Ok folks, here it is; my final chapter. I hope you enjoy the ending. I enjoyed writing it and thanks to all who reviewed and kept me inspired to finish.
Mr. Bennet had been in London for two weeks. Things at Longborne were not getting easier and Mrs. Bennet was becoming more and more difficult to console. The only solace that Elizabeth and Jane had during these days was that their mother had, for the most part, taken to her room and only exited to check to see if Mr. Bennet had sent word regarding his progress with Lydia. Elizabeth had not heard a word from Mr. Darcy and was convinced that she would never hear from him again. Every evening she listened to Jane read from some book or another and tried to focus on what she was saying. Inevitably, her thoughts would return to her day spent at Pemberley and the moment when she realized that Mr. Darcy still loved her with their first kiss from his successful second proposal still burning on her lips.
On this particular morning, Elizabeth decided that the walls of the house were closing in on her and she had to get out. Where, she did not know, she only needed to escape the constant whimpering of her mother and the condescending looks of the servants. Once she was out of sight of the house she increased her pace and ran down the path in the woods next to Longborne. The ache in her legs and the pounding of her heart made her feel more alive than she had felt since her return from Lampton. It was not long before she realized that she was running toward Netherfield; as if drawn there by some unstoppable force. It was the place where she had danced with Mr. Darcy and perhaps the place where her love for him had started to grow. It was so unknown to her then that she had mistaken it for a childish infatuation. How foolish she had been and how much time she had wasted consumed by her pride. If she had not been so full of pride she would have realized her feelings and she would have accepted Mr. Darcy's first proposal. They would have already been married and none of this nonsense with Wickham would have happened. Even, if she was not aware of her love for him at the time, she should have swallowed her own arrogance and conceit and agreed to marry him to save her family. Now, nothing could save them and he was lost forever.
As she rounded the corner to the entrance to Netherfield the sun shone brightly through the branches on the trees that lined the road. Elizabeth closed her eyes and drank in the warmth of the morning as she continued toward the estate. As she closed the gap between herself and the house she noticed a figure walking toward her. Although unable to make out the features of the face because the sun was obscuring her vision, she could estimate that it was a male figure. She thought that perhaps it was the grounds keeper come to request that she not trespass as Mr. Bingley was obviously not at home. Embarrassed by her actions she started to turn around in the direction of Longborne when her breath caught in her throat and her feet became completely unmovable. Staring in disbelief, for she was surely imagining the vision before her, she was jolted into realization when, as if out of a dream, she heard her name. It was low at first, almost inaudible, but again she heard it more clear the second time than the first. It was at this moment that she realized that the voice, the beautiful voice that she was hearing was that of her William.
Elizabeth closed the gap between them with a speed she had not thought possible. Darcy held out his arms and immediately embraced her lifting her off the ground pressing her to him with all of his strength. Elizabeth was crying now, unable to contain her happiness that this was reality and not imagined. Darcy set her on the ground and cupped her tear streaked face in his hands. The morning air had made his hands cold, but Elizabeth did not notice. She only stared at him offering a silent prayer to God for delivering him back to her. Unable to contain his own emotion, Darcy kissed Elizabeth with passion, not caring who in the world was looking on. Elizabeth met his kiss with equal emotion and both were lost in each other's presence.
How long they remained in this state Elizabeth was not sure. She only knew that when Darcy finally pulled away she felt his absence immediately. He starred at her with his kind blue eyes, telling her, in his silence, what she needed to know. He was back and they would be together forever. As she looked to him, he rubbed his thumbs across her cheeks to dry the tears that had fallen earlier.
"Why are you crying beloved, did you really believe that anything would keep me from you?" His voice was breathy with emotion.
"I hardly know what to think," Elizabeth answered. "I fear that you are not real and that at any moment mama will yell for me and I shall wake from this wonderful dream."
Darcy kissed Elizabeth on the forehead and began to burn a trail down her cheek and to her neck. Her gasping response to his attentions caused him again to claim her mouth so that he might convince himself, as much as her, that this was in fact real.
"Elizabeth my love," said Darcy trying to gain some composure. "I told you in Lambton that nothing would keep me from you. You should know by now that, if nothing else, I am a man of my word." He was smiling at her and she laughed at his teasing.
"Yes, Mr. Darcy, indeed I should have known that when you set your sights on a task, you do not give up. But pray tell me sir, where is my papa and what has become of my sister and Mr. Wickham?"
"I was just on my way to Longborne to deliver a letter from your father. I was waiting for Charles, but I fear his nerves were getting the best of him and he would not leave until he had confidently rehearsed his speech for Miss Bennet. I, having already secured my bride, could wait no longer to see her so I left without him." Darcy was smiling and Elizabeth thought that he resembled a naughty child. She liked this side of him very much.
"You mean Mr. Bingley will propose to Jane today?"
"I believe so, he may be there now, he was planning on riding across the fields so that he might relieve some of his nervous energy before reaching your sister."
"And I suppose this means that you and Mr. Bingley have spoken to papa and he has given you his blessings?" She asked timidly.
Darcy nodded and Elizabeth threw her arms around his neck to deliver another warm kiss. "I love you tremendously, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy. What did I ever do to deserve such a fine man as my betrothed?"
"I dare say you may consider me a punishment in a few years. But until then, I will enjoy your blind eye to my faults and allow you to see me as perfect. Come, my love, let us walk to Longborne and deliver the news to your mother that her youngest daughter is married and that her two elder daughters are soon to be in a similar, although much happier, situation."
With his words, Elizabeth was hit with the sudden realization that Lydia's future would most likely be very unfortunate, indeed. Darcy noticed the sudden change in her attitude and estimated what she must be thinking. He led her to a bench that was situated near a small grove of apple trees and drew her into his lap so that he might hold her and relieve some of her fear.
"Elizabeth, I know that you are worried for you youngest sister. Please, my love, do not worry. Wickham is not a total fool and I believe that there may be some genuine affection there. Now that all of his debts are settled and he has been given a reasonable living that he might live comfortably, I believe he will realize that Miss Lydia…Mrs. Wickham is as good a wife as he could hope for."
"Did you have to settle for a large sum? Although Wickham may be fond of Lydia, I know him not to be in love and therefore less easy to persuade to do the right thing by her." Elizabeth knew the answer to this question was yes, but she wanted Darcy to know that she realized that he had to go through great struggles to come back to her.
"Do not worry, my dear, it was not so large as to affect our well-being. Although, you do know, Elizabeth, that I would have given it all to him if that was the only way back to you. Nothing is more important to me than you. You are the very air that I breathe. I am dead without you." He kissed her again slowly at first but then with increasing intensity. The closeness of her and her response to his kisses almost caused him to lose his control. His hands, as if of their own will, began moving over her body; memorizing every curve and response she gave to his touch. All he wanted to do was take her into the house and claim her as his own. In his heart they were already one and the wedding day was merely a formality that was keeping them temporarily separated. He was sure that Elizabeth would have given in to his passion; however, he had waited too long for his life with her to risk any future regret. Thus it was with tremendous will that he ceased his exploration and reminded her of their mission to deliver the long awaited message from her father to Mrs. Bennet.
By the time they had reached Longborne, the entire house was in an uproar. However, in this instance it was an occasion of happiness and not despair. Mrs. Bennet was running around the house demanding that the servants have a bowl of punch in celebration, even though it was only 9 in the morning. Jane and Bingley were positively glowing telling both Elizabeth and Darcy that Charles' practice had paid off and that his offer of marriage was accepted with warm welcome. Evidently, Bingley too had relayed the happy news to Mrs. Bennet that Lydia and Wickham's marriage was secured and the family would not be cast out into the hedgerow as previously thought only one hour earlier.
When Elizabeth and Darcy strolled up to the house arm in arm, Mrs. Bennet nearly had a heart seizure. As she had spent her entire life playing match maker for one daughter or another, Mrs. Bennet had become a master at recognizing the signs of a couple in love; although in truth one would have to have been a tree stump not to have recognized such an attachment between Darcy and Elizabeth.
"Elizabeth, Mr. Darcy, " Mrs. Bennet began. "Am I to assume that your familiar manner with one another and your keeping company without a proper chaperone means that I am to be thrice blessed on this happy day?"
Elizabeth could not contain her laughter at the expression on Darcy's face. "Yes, mama, I believe that is exactly what it means."
With that Mrs. Bennet surprised Darcy with a warm embrace and a kiss to his cheek as well. Then turning to Elizabeth she cupped her face in her hand and look at her with the true eyes of a mother. "I am sorry, my dear for doubting you. I should have known that you would have chosen for well for your heart. Can you ever forgive me for forcing Mr. Collins on you?"
At that Elizabeth and her mother burst out laughing in mutual understanding. Then as if remembering her role as the family simpleton, Mrs Bennet ran into the house yelling for Hill to find her smelling salts for she was sure that all of the excitement of the day would bring on a fainting spell and she wanted to be conscious enough to run into town to relay her happy news to Mrs. Lucas as soon as possible!
And so the day was spent in happy company. Jane and Elizabeth had decided to share their wedding day. Bingley and Darcy were happy to oblige as long as it happened as soon as the banns could be read in church. Mrs. Bennet did not faint and was able to spend the day rubbing her friends noses in the fact that not only would she soon have three of her five girls married but that the security of Elizabeth's and Jane's husbands income would be sure to keep Longborne out of the gnarled clutches of Mr. Collins and the hedgerow would have to claim another family other than the Bennets.
As night approached, the young gentlemen reluctantly said goodbye to their new family. Elizabeth walked Darcy out to the end of the lane. Darcy pulled her to him in a strong embrace and breathing in her scent whispered in her ear. "Pleasant dreams my love. I will be with you tonight and every night from this day on. I shall never wish to be parted from you again." He then gave her one last long, slow kiss so that he would feel her until the morning.
"Sleep well, my love." Elizabeth crooned. "Do not make me wait long tomorrow; my sun does not rise until I can see your face."
Darcy reluctantly let her go and began his walk back to Netherfield the happiest of men.
Elizabeth stood in the cold until she could no longer see his form in the shadows. Finally she went back to the house and went to sleep with the smell of Mr. Darcy still on her skin.
The early morning sun warmed Elizabeth Bennet's face as the carriage made its way down the well maintained road toward Pemberley. She was suddenly aware of the carriage stopping and someone gently shaking her awake.
"Look Lizzy, there it is! Pemberley! It is exquisite, is it not?"
Elizabeth raised a hand to shield the obtrusive sun from her eyes and was instantly taken by the scene that unfolded before her.
"Yes." Elizabeth smiled a sad bittersweet smile of disappointment as she answered her Aunt. "It is beautiful….almost as if it belonged in a dream."
I hope you aren't too angry with me for the surprise ending. But you could look at it this way, now she gets to relive it all again for we know that our favorite couple will always live happily ever after! Thanks for reading!