"Must I memorise a book to be considered wise,
When I can look into your eyes?
There are poems and romances,
In the glamour of your glances,
You're an education in yourself,"
-Michael Feinstein, 'You're An Education'
When Eerin was four years old, she and her sisters were put to bed with their hair twisted around strips of cotton that had been left over from their Christmas party dresses. She remembered giggling with Maiya and Jannali as they all crawled into the same big bed and told each other scary stories, as was the norm for most nights.
They were woken early, and along with baby Kylie, they were forced into the delicate little petticoat dresses they wore only on very special occasions, before their mother dressed them each in matching ivory frocks which made a lovely swishing sound when they walked. Then, as they ate their breakfast in their painting aprons to protect the dresses, Fiona unwrapped the strips of cotton from their hair so it fell in beautiful ringlets, which they were under no circumstances allowed to touch.
They all climbed into the silver Nissan van that they used for the school drop offs, and they left the Shire to spend two hours driving up to the central coast. Eerin could remember many things about that day, such as the way their mother tied up their hair in those ribbons and the way they munched on their wheat bix and nutella toast in their paint covered smocks, but nothing stuck out in her memory as much as the sight of her second cousin April bursting into tears to see her reflection in the hotel mirror before she walked down the isle to her future husband.
She was quite certain that Fiona had explained how they were going to a wedding to watch April and her boyfriend Reese get married, but Eerin didn't think much of it at the time. There were other things on her mind at the tender age of four.
"One day Eerin," Fiona had said as she fretted over April along with several other women, "You'll be getting married, so you had better pay attention today, and be a good little girl," she instructed sternly.
Married? No, that would never happen, Eerin decided, looking over to see Jannali staring at April in her poofy white dress with wonder. Maiya stuck out her tongue, causing Eerin to laugh. She didn't understand why her cousin April was such a mess, but she did understand that she got to carry a basket of rose petals and throw them on the ground with Jannali and Maiya. That was a wedding to her.
But there were some things that had become a blurred memory to Eerin over the years. Perhaps April's wedding hadn't been in an open field with the vows said beneath a large, overarching tree. Perhaps she hadn't danced around through the grass and the flowers in her petticoats with her sisters, ribbons from the chairs trailing behind them and fluttering in the wind. Perhaps the sky hadn't been the bluest of blues known to man, and perhaps they hadn't thrown their cake in the bushes before they took off their shoes and played in the little stream with their new cousin-in-law's little sisters.
But even if that was all just a vague memory turned hazy over the years, that was the only way Eerin would want her wedding to be. She didn't want to wear shoes or an ugly, poofy dress – she wanted the sky to be the bluest of blues and she wanted to say her vows beneath a tree and she wanted there to be flowers in the earth, not in a basket thrown about by a young girl forced into an uncomfortable frock.
"Cousin April's wedding, Mum. Do we have any pictures from it?" Eerin asked rather suddenly over dinner a few nights after Darcy's proposal.
Just like her moving in with him had been something unspoken and almost accidental, Darcy staying with the Beaumonts in the Shire was just as unplanned. Within the first twenty-four hours he helped Warrain catch a black snake hiding beneath the wood pile in the back yard and was taught the only proper way to barbeque sausages. Not to mention the amusing incident with the vegemite. He made it a point to inform Eerin that since coming to Merryton Downs he had experienced more of Australia than he had in his past ten months in Sydney.
"You still remember that?" Fiona exclaimed with surprise. "You were only four years old, I think. It wasn't very nice, she had the ceremony outside. It wasn't much better than a bloody field, really," she said, before frowning. "You're not thinking of having a wedding like that, are you?" she asked warily. Eerin shrugged.
"Well... yes. Sort of. But better," she replied, thoughtfully pushing some spaghetti around her plate.
"So you're determined to forgo the church?" Darcy questioned, turning to his fiancée. She nodded.
"I don't want to be married inside. I want light. Air. Grass," she insisted firmly. He smiled.
"I thought a big fancy church wedding was every little girl's dream?" he challenged wryly. She shook her head, and Fiona scoffed.
"Lord no. All my other girls, even Maiya, they all started thinking about their weddings when they were in preschool. But not Eerin," she grumbled, as if in accusation. Maiya scowled.
"Hey. Don't put me in a collective grouping with them," she snapped, glaring to her younger sisters, who were texting between mouthfuls.
"Graham said he wanted to marry me," Leena announced suddenly, before she started to giggle with Kylie. Darcy scowled to his plate.
"Unfortunately, Leena, you're not the only young woman he has said that to," he replied coolly. With anyone else, Leena would have given an angry huff and spit out some sort of insult, which was usually 'whatever, your mum works at maccas', but she had quite the soft spot for Darcy, so instead blushed and turned her eyes back down to her phone. Eerin placed a hand on his arm, but he smiled to assure that he was fine. He liked Leena, really, but he found her sometimes too much to handle.
"We can have the reception inside, I swear. But I want to find somewhere with a garden," she then said firmly, when she was sure he was alright, speaking over the threatening squabble of her siblings.
"Well, you could have it at Mt Tomah. You always liked it there when you were little," Warrain suggested with a slight shrug. He'd had nothing to do with wedding plans over the past few days. He insisted that he wasn't the 'wedding' type, something Fiona could confirm.
"Is that the one with the koi pond up in the Blue Mountains?" Eerin frowned thoughtfully, trying to attach the name to the place. "Do they even do weddings?"
"Of course they do. Remember when we went there for a picnic and there was that big wedding with the ugly bridesmaid dresses?" Fiona reminded her, suddenly looking excited. "Oh, and they have that lovely restaurant, and that big beautiful arbour! Your photos would be beautiful!" she practically squealed with excitement.
"Want to go to the mountains tomorrow and have a look?" Eerin asked her fiancé with a laugh.
"Whatever you want, love," he smiled. Leena and Kylie sighed dreamily. They had been doing a lot of that lately.
So, it was pretty much decided over dinner. Eerin was quite certain about it the more she recalled annual picnics there with her family. She couldn't believe she hadn't thought of it before. It was absolutely perfect.
And so, on a sunny day in December when the sky was the bluest of blues, Eerin and Darcy married beneath a weeping willow with the leaves gently swaying in the breeze. She wore no shoes and a simple, but pretty white dress made of a soft and light ivory silk that her mother complained looked more like a petticoat than anything. There weren't a lot of guests; just close family and friends, and a few people Darcy had known in England who felt it necessary to fly in for the wedding.
They danced to 'The Promise' (by this point Eerin had put on her shoes to save injury) and Meat Loaf. They spared the speeches and the stiff formalness of most weddings and had a five-hour meal with wine and Polish vodka.
"I should have married you earlier. This is much easier than I expected," Darcy smiled into Eerin's short hair as she leant into his chest. She had plonked herself down on his lap to watch her sisters dancing together like they had when they were little, a fond smile passing over her lips.
"The wedding bit is easy. We'll see how the marriage part goes," she laughed, turning her head to press a kiss to his chin. "I love you," she said softly, never tiring of the words. He chuckled.
"Mm. You're alright," he shrugged teasingly. She didn't scoff, only laughed, and shook her head slightly, casting her eyes over the room.
"Ana seems to be having fun," she commented with a little giggle, watching her new sister dancing with Hamish. She was blushing and smiling as they slowly moved around the dance floor to the sound of Bon Iver.
"Mm. I might need to have a very stern word and an intentions speech to Hamish," Darcy grumbled bitterly, but he knew there wasn't much use. Since Ana had met Hamish a few weeks ago after arriving back in Australia to help prepare for the wedding, she had been completely enamoured, and although Hamish was by no means ready to enter another relationship with the death of his wife not even a year old, he was certainly smiling a lot more than he had been of late.
"Let them be. She's still young and Hamish isn't ready yet. I don't think you need to be worried," she laughed. He huffed, but she could tell he knew she was right.
"Well, from the looks of it, I might actually have to have that 'intentions' conversation with Richard, then, judging by the way he's looking at Maddy," he commented with a little chuckle.
"I reckon they're perfect for each other. Well, they make a much better couple than Carmen did with Richard," she replied, smiling as she watched Richard dancing with Maddy, Tom sitting on his shoulders with his hands fisted in Richard's floppy hair.
"I'm sorry she didn't come, by the way. I know it must be hard without her," he said, giving her hand a comforting squeeze. Eerin shrugged.
"Hey, it was me or Collins. She chose Gropey-McGee. No big deal," she replied, but he could tell it had hurt her.
He didn't understand Carmen at all; turning down an invitation to her friend's wedding with a weak excuse about how her boyfriend had something more important to do. But he knew friendships had an infinite capacity to change.
"So those blokes by the bar. You haven't introduced them to me yet. They're your colleagues, right?" she questioned, peering across the hall to the three men in suits who had flown in from England for the wedding. For a week or so Darcy had returned to Sydney as she spent the last few days of her single life with her family, and he with his old colleagues.
"Ah, yes. I should probably introduce you to them," he laughed, sliding her off his lap. They wove through the crowd and dodged blessings and congratulations from friends and family before they got to the bar, the suits stopping their conversation to share their well wishes with Darcy.
"Sorry I didn't get to meet you earlier, it's been a bit crazy around here," Eerin apologised with a smile, leaning forwards and shaking the hands of each man in turn.
"Eerin, this is Nicholas Culver, I worked with him in the history faculty at Oxford," Darcy began, as Eerin shook the first man's hand. He was an older man, with greying hair and a very tanned face, which made his pale amber eyes seem quite striking, especially in combination with his kind very kind smile.
"It's a pleasure, Mrs Darcy. Your husband quite surprised me when I found out he was getting married, I only hope you can put up with him," he laughed. She smiled.
"I like to think I can," she replied, glancing to her husband with a teasing twinkle in her dark eyes.
"And this is Martin Sheperd, he runs an ancient history course that sometimes required my specific skills," Darcy continued, giving his wife only a smirk by way of response to her teasing. Martin was the oldest of the three, with hair so white and soft it was like feathers on his head. He had hazel eyes that sparkled with wisdom behind his round spectacles, and a broad smile almost hidden by his rather impressive moustache.
"It was a beautiful ceremony. You've found yourself quite the catch, Darcy old chap," he chuckled, pressing Eerin's hand tightly in his before giving it back.
"I agree, Martin. No complains here," Darcy smiled, before turning to the last man. "And this, Eerin, is Alistair Randolph. I've told you about him before; he was pretty much my mentor at Oxford, before he left to teach archaeology at Cambridge. He's the reason why I'll have a job when we go back to England," he smiled, as she reached out to shake the man's hand.
He didn't seem as pleased to be there as the others. His hand was weathered and coarse against hers, and there was only the shadow of a forced smile on his lips as he murmured brief congratulations. He could be called handsome, with short brown hair and pale, milky blue eyes. He would have only been about ten years older than Darcy, but she knew that one of the reasons her husband admired the man so much was because of his incredible dedication and discipline, which had advanced him far in his career in a short amount of time. And she also knew that Alistair hadn't approved of the marriage. He hadn't approved of Darcy's decision to leave Sydney, after he himself had pulled so many strings to get him the position. But like any good mentor, Alistair had forgiven his student and had made some arrangements for Darcy to begin his course at Cambridge in 2011.
"Will has told me a lot about you. Almost enough to make me pretty jealous," she laughed, leaning against her husband's chest.
"I'm sorry, but who did I just marry?" Darcy laughed, placing a hand on his wife's shoulder and gently rubbing his thumb across her pale skin. Eerin rolled her eyes.
"He's getting forgetful in his old age," she said apologetically to the three men. Martin and Nicholas chuckled, and a flicker of a smile played on Alistair's lips. "So, Will said you've got a dig planned that you were hoping he could join you for," she said, glancing between them.
"Yes, but that all depends. He might not be so interested in spending two years in the desert now that he'll have a wife waiting at home for him," Nicholas explained, shrugging slightly.
"Which is a shame, because his skills are really quite unique, and we're going to need his expertise, whether he comes with us or not," Martin interjected.
"Well, I'm actually training to be a symbolist as well, or at least to get a better understanding in the field, so I'm certainly not against the idea," she smiled. Alistair raised a brow in slight surprise.
"You would live in the desert for two years, working on a dig with your husband?" he challenged. She nodded. "It won't be pleasant. You'll probably be living in a tent for months on end, it's not for the faint of heart," he warned, his voice laced with suspicion. She laughed.
"Well, I suppose I'm brave, then. It sounds fascinating to me. And I really want to get involved with Will's work, I've been a fan of it for ages," she explained brightly, as he wrapped an arm around her waist from behind.
"And if she's happy with the idea, then I'm happy. So you can count us in for the expedition," Darcy assured them. Nicholas and Martin were ecstatic, and Alistair stared at her with curiosity.
After a few more minutes of conversation, Eerin was whisked away by Richard and Tom to dance, and Darcy remained to speak with his colleagues. Everyone there was so happy. She really couldn't imagine a more perfect wedding. Even her mother was commenting on how well things turned out, which was quite a feat for her.
It wasn't until it came time to cut the cake that Darcy finally excused himself from his colleagues, and joined his wife in a small food fight before the party started to die down.
"I'm not sure if Alistair likes me," Eerin murmured to her husband, as she glanced across the room to spot the man himself glancing to her with a slight frown on his face. Darcy chuckled as he finished the last of his cake and then took a sip of wine.
"The first thing he said to me when we were alone was that he was going to make you divorce me, Eerin," he informed her. She felt her heart sink.
"Is it because I was your student? I thought you said he understood when you explained things!" she frowned, stabbing her chocolate cake with the fork.
"No, darling, I mean he wants you to divorce me because he thinks I don't deserve you," he chuckled, lowering his voice so he could barely be heard above the chatter of the party. Her brows rose in surprise.
"Really? He – are you serious?" she exclaimed, glancing back to see him looking at her again. Darcy smiled, and nodded.
"Well, one of the reasons why I admire him as a mentor is because he has such excellent taste," he laughed. She blushed, and bit her lip, shaking her head slightly and fighting a smirk.
"Does this mean you get to be jealous again? Because you're really sexy when you're jealous," she murmured, leaning forwards and pressing her lips against his jaw. He gave a low, deep chuckle that reverberated through his chest.
"I think it's about time we told everyone to go home," he replied, running his hand along the length of her forearm. She laughed into his collar. "So, you want to go on the dig?" he asked suddenly. She leant back to meet his eyes, and nodded.
"Definitely. When are they planning it?"
"Not for another eighteen months. You'll be finished university then," he answered, tapping his lips thoughtfully. "Alright. So by the time we finish the dig, we'll have been married for three and a half years, and I'll be thirty-eight. We have our first baby after about four years of marriage, and then the second a year after that, which means I'll be forty," he began, counting years off in his head.
"I don't think it's something you can plan that easily," she laughed.
"So theoretically, I'll be about forty-three by the time we have our fifth child."
"First of all, we're not having five kids, we're having one. Maybe two," she insisted firmly. He gave a smug grin.
"It means you get to name five children, not to mention the middle names," he reminded her. She frowned.
"That would mean I could use Stephen Fry, Ralph Fiennes, Richard Armitage, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Irons..." she muttered thoughtfully.
"Do you still have a crush on Jeremy Irons? He's over forty years older than you!"
"Shut up. We love each other," she insisted firmly. Darcy laughed into her shoulder.
"What about Remus Lupin? I thought you wanted to use that one too," he reminded her.
"Mm. I don't want to doom him, though. And he might start acting weirdly at the full moon."
"Which all comes back to the 'Great Gatsby' doomed chicken ordeal," he laughed. She beamed.
"You remembered! I knew I married you for a good reason," she laughed, wrapping her arms around his neck and depositing herself on his lap with a small giggle.
"I like planning things. I like to know where I'll be ten years down the track," he explained, pressing his forehead against hers. She nodded in understanding.
"I know. But... some things I reckon we're going to have to take as they come. So don't set yourself up in a routine too soon," she advised. He smiled against her mouth, and pressed a gentle kiss to her lips.
"I can't believe you're my wife..." he murmured softly.
"And you're my bitch."
Darcy rolled his eyes and leant back.
"You just ruined a beautiful moment," he chastised, causing her smirk to grow.
"I'll make it up to you on this mystery honeymoon, then," she grinned. "Speaking of which, are you ever going to tell me where we're going?" she asked, raising a brow. He sighed dramatically.
"I suppose I have to, although you must have guessed by now."
"Do you mean..."
"Three weeks in the south of France. Only this time, no Ana. Just you, me, and twenty-one days of freezing to death in Marseilles," he smiled. She squealed with excitement. She had been hoping that they would be in France, because their week in Marseilles had been the most perfect seven days of her life, and even though it would be much colder there and certainly not beach-friendly weather, nothing could make for a better honeymoon, particularly when she thought about how much she loved cold weather, being shut up in a nice warm house with a fireplace and some hot chocolate.
"You're perfect," she sighed happily, pressing a firm kiss to his mouth. He chuckled.
"Even more perfect than Jeremy Irons?"
"Oh, hells yeah. But not quite as wonderful as Stephen Fry. You're still better than Ralph Fiennes, only because of the Qantas incident, though. And you blow Richard Armitage out of the park," she babbled. "And then again, we have to consider David Tennant. I didn't include him before because he doesn't have the voice. But then I saw him in a velvet dinner jacket on QI, and that man is hilarious, too," she added thoughtfully, tapping her lip.
"You're insane," he informed her quite simply. She laughed, and nodded, leaning forwards.
"But you love me all the same?"
"Of course I do, God help me," he smiled, pressing his lips against hers once more. They were interrupted by the rather loud, uncomfortable coughing of Warrain Beaumont as he announced that he and the rest of the family had to be leaving.
Darcy released his wife and allowed her to go make her teary goodbyes to her family. After all, they really didn't know when they would be back in Australia, or when the entire Beaumont family would be free to fly over to England to visit. Darcy watched with slight pain as Eerin pressed a soft kiss to baby Noah's brow, with Tom clutching to her leg, tears streaming down his face.
"So, mate. We should be off too," came a familiar voice from behind. Darcy turned to see Chase, his best man, watching him watch his wife with an understanding smile on his face.
"I didn't think of this part," Darcy admitted with a heavy sigh, before smiling to his friend. "I will miss you, you know. So you should move back to England. You won't be able to stay away for much longer," he said quite plainly. Chase laughed, and shrugged.
"Who knows what the future will hold, eh, Darcy?" he smiled wryly, glancing over to watch his wife and his new sister-in-law hugging tightly. "I suppose this is the bit where I should say something really touching and memorable, right?" he questioned. Darcy gave a breathy laugh.
"I'll forgive you if you can't think of anything."
"I'm glad you finally learnt how to be happy, Darce. And it's pretty obvious that she makes you happy," he said, almost gently. Darcy gave a quiet smile.
"She does. She really does. And I can't wait for the rest of our lives together," he replied, casting his eyes over the entire room. Most of the people there were Eerin's friends or family, and had come to say goodbye just as much as they had come to congratulate her on her marriage. He felt a stab of guilt. A very large stab of guilt as he realised just what she was giving up.
"She understands. She chose to have it this way, Darcy," Chase said, as if he could read his very thoughts. Darcy nodded.
"I know. I just wish... I just wish there was some way I could make it up to her," he muttered weakly.
"You could be a good husband, for one."
Darcy gave a wry laugh.
"Well, let's hope I can get that one right," he replied, before turning away from the scene with a sigh. "Come to England soon, Chase. I'll need you to check up on me, make sure I'm still being a decent husband."
"You don't need me for that one, mate," he smiled, clapping his friend on the back. "Go on then, give your wife a hug. Start on that decentness already," he instructed. Darcy smiled, and nodded. "And... congratulations. Really. Congratulations," he said finally.
"Thank you. I suppose I'll see you when I see you," Darcy replied meaningfully. Chase nodded in understanding. Neither of them were one for goodbyes, but that had just been theirs. Without another word, Darcy left his best friend in search for his wife, to comfort her as she fought against tears.
"Hey. Come on, this is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right?" Darcy smiled, placing his hands on her shoulders. She nodded, holding her hand against her mouth to fight a sob, but her whole body was practically shaking.
"I'm sorry. I just..." her words trailed off as she started to cry quite openly. Just about everyone was crying now, Jannali, Maddy, Tom, Fiona, even Maiya and the girls were sobbing their hearts out. Only Warrain still remained composed, but that was because the two had made their goodbyes a month ago. "I'm going to miss you all to death," she managed to get out, before being pulled into her mother's warm arms.
"Now you listen to me, Darcy," Fiona said sternly, but the effect was somewhat weakened by the strain her tears had over her voice. "I want you to take good care of her. If you don't look after her, I'll be on the next flight over and I'll give you such a hiding you won't know your own name," she threatened. He nodded, with a small smile.
"I'll do my best, Fiona," he assured her. She sniffled, and then nodded, before pulling him into a tight hug that quite winded him.
"I'd say the same, but I think you get the drift," Maddy added, smiling through her own tears, while she held a sobbing Tom in her arms.
"Thomas Matthew Gardiner, look at me," Darcy said gently, before the young boy was passed into his arms. "I'm going to take good care of your cousin, alright? And you can come and visit her anytime. But we'll be back to see you soon," he assured him, keeping his voice stern and calm. Tom nodded; sniffling as he clumsily wiped his eyes.
"So... it's not goodbye forever?" he asked hopefully. Darcy smiled, and shook his head.
"No, not forever."
"It'd better not be," Maddy said sternly, accepting her son back, before glancing to Richard, who was standing by her side. She couldn't help but blush as he placed his hand on her shoulder and ruffled Tom's hair.
"If it is, I'll give him that hiding you mentioned, Fiona. And I promise to send you a chopped off body part for every time he upsets your daughter," Richard assured them cheerfully.
"Are you going to England too, Richer?" Tom asked suddenly, completely horrified. He had only known Richard for two weeks, but he was already very attached to him. As was his mother.
"Not quite yet. I thought I might stay here for a little while, Tom. Unless your mum is sick of me already," he smiled. Tom looked to his mother immediately, as if she had the power of keeping Richard in Australia.
"No objections here," she smiled, with another blush.
"Excellent. Well then, Tom, looks like I'll be here for a little while, at least," he decided.
But still, that bit of good news wasn't really enough to overcome the reality that Eerin had to leave her family behind, and she had no idea when she would see them again.
The rest of the goodbyes were thankfully brief. Darcy didn't think Eerin could take much more of it, if the way she sobbed against his chest when they were finally gone was any indication.
"We can stay, love. We can stay, if that's what you want," he murmured softly, but she only shook her head as he gently smoothed back her hair. Most people had already gone home, so it was now only Hamish, Ana, Richard, Alistair, Martin and Nicholas, all of whom were staying at a nearby hotel.
"No, I... I'm just going to miss them," she whimpered, pulling away slightly and wiping her eyes. She gave a bitter laugh. "I'm so ridiculous, sobbing on my bloody wedding day," she sighed.
"No. Eerin, it's alright to be upset. But we'll visit, and they'll visit, and there's always email and video calls, it's not as if you'll never see them again," he assured her. She nodded rather shakily, and turned back to face the last of her guests. She started to cry once more when she saw Hamish, who wasn't looking too good himself.
"Stop it, Rinny. You'll make me look like a thirteen year old girl, tearing up like this," he commanded with a pained smile.
"Are you going to be alright without me?" she asked between sobs. He shrugged, and laughed.
"Maybe? I don't know. I think I might end up following you to England sooner or later. Might go to Ireland, see Naomi's parents," he mused, digging his hands into his pockets. "I mean... England is as good a place as any. Being here isn't helping. And besides, someone needs to keep an eye on you, no offence, Darcy," he smirked.
"Oh, you should come to England! You'll love it!" Ana insisted excitedly. Hamish laughed delightedly at her enthusiasm.
"Ana..." Darcy murmured sternly, but she only waved him off.
"I'm sure Eerin would love it if you would come to England," Ana said firmly, glancing to her new sister. Eerin smiled, and nodded.
"I would, Hames."
Hamish shrugged, closing the topic of discussion. Darcy still couldn't help but feel a stab of jealousy as he watched Hamish, which was ridiculous, but unavoidable.
"Why are we getting teary now? You're not leaving until tomorrow," Richard reminded them all, swinging Eerin into a tight side-hug.
"Save the tears for your marriage, Mrs Darcy. Knowing Fitz, you'll have quite a lot to shed," Alistair drawled with a tiny smile flickering on his lips. Eerin laughed, and nodded, wiping her eyes.
"You're going to give her the wrong idea about me, Alistair," Darcy said sternly, but his mentor only smirked.
"That's the plan."
Darcy didn't object, only smiled into Eerin's hair as he pulled her back to his chest.
"We should probably head back to the hotel. It's getting kind of late," Hamish announced, glancing to his watch.
"Alright, you all go along. We'll follow," Darcy instructed, running his hand up and down Eerin's back to soothe her. When they were alone in the large hall, she finally spoke.
"I wish we didn't have to do the whole 'goodbye' thing. I think I would have been okay if we just left a note or something," she laughed bitterly, wrapping her arms against his waist.
"But you would regret not saying goodbye, Eerin," he reminded her. She shrugged.
"I wouldn't have been able to do this a year ago. I think... being with you has made me a bit more grown-up. I mean, I know I wouldn't have had to leave if I hadn't met you, but... all the same..." she trailed off with a heavy sigh.
"I'm sorry that you have to give this all up to be with my wife, Eerin," he murmured. She shook her head.
"No. Don't be sorry. Just pay me back by letting me name one of our children Stephen Fry," she insisted. He chuckled, and pressed his lips against her forehead. "I won't pretend it's easy for me. But I love you more than I want to stay here. And I'm your wife now, so where you go, I go," she added.
"And it works the other way round, Eerin, if you want to come back. I'll come back with you," he assured her.
"I love you."
Darcy smiled, and softly stroked back her short dark hair.
Perhaps that was how it worked. Because she knew that he would always follow her, she felt secure enough to leave. The knowledge that they would support each other no matter what was as much as a safety net as it was what kept them together. And he had changed, too. It was ridiculous to think that any man could be created simply so he complimented a woman to complete perfection.
Plato's Parables aside, men and women were not made of one sphere and split apart from birth. They were perfect for each other because they had smoothed down edges and clicked patterns and routines together, not because they were made that way. And there were still things that they would argue over throughout the rest of their days. 'Happily ever after' was not always 'completely without flaws'.
And standing there, on his wedding day, holding his new wife gently in his arms, he knew that without a doubt their life would be filled with arguments and dramas and challenges. That was just who they were. But they had learnt from each other how to get past those things with as little damage as possible. It didn't matter how many children they would have or whether or not they would live in England for the rest of their days. Darcy knew that there would be problems.
He was not psychic, so he could not know that they would have three children, each born in a different country with a different temperament. He could not know that on two occasions, he would be within a hair's breadth of becoming a widower; once to a collapsed cave opening in Uweinat near the Egyptian border, and then again to a complication during the birth of their third child, a daughter who was born five weeks early in a Sydney hospital during a thunder storm. He didn't know that the collapse while he documented the petroglyphs in Jebel Uweinat could have cost him his own life, had he been standing two feet to his right at the time of the cave-in. He didn't know that another man would fall possessively in love with his wife, and it would lead to both the split of a mentor from his student and the saving of his wife and son's life. He didn't know that his sister would eventually end up with Hamish, but not for another thirteen years. He didn't know that Richard would marry again, but this time, he would not divorce his wife within a year, and in fact, they would not divorce at all. Or that he would only see Warrain three more times before the man collapsed in his shed and didn't come up to the house for dinner that night, leaving Eerin completely shattered.
He didn't know any of this. He didn't want to know any of this yet.
But there was one thing that he knew, and that he would know for the rest of his life.
"I love you too, Mrs Darcy," he smiled, leaning down and pressing his lips against his wife's.
And really, what else did he need to know?
A/N: Well, well, well. And to a weak and cliché ending we come.
So, a few things to mention before I upload this chapter and 'An Education' is officially finished.
First of all: Sorry I used my author's note to vent a little last chapter. Things haven't been easy recently, but I think it's getting better. I'm not getting my hopes up – but I think things are really looking up, we're starting to be a family again. I won't explain in too much detail, but let me just say that I know how Elizabeth Bennet must have felt in regards to Lydia and all the pain that caused. I never focus on it in my fics, because it never struck me as being too important. But that's changed now. I've changed now. So thank you for your kind support (particularly 'Auntie Bon', thank you for your concern, your reviews and messages always bring a smile to my face) and your patience. It's much appreciated.
Secondly: Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed this story, I don't even want to think about a life where I couldn't write and have your opinions so readily available to me. I particularly appreciate the reviewers who took the time to give me detailed and insightful critique, because that's what makes me a better writer, and that's what I write fanfiction for.
Thirdly: This will not be my last fanfic. This will not be my last P&P fanfic. This will be my last P&P fanfic of this nature; it's rather long (about 280, 000 words, I think, including A/Ns), and at this stage I'm really just repeating myself. I am working on a fic now, Red Gloves and Porcelain Dolls, which I see as having potential, but it's not at all like this fic, it's written very... differently. A bit more grownup, and that's what I'm trying to be right now. I still have so much to learn about writing before I try to get my stuff published out there in the real world. Right now, I think all I will be doing is going through and editing all my old fics, fixing errors and perhaps smoothing down edges. I'm still posting L'Ange Noir, but I really want to focus on writing my first proper novel, which is taking up a MASSIVE amount of my time (I have SO much research to do), but will be done eventually. So don't expect a lot from me, but I'm not disappearing. Although, if you think about it, I've written a LOT of this stuff. Maybe it's time I slowed down?
Hmm. I doubt it.
Alright, that's all I can really think of right now. I'd love to hear from you, considering this is the last chapter, so it's a good opportunity for all you lurkers to come out and say hello, I know you've been reading. Let's see if we can break the 1,000 review mark, hey?
I'm such a review whore.
Anyways. Thank you all so much. Really. It's been awesome, and it's a shame this has come to an end, I liked this story. In my mind, this isn't the end of it. In my mind, Eerin and Darcy go to Egypt and have all sorts of adventures with Alistair. But that's not the story I set out to write, and although I might post a one-shot of their later life somewhere down the track, I shan't be posting it tonight. Have to get my beauty sleep ;)