rested her head against his chest and allowed his arms to encircle her until they heard Jane approaching to call them in to dinner.
Then, as they slowly walked into the house, her small hand nestled in the crook of his arm, he leaned down to whisper once more in her ear.
"I love you, Lizzy."
Thus ensuring that she would forever remember the first time he called her Lizzy.
Of course, Lizzy wished to return the kindness in full.
Lizzy had only ever called him Darcy, though in her thoughts he had long been her beloved Fitzwilliam. But she did not want to call him this. Fitzwilliam was his sister's name for him, and it should remain such. Lizzy wanted a name for the man she loved that was hers, and hers alone. This was the only thing fitting after he called her Lizzy in the shrubbery.
She knew, of course, that her family all called her Lizzy. But when Darcy said her name his eyes grew dark and he lowered his voice and rolled the z of her name until it sent shivers down her spine. It was only fair that she do the same to him.
She announced this resolution to him the next day.
"I shall call you Fitz."
He abruptly stopped walking to look at her, a bemused expression on his face.
"No one has ever called me that before."
"And no one but me ever shall. I am determined."
This last was said in such a good impression of Lady Catherine's voice and manner that it set him laughing. And as he finished he continued their walk, this time with his arm resting lightly around her waist.
They walked thus for several minutes until once more she spoke.
"I can see Jane and Bingley turning into this path; you had better give me your arm, Fitz."
Thus it was that Jane and Bingley came upon them, though they never did figure out why Elizabeth was smiling so and why Darcy was displaying a most excellent shade of red on his face and refusing to look at the smiling lady on his arm. But then Jane and Bingley didn't see the queer little smile on Darcy's face when Elizabeth had whispered Fitz in his ear.