Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters or locations, and I don't make any money out of it.
Summary: George Wickham has an undeserved reputation as a cad, gained through years of misunderstandings and class derived prejudices, and Amanda Price is the only one who is willing to see that he really is an honourable man.
An Honourable Man- A Lost in Austin Fic
George rubbed the back of his neck and yawned. He had been up practically all night trying to keep Charles Bingly from drinking himself to death and hadn't slept much since. Bingly had been, at the start, morose and morbid, and he had been afraid that if he let the man out of his sight he would do something regrettable, so he had stayed with him. Bingly had passed out some time in the small hours of the morning and George had poured him into bed before catching a few hours of sleep himself, then brought his still drunk charge to Pemberly.
He was tired and discouraged by Darcy's continuing distain. The shooting party that morning had been painful to say the least, pain he had hidden, as always, behind charm and barely hidden sarcasm. He gave a humourless snort of laughter. He was supposed to be a soldier, he was supposed to bear discomfort and still be impeccably dressed and well mannered the next day. One out of two wasn't too bad, no one could fault his uniform.
It hasn't been easy coming to Pemberly, even if it was on a mercy mission, there were too many memories in the old house. He had visited the estate manager's office and felt an overwhelming sense of grief when he had seen the same desk, the same chair, the same cabinets all the same places they had been when his father had worked there. There had even been the same comforting odour of ink and paper which he remembered from his earliest childhood. What was different was the man who had politely inquired if he required assistance. George had mumbled an excuse and left quickly, leaving his father's ghost behind him.
Seven years had passed since he left Pemberly to go to school, and in that time nothing had changed. Nothing except Darcy. His friend, the one he had played hide and seek with, the one he had taught how to tickle trout in the river close by, the one he had shared all his thoughts and feelings with was gone. This wasn't home any more. He didn't have a home any where any more.
He made his way to the stables and his horse, a fiery white mare, snorted at him from between the rails of her box stall. George unlatched the door and went in to rub her nose. She, at least, had comfortable quarters with plenty of hay in her rack and a thick bedding of straw of the floor. She had been groomed well, so when he ran a hand over her hide there was not a single loose hair. Her tack, however, still needed cleaning and a cavalryman never neglected his tack. That would take up the rest of the afternoon and he could hide safely here in the stables.
He gave her a final pat and fetched his tack, cleaning cloths, oil and polish and took them into an adjacent stall. He could concentrate on the task at hand until there was nothing else in his mind.
He worked hard at pushing the painful memories out of his mind as he cleaned and polished. He had been wild as a boy and a young man, reckless and foolish, believing that he was invincible and indestructible, that he could do whatever he wanted and get away with it. After all, so many of his friends in Cambridge, sons of landed gentry, had got away with far worse than he had, but he was not one of them, no matter who his patron had been, he was not invulnerable. He may have had the money but not the position to smooth ruffled feathers. What they got away with came back to bite him hard. The dishonour, the undeserved reputation, the scorn and the contempt were like nails in his heart.
Having said that, however, there were compensations. He was having fun, Miss Price was an extraordinary woman, one he would like to know better had she not made it abundantly clear that she wanted nothing to do with him. Yet, he was the one she turned to when things became difficult. He conveniently ignored the fact that he had made them difficult, but the thought of her tied to that creep Collins was quite unbearable, and would have made her life utterly miserable. People were so easy to manipulate, a word here and there was enough to set wheels in motion, all he had to do was give the rumour mill and small push. They were so gullible, so ready to believe the slightest rumour.
He was still hard at work, rubbing the polish off his saddle when a sound at the stall door made him look up. Miss Price was standing there.
"I've been talking to Georgiana," she said after a few moments, "What a determined little girl."
George felt a small surge of panic, not for himself, but for the girl he had dishonoured himself, again, to protect. "Don't tell Darcy," he said with soft intensity, "He'd throw her out."
"Letting it circulate that you seduced Georgiana, to protect her," she said with wonder in her voice, "I'm sorry George, but that's honourable."
And so incredibly against my nature, George thought bitterly. Maybe, Miss Price, I'm not as bad as you think I am. He shook his head a little.
"I got you all wrong," Miss Price added by way of apology.
"It's more fun that way," George said, he needed a way to protect himself, and falling back on his rakehell persona was as good a way as any. He gave her a self satisfied smirk, then saw her face, she was upset. He put the saddle to one side and stood up, "What's the matter here?"
"Darcy said he loved me, and I said I loved him back, and then I found myself obliged to tell him a little too much about myself."
"And he has rewarded your candour by casting you into outer darkness," George concluded, how typically like Darcy, all principle and honour and integrity, so stiff and unbending in his views of the world that a ship could have used him as a mooring point. He was the only one George knew who simply refused to consider that anyone else had viable point of view.
Miss Price was starting to weep, George knew he had to cheer her up, derail her unhappiness before she destroyed herself. "Oh well," he said lightly, turning to put his saddle on the rack behind him, "Caroline Bingly is an ocean going bore and has no arse to speak of, marriage to her would have been tiresome."
Miss Price laughed, it was strained, but it was a laugh.
"Do you know what I think, Miss Price?" he asked, "I think you're a girl who is a very long way from home."
Miss Price smile at him through her tears, grateful for someone who didn't judge her or question her motives. She nodded her thanks to him and left.
George shook his head slightly and turned back to cleaning his tack. She, at least, was willing to look deeper, to question what she thought she knew. In comparison with the other women he knew, she had a deep and complex personality, filled with passion and desire and determination to see things right, whatever she thought that right was. She had some plan in mind, some way that this whole mess should go, and he found himself liking her plan, it gave him a chance to redeem himself and win back a measure of respectability, in it everyone won, everyone except her.