Summary: Darcy is back from the future, and with a new outlook on life, discusses the nature of truth, lies and honesty with George.
Disclaimer: George, Darcy and their ongoing arguments are not my creation, although I do enjoy playing with them, but only for fun. I make no money from this and intend no infringement on the rights of the real owners, whoever they are.
Truth, Lies and Honesty- Part Three of Actions and Consequences.
George only slept for a few hours before the sun, streaming in through the big bay windows, woke him. He lay on the couch for a time. Another day was starting. What would this one bring? More questions, or maybe some answers? He forced himself to rise and dress before the household wanted use of the parlour again. He was fastening his waistcoat when the door behind him opened. He turned and came face to face with Darcy.
The two men stared at each other for a moment. Darcy's face went stiff and cold at the sight of him, as it had done for years, then, most unusually, a smidgen of doubt crept into his eyes.
"Wickham," he said stiffly, formally.
"Darcy," George returned the greeting. "I trust you slept well."
"I had a more comfortable bed than you appear to have had." He glanced at the couch with its mussed blanket.
"It was quite sufficient," George said, "I've slept in far less salubrious surrounds."
There was an awkward moment of silence. George filled the gap by locating his stock and fastening it around his neck using a small mirror over the mantle piece as an aid. He hoped that Darcy would take the hint and go away, but instead the infernal man stood and stared at him. Finally finished, George was obliged to face him again.
"There have been doubts raised about your character," Darcy finally said.
"You have had doubts about my character since we were boys, Darcy," George said with only the smallest touch of bitterness.
"That's not what I meant," Darcy said, angry at having to be defensive. "I am lead to believe, by Miss Price, that I have misjudged you."
"In what way?" George asked.
George felt a small surge of panic. The last thing he wanted was for Georgiana to get into trouble, he was fond of the girl, she was like a little sister to him and he would not see her hurt for the world. "Georgiana is blameless," he said.
"What happened between you, Wickham?" Darcy demanded, "The truth on your word of honour."
"You long ago determined I have no honour," George said without a hint of emotion. "From when we were children, Fitzwilliam, you believed that."
"What I believed then has no bearing on what we are discussing. What passed between you and Georgiana in Ramsgate?"
George bit his lip. Should he stick to the lie and protect Georgiana, or should he make at attempt to clear his own name. He should stick to the lie, that was the honourable thing to do, and that was what Darcy wanted to hear, he wanted to be reassured in his opinion of his one time friend. "You know what happened, Georgiana told you."
"Miss Price seems to think that she was not being entirely truthful."
"I can't tell you, Fitzwilliam," George said, "I truly can't, but believe me when I say that no blame lies with Georgiana."
"This is not like you, Wickham," Darcy said, "You, who would tell any lie to further your ambitions, now balk at laying blame at someone else's door?"
"Is that what you believe of me?" George said angrily, "Do you really think that I'm so completely contemptible?"
"You have never led me to believe anything else."
"You are so narrow minded, Fitzwilliam, I can't understand what Miss Price sees in you. You're so concerned with your damned integrity that you cast her off when she was honest with you, as you would cast off your own sister if she was completely honest with you," George said. "You destroy everyone you come in contact with, anyone who doesn't have the strength to fight back, anyone how is afraid to cross the rich and powerful Lord of Pemberly. When you pushed Miss Price away she came to me, to me! And do you know why? Because I didn't judge her. Bingley came to me too, seeking oblivion after you let him lose the woman he loves and I took care of him, listened to him, kept him safe, brought him home," he was shouting now, all the pent up emotion, frustration, anger and bitterness coming out in one long rant. "Three people shattered by your distain, and you dare look down on me? I may have killed people in battle, Fitzwilliam Darcy, but I have never destroyed their souls."
Darcy was staring at him, open mouthed, as George finished his impassioned speech and fell silent, horrified that he had lost control of himself so badly.
"You lay all this at my door?"
"I do," George said firmly. "Look around you, Darcy, look at the people around you, really look at them and see what you have done to them."
"And what of you?"
"What of me?"
"What have I done to you?" Darcy asked.
George was surprised. He hadn't expected such a question and for once he was going to be completely honest. If Darcy found the truth distasteful then so be it, George was quite ready to sever all ties with the man if that was what he wanted. "You drove me from the only home I ever knew," he said softly. "After our fathers died you made it perfectly clear I was no longer welcome there. I have no home, no family, no place where I belong. I've been adrift in the world for years, not welcome anywhere, admitted only on sufferance. That is what I lay at your feet. You have no idea where I have been, what I have done since I left Cambridge."
"Where have you been? I tried to find you."
"Why would you do that?" George asked.
"The reasons are complicated," Darcy said.
"I have spoken truthfully to you, Mr. Darcy, I would be obliged if you returned the compliment," George said, falling back on the manners and mannerisms he had picked up in his childhood.
"I was afraid that you had done something foolish," Darcy said uneasily. "You vanished, Wickham, and I didn't know if you were even alive. I made enquiries as best I could, I even went to the board of Convicts in case you had been arrested and transported to Australia."
George couldn't help but laugh aloud at the suggestion. He had had a few run ins with the law as a student at university, but nothing he couldn't talk or buy his way out of. He ended the laugh with a cough when he saw the look on Darcy's face, he had offended the man. In truth he felt touched that Darcy had looked for him, but was glad that he hadn't found him.
"I ran away," George said after a pause in which Darcy fixed him with an implacable gaze and waited for an answer, "I wanted to escape from you and my dependence on you, so I went to Spain."
"What were you doing in Spain?" Darcy asked, surprised.
"What thousands of other Englishmen are doing in Spain as we speak, fighting Napoleon."
"You joined the army? Are you mad, you could have been killed, what were you thinking, George!"
It was George's turn to be surprised when Darcy used his Christian name, a name he hadn't used since they were children. Something between them snapped, the tension was, if not gone, then changed. "I almost was," he said. He was rubbing his wrists without realising, the memories of his time in Spain dredging up the most unpleasant of memories.
Darcy caught his wrists and pushed the cuffs of his sleeves back, revealing his wrists. They were ringed with pale scars. Darcy stared at the scars, barely able to comprehend what they meant.
"How did you get these?" he asked, "Were you captured?"
George nodded. "I spent three months in a French prison."
"Did you escape?" Darcy asked.
George shook his head. "I was sick, so they exchanged me and another officer for a French Colonel."
"French prisons are rife with illness," Darcy said, "Even in England disease can spread like fire."
"It wasn't disease," George said, "I was wounded, the wounds became infected."
"Thank God that you recovered," Darcy said.
"It was close. I had a friend who looked after me, he saved my life," George said, remembering Tom Cobb and how he had taken such tender care of him as he recovered from… the memories were still to painful to face. He needed to turn the conversation away from himself, and quickly. "Where did you go, Fitzwilliam? You vanished from the Jerusalem and no one saw you leave."
"Miss Price has shown me wonders, George," Darcy said, his gaze distant. "I saw things I could never comprehend, things you would not believe. She has opened my eyes and will not close them again."
"What type of things?" George asked, intrigued. Darcy had always put forth an air of polite disinterest, as though nothing was new, nothing could truly interest him.
"Carriages that moved without horses, pictures that move about and spoke, books no thicker than an artists sketch pad that could hold every volume in my library," Darcy said in awe, "I can't even begin to comprehend much of what I saw, let alone give a creditable description."
"Where was this place?" George asked, wondering if Darcy had suffered a blow to the head or had indulged in some of the more exotic substances of the orient.
"Hammersmith," Darcy said, "But not the Hammersmith of today. Miss Price told me that it was the future. I know what you are thinking, it sounds absurd, but that was what I was told."
George closed his mouth which had fallen open during Darcy's description. "It does," he said at length, "But for some incomprehensible reason, I believe you." And he did. There was something unworldly about Miss Price, as though she did not fit into this time and place, that like him, she was adrift between worlds, only to a far greater extent. "What was it like, this future Hammersmith?"
"Terrible," Darcy said with a delicate shudder. "There were so many people, far more than you would find even in the heart of London, and they were all rushing around, making the most dreadful noise, and their behaviour was appalling. I would not wish to return there."
George was fascinated. Even if it was only a fever dream or hallucination, it sounded absolutely intriguing. "How did you get there, and for that matter, get back?"
"I merely followed Miss Price through a door in the Jerusalem and there I was," Darcy said, "In the middle of it. We returned through a door in bathroom of Miss Price's abode and found ourselves in the upper hall of Longbourne," Darcy said, still bemused. "One thing I can tell you for certain, she is not the daughter of successful fish merchant." This time the gaze he turned upon George was amused. "That rumour was your doing, was it not?"
George was slightly embarrassed to find himself blushing. "I could think of no other way to extract our Miss Price from the claws of the most reverend Mr. Collins."
"Well played, George," Darcy said with a genuine smile. "I couldn't think of anything myself, and she would not have lasted long with Collins with there being some … damage… done."
George returned the smile, feeling a glow of joy at the warmth in Darcy's voice. Maybe there was a chance that they could be reconciled after all. They hadn't patched their lost friendship yet, but at least Darcy was willing to reconsider his opinions, and that was something George thought he would never see.
"Now," Darcy said, picking up George's red jacket and passing it to him, "I believe we should take advantage of our hosts hospitality and find some breakfast, for some reason I feel incredibly hungry."