author's note: in response to some of the feedback i've had on this chapter, i have revised it a little. there's still no epilogue and i have no plans of adding any new chapters, but i've tried to add a little more flesh around the bones, to give you a little more insight of what happened in the three weeks that have passed between the end of part 14 and the beginning of this part. i hated the idea that there would be someone out there thinking that i have mucked up a perfectly good story with an ending that was not up to par with the rest of it and i hope that with these revisions, i have managed to redeem myself, at least a little. if not, at least i have made it longer:) but this - for real this time - is it for Fix You. i've loved writing this story so much (despite the occasional moments of wishing to pull my hair out of my head or hit the computer with something heavy and blunt) and it's been great to have you with me for the journey, you've been the best:)
Three weeks after his wedding Darcy was sitting in his study, on the verge of losing sanity. Nothing, absolutely nothing had gone as he had planned. He had spent his wedding night alone, sleepless and miserable, missing his wife though only a wall separated them. Several times that night and on the nights that followed, he had stood behind her door, his hand lifted in preparation for a knock, but his courage had always failed him. And the more days had passed, the more desperate he had become. A week ago, his sister had arrived to Pemberley and though he loved her dearly, he had never been so little pleased to see her in his life. How he had hoped that Elizabeth and Georgiana would become great friends, and now he spent his days brooding, jealous for the attention his wife was paying his sister. And then, that very morning, the final blow had been dealt and he felt completely beaten. To damnation with that man!
He sighed as he remembered those first days after the wedding when everything had still seemed promising. The first moments of the morning after their wedding night had been awkward. She had been so quiet and he had not known what to make of it. But he had done his best to draw her out, made idle talk of the news on the morning's paper, of the weather they might expect on their way to the North. Of his plans of what they might do once they arrived – though certain plans he had thought it best to leave unmentioned, as they involved mainly the two of them spending copious amounts of time in the Master bedroom. Soon enough she had seemed herself again, smiling like she had the previous night, full of curiosity towards their next destination. He had been relieved – whatever had been bothering her in the morning seemed to have been forgot by the time they got into the carriage.
The journey to Pemberley had taken two whole days and a good part of a third, but he would not have minded if it had lasted a week. Under other circumstances he might have detested the idea of spending several days sitting in a carriage, but with Elizabeth everything had felt different and new. A good part of the journey had been spent in conversation and he had been happy to discover that they had seemed to be reaching that same level of confidence that had prevailed before the unfortunate business with Miss Lydia and Wickham. He had told her countless tales of Pemberley, of his ancestors who had built it, of the happy days of his childhood, of the mundane things of his life there. By the time he had found himself talking enthusiastically about crop rotation, he had blushed in embarrassment and asked her if she was very bored with him already, but she had laughed like it was the most absurd idea ever and prompted him to continue. How he loved to hear her laugh.
Occasionally, they had lapsed into a companionable silence, reading books or looking at the scenery passing by. Though if he was perfectly honest, she had been the one to do most of the reading, for he had spent half of his time stealing glances at her like a lovesick puppy and the other half berating himself for being such a ridiculous fool. By the time they had reached the inn where they were to stop for the first night, he had concocted in his head the most pleasant of daydreams, where the innkeeper would regretfully announce that there was only one room left and that they would have to share. No such luck, of course.
On the second day of the journey the weather had turned cold and they had huddled under blankets with warmed bricks to keep the cool away. After a few hours of contemplation he had finally convinced himself that she most definitely did not look like she was warm enough and had boldly suggested that she move to sit next to him so that they could benefit from each other's warmth. She had blushed profusely but accepted and, to be sure, burrowing under a blanket together with Elizabeth had done wonders to the warmth of his body, at least. It still stirred a longing ache in his chest when he remembered the unexpected intimacy of simply removing her gloves. She had told him that her hands were cold and he had first taken his own gloves off and then, carefully, removed hers too. Her hands had felt so small, covered by his bigger ones, when he had taken them between his palms and massaged them to warm them up. For the rest of the journey, the gloves had not been needed, for he had refused to let go of her hands, immensely satisfied when it had seemed that she was of the same mind.
That night, at the second inn they had stayed in, encouraged by the memory of her form huddled up against his and the way she had leaned on his shoulder when she had dozed off, he had kissed her. A muttered curse rolled off his lips as he looked back at the way he had acted. They had, once again, been standing in front of the door of her room. Her cheeks had been flushed and her eyes bright, and she had been laughing at him, lively in her description of the scowl he had apparently worn when the innkeeper, some forty years his senior, had made some flirtatious remark to Elizabeth. She had looked so irresistible, so very.... Elizabeth, that he had been quite unable to stop himself. But it had been a mistake to try to kiss her, he had quickly learned, and one that he had paid for dearly. For as soon as his lips had touched hers, reveling in the sweet softness of that first brush he remembered so clearly from that fateful day in Netherfield, the desires that had threatened to overwhelm him for so long now had overtaken his senses. Before he had known what was happening, he had wrapped his arms around her and pinned her against the door of her room, his kisses no longer those of a gentle first lover but those of a man starved, hungry and demanding, the evidence of his desire for her pressing against her belly.
It had not been until a whimper had escaped her lips, soft and frightened, that he had come back to his senses and let her go. The memory of her face, her lips red and swollen, her eyes wide with trepidation, still made him ashamed of himself. How could he have acted like that? He had sworn to himself that he would wait, that he would respect her wishes. He had made fun of her for being afraid of him. And then, like a common cad, he had attacked her like that, and in the hallway of an inn no less, where anyone could have seen them. Of course, he had swiftly apologized to her, promising that it would not happen again, but the damage had been done. The next morning, she had not sat by him in the carriage, and the conversation had been stilted at best.
Darcy stood up to pour himself a glass of brandy. He had really made a mess of things. He had dreamed of the first time he would show Elizabeth Pemberley for so many times, and then the moment had been ruined, all because of his damned impatience to bed her. What was he? Some bloody lad of sixteen who could think of nothing else? But he knew it was more than that. He did not just want to bed her, to possess her. He needed her, not just in his bed but in his life. He needed her so much that it made him ache.
When they had reached the grounds of Pemberley and arrived to the place where one could catch the first glimpses of the house, the driver had stopped, as per his orders. He had helped Elizabeth out of the carriage and they had walked to a spot nearby, the one that in his opinion offered the best view down to the bottom of the little valley where the house stood. Whether if it was the presence of Elizabeth, or the light, pristine sheet of snow that had covered the ground overnight, he did not know. But even he himself thought that Pemberley had never looked as beautiful as it did just then.
And when he had turned to look at his wife, he had seen that she thought so too. William, she had said in a reverent whisper, it is so very beautiful. How he had longed just then to take her in his arms, to give her a soft, sweet kiss. But he had not dared to. Not after what he had done on the night before. And that, to him, had turned the whole moment sour. Instead of reaching for her, he had taken a few steps away from her in an effort to restrain himself and pointed out to her some places of interest. But it had felt awkward somehow, and it had seemed to him that her interest had suddenly vanished, too. Despondent, he had lead her back to the carriage and they had sat in silence until they had reached the house.
The brandy burned in his throat and he wondered if it had been such a good idea to have some in the first place. Certainly, it would take more than a simple glass of brandy to take the edge off the pain he was in. The morning had been an utter disaster. And the worst of it was that Elizabeth had not allowed him to comfort her. Instead she had spent the last two hours locked up in her chambers with Georgiana. It irked him that she would rather tell her worries to his sister, even though he knew it was petty of him to think so. But Elizabeth was his wife after all, was it not his duty to comfort her? How was he ever to perform that duty if she did not even let him in her room?
Once again his mind turned to the question that had been plaguing him for days on end, the same one that had been haunting him before they were married. What if she would never love him? What if he had ruined her life, compromising her and making her marry him? The idea was almost too daunting to think of and certainly not one he dared to approach with her. What if the answer was yes? Could he live with himself, knowing that he could never make her as happy as she might have been with someone else? That he had robbed her of the possibility of ever finding out? The mere suspicion drove him mad and he was convinced that knowing for sure would be too much for him to take.
The relationship they had now certainly could not make her happy. Hell, it did not even make him happy, and he was in love with her after all. To anyone looking on from the outside it might have seemed that they were as happy as the next couple. And they had certainly fooled Georgiana, she was still none the wiser about their circumstances, or so he thought. They were amiable enough, quite capable of carrying on conversations, albeit a little stiffly and in his mind never about anything that mattered. The were friendly, not one cross word had been exchanged during the weeks they had spent at Pemberley. They were polite. But all these words felt bitter in his mouth. He did not want amiable. Friendly and polite could go to hell. He wanted to love his wife as a man ought to! He wanted to carry her to his bed every night and make love to her, instead of awkward words and pecks on the cheek at the door of her bedchamber. He wanted to share with her his every thought, wanted to know hers. Instead they talked of weather, of Pemberley. Perhaps of books on a good day.
After the disaster at the inn, he had vowed once again to be patient. He would not scare her with inappropriate advances. He would wait for her to give him a sign that she was ready. But no sign had ever come. Instead, the more days passed, the more awkward became their interactions. Oftentimes he caught her looking at him with a strange expression and it was these looks that got him thinking. She looked so anguished. Was she regretting marrying him? The fear of her answer kept him awake at nights.
Georgiana's arrival had seemed to improve the situation, but the effects had been temporary. With a third person at the dinner table, conversations had become less awkward, silences fewer and less oppressive. But soon enough, the friendship that he had hoped would develop between his wife and his sister had begun to blossom, and he had found himself unexpectedly feeling abandoned. Too often these days he found himself in a room with them, brooding in a corner, jealous of the whispers and the giggles, the girlish secrets the two seemed to share. He could not help it. Every time he heard Elizabeth's tinkling laughter, he felt a pang of jealousy for the fact that it was his sister and not him who had elicited it. Every time she teased his sister, he found himself missing the way she had used to tease him.
And yet he could not stay away from them. Often he found himself neglecting his duties as the Master, loitering outside the door of the music room to listen to Elizabeth and Georgiana playing duets, instead of going through his correspondence as he should have. More than once the account books had been abandoned when he had heard talk of a walk in the wintry gardens. Like a shadow he followed them, never contributing much to the conversation but always there, steadfastly ignoring all the hints Georgiana kept making about there being no need for him to accompany them everywhere.
And then, earlier that day, they had finally shut him out. After the incident that had taken place in the hall that morning, Elizabeth had rushed up to her rooms in tears. Moments later, as soon as Darcy had dealt with the situation, he had gone after her, only to be turned away from her door by Georgiana, unexpectedly stern, surprisingly calm. Elizabeth needed a moment alone, she had told him, before closing the door in front of him and leaving him standing in the hallway, stupefied. And now two hours had passed and the door remained shut. Sighing, he sat down and leaned his head against the backrest of the chair, closing his eyes. How had it all come to this? He had tried his best but he had not succeeded. She did not love him, quite possibly never would. The realization took his breath away, his shoulders slumped and he leaned his head against his hands.
His gloomy musings were interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Go away, I am not to be disturbed!" he barked angrily. Used to being obeyed, he was surprised when he heard the door open despite his orders. The angry retort died on his lips when he looked up and saw that it was Elizabeth at the door, eyeing him warily.
"I am sorry to disturb you, but I would much wish to speak with you if you are not otherwise engaged."
She looked serious and he felt a knot forming in his stomach. Getting up, he gestured her to come in. "Of course."
She looked at him for a long moment before saying anything and he noticed that she was clutching something in her hands. A book?
"I have been talking to your sister this morning."
"Ah, yes." He tried not to sound as jealous as he felt.
"She- well, she has given me hope that I might once again have been labouring under a misapprehension when it comes to your person."
He looked at her, uncomprehending. What was this? Hope? Misapprehension? "How so, Elizabeth?"
"Some weeks ago, you said to me that you wished for there to be no more misunderstandings between us."
"In the name of that wish, I would wish to tell you something. If, by the time I have finished, I will look like a fool in your eyes, then so be it. I cannot bear to go on another day like this."
Darcy swallowed, the knot in his stomach tightening. This was it. He had half a mind to try to stop her when she started speaking, afraid of what she might say. But, it turned out, it was good that he did not, for what she said was nothing like he expected:
"When- when you left for London to go after my sister and Mr. Wickham, I was sure that no matter the outcome of the trip, you would want nothing to do with me when you returned." He opened his mouth to protest, but she continued before he had the chance to do so. "You have since proved yourself more generous, more forgiving than I could ever have imagined any man to be. But I, I cannot forgive myself! Because of me, because of my foolishness and the foolishness of my sister, you are now a brother to the man you detest most in the world. And Georgiana, to find herself the sister of the man that has hurt her so grievously! She says to me that she does not mind, that it is of no importance to her and that she certainly does not blame me. But I saw how her face paled when she saw him this morning, the disgustingly appraising look he gave her, it is in every way appalling! And I am certainly to blame for it!"
Darcy took a deep breath to calm himself. Of course, she wanted to talk about Mr. and Mrs. Wickham and the unexpected appearance they had made that morning. What they had thought to achieve, to appear at Pemberley like that, he did not know and did not wish to know. He had pushed them back out of the door almost as soon as they had entered. But what had that to do with his person?
"Please, Elizabeth," he sighed, pleading. "Do not talk so. It is not your fault, none of it."
"But it is! I should have warned my sister, should have made her see his true nature! And if it were not for the fact that you are married to me, you and your sister would never have had to endure his presence, to have him show up at your doorstep like he did this morning! I promise you, I will write to Lydia immediately and make it known that her husband is not, under any circumstances, welcome to our home. But still, I cannot help but think that from all this you could have been spared if you had never met me!"
She was on the verge of tears now and he did the only thing he could: He went to her and twined his arms around her, cradling her head against his chest, ignoring the niggling thoughts that she might not wish it. "Never say that, Elizabeth. If I had never met you, it would have spared me of absolutely nothing. I would take a thousand Wickhams in my life if it meant that I could have one Elizabeth. I would not change meeting you for anything."
She lifted her head to look at him then, her eyes teary. "You would not?"
"Of course I would not, do you not know it by now?"
"But I thought..." she turned her head away and he could see that she was blushing. Desperate to get to the bottom of things now that they were finally talking, he took her chin in his hand and turned her face towards him again.
"You thought what?"
"See, that is the thing I really wished to talk to you about. Do not mistake me, you have been all that is kind and good to me. Gracious in your efforts to assist me in taking on the role that I am expected to take, to help me understand my duties as the Mistress of this house. But you- you have also seemed so distant recently and, you, well, you have not come to me once since we married. I thought perhaps you had started to regret marrying me."
He looked at her, stunned. She thought that he was regretting marrying her? "Elizabeth!" he cried, "What on Earth gave you that impression?"
"Well, I thought- you were so gentle with me on our wedding day, so kind in your attempt to relieve my worries and I thought that you meant to come to me that night but then you did not."
"But," he sputtered, unable to believe what he was hearing "you, you looked so afraid. I thought you wanted to wait!"
"Oh," she breathed, her voice full of wonder. But then she seemed to remember something else, and her voice was almost accusatory when she said: "What about that night at the inn? I thought you had changed your mind, but then you suddenly let go of me like it was some sort of a ghastly mistake and said that you would never do it again! And you have hardly touched me since! What else was I to think?"
His head spun at her words. She had waited for him to come to her? She had wanted him? And all those looks of anguish he had seen had been because she had felt dejected? Feeling that his knees might give way at any moment, he backed towards a settee, pulling her with him. He could not look at her, afraid that if he did, she would vanish and he would wake up to find out that it had all been a dream. He heard his own voice, breaking, unsure, when he whispered:
"I- I thought you did not want me."
She knelt in front of him then, taking his hands in hers and he noticed again the book she had been holding. It looked familiar.
"Oh William, what fools we have been, the both of us! For weeks I have known that in you I have found myself the best of husbands, the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever met. And yet I was foolish enough not to realize that this too, this reticence, this distance you were keeping, you were doing out of respect for me, out of a selfless wish to make me comfortable."
He looked at her in wonder when she put in his hands the book she had been holding.
"It was this," she whispered, "along with some encouraging words from your sister, that helped me to realize that I might have been mistaken. She had gone to your room in Netherfield to get some other book and discovered this. She said she had only later noticed the inscription inside."
She looked at him as recognition dawned in his eyes. The book of poetry he had meant to give her for Christmas. It seemed so long ago. He remembered the words he had written on the inside of the cover, the hopefulness he had felt then. To Elizabeth, the keeper of my heart. Love always, William.
She squeezed his hands, rested her head on his knees and whispered:
"You are the keeper of my heart, too, if only you still wish to be."
Too much. It was too much. A wave of relief washed over him as he absorbed her words. And as all the emotions he had bottled up inside him in the months that had passed, in all the years of his carefully restrained life, seemed to surface all at once, the unexpected happened and the mighty Master of Pemberley felt tears streaming down his face. His shoulders shook and his breathing hitched and he lifted his hands to his face in embarrassment. And then, he felt the hands of his wife cover his own, her weight on his legs as she sat on his lap. Her lips on his forehead as she whispered:
"Please, William, do not cry. I am sorry that it took me so long to figure it out. Please, let me love you. Let me fix you."
A kiss was how it began. A hungry, desperate kiss to give assurance as well as to take it. Her fingers in his hair and his on her back, pressing her closer, molding her form against his. How well they fit. When her hands left his hair and started fumbling with his neckcloth, he knew that this time he could not stop. How fortunate for him that she did not want him to.
Though there were to be countless other times later, that first time would be forever etched in both their minds as the perfect one. The arch of his brow when he asked her if she could lock the door since she was such an expert. The muffled giggles that escaped her when he was having trouble divesting her of her chemise. The little red mark he left just above her right breast when he kissed her there a bit too eagerly. The way her hands seemed to fit perfectly in the hollows under his shoulder blades when she straddled him and wrapped her hands around him. The whispered words of love exchanged between kisses and caresses. And the single tear that ran down her cheek when he finally penetrated her.
Later, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley, Derbyshire, lay on his back on a small and a rather uncomfortable settee in his study, the sleeping form of his wife a pleasant weight on his own, utterly, completely happy. He thought of the long and strange journey that had brought him there, to the most perfect moment of his life. So many missteps had been taken, so many words misinterpreted. So much misery that could have been avoided if only they had talked with each other instead of jumping head first into conclusions. But now, it all did not seem to matter. For she was here, with him, and would always be. Always, always Elizabeth. His wife.
that's it, dear readers, i thank you for reading:) all that's left to do now is for you to click the link below and tell me your final thoughts:)