Well this is it, the last little bit of this story. Thanks go to Debra Anne for Beta-ing M,M &M for me!
I hope you all enjoyed it.
Darcy and Elizabeth spent an idyllic few weeks together at Pemberley, before their guests arrived for Christmas. Elizabeth had loved every moment of it, and had quickly and easily integrated herself into the running of the household. She had earned the respect and loyalty of everyone, thanks to her friendly attitude and fair assessment of every situation. They also soon found that, somehow she always knew when people tried to lie to her, and those who did were automatically demoted or dismissed, depending on the severity of the lie. That only happened a few times before everyone wised up and began to show their mistress true respect.
Having their combined families visit for Christmas was wonderful, and Pemberley was filled to the brim with laughter and joy. Darcy and Elizabeth bore Mrs Bennet's raptures and remarks on the value of the estate and furnishings with fortitude, and chose to focus more on the happiness they enjoyed by having everyone together. Elizabeth, in particular, was so happy to see all of her sisters, which now included Georgiana. They also adopted Caroline as an honorary sister, and all of them knew that, judging by the looks that passed between Jane and Bingley, it would not be very long before she was an official sister.
Anne was looking much better after her visit to Bath, and she gave a glowing report of all the things she and her mother had seen. It seemed that Bath had some impressive theatres and amenities, and both Anne and her mother had loved the operas they had seen.
Bingley and Caroline were in mourning for their sister, and while, due to propriety, they really should have spent Christmas alone at Netherfield, they decided to forgo that convention, and spent the merry season at Pemberley with those that were now as close as family to them. Their black clothes did not temper their spirits, for they had come to accept the loss of their sister.
Much to everyone's delight, Mr Bennet announced Bingley and Jane's engagement on Christmas Eve. To the surprise of some, but not Elizabeth and Darcy, Colonel Fitzwilliam and Caroline Bingley also announced their engagement only a few days later. Both couples eventually married in a double ceremony once the Bingley siblings were out of mourning.
At Easter, Darcy and Elizabeth visited Rosings, finding Anne in even better health than she had been at Christmas. She had followed Elizabeth's example, and took to visiting the tenants when she drove out in her phaeton. She had also become good friends with Charlotte Collins, just as Elizabeth had predicted. Elizabeth had the satisfaction of seeing Charlotte well settled and content in her life as the wife of Mr Collins, and was genuinely pleased that her friend and cousin got along so well. The three of them spent many happy hours driving around Rosings, and Anne confessed to Elizabeth that, "I found that allowing my mother to smother me with care and protection only made me sick, and worried her more. So I set about showing her how healthy I really was, and in the process, I got even stronger. Now mother is far more relaxed, for she is not constantly worried over my health anymore," she explained. Elizabeth simply nodded in understanding, feeling sorry for all the worry Lady Catherine had gone through over the years.
Not long after their visit to Rosings, Darcy and Elizabeth received news that Wickham had been sentenced to life imprisonment, and had been sent to Australia. It was later discovered that the ship he was on had sunk at sea, with no survivors. Darcy had long let go of any guilt and sadness due to his childhood friend's life, and so they accepted the news with equanimity and a little relief.
Darcy and Elizabeth continued to strengthen their relationship, growing deeper in love every day. Of course, they fought on occasion, for they were both very stubborn and strong-willed, but their love for each other soon calmed any battles, and it only served to render their bond unbreakable. At Pemberley, Elizabeth got to see Darcy in his element, and it served to remind her more and more of why she loved him. One instance in particular was when she found that Darcy had a football (soccer) field for the tenants' children, with swings in some of the bordering trees, and goal posts at each end strung with nets. In the warmer months, all the tenants' children came to play there, and Darcy often joined in. Once Elizabeth had gotten the hang of the game, she, too, sometimes played with Darcy and the children, taking great delight in kicking the ball around the field and laughing with the children and her handsome husband. She also loved to watch her husband being so carefree. It warmed her heart, and other areas of her body, as he played without a jacket or cravat, all hot and sweaty. Elizabeth found him terribly tempting in such a state. As he played, she often imagined how wonderful it would be when their own children could have fun there with their father.
Elizabeth soon got her wish, for in the coming years, Darcy and Elizabeth had four sons and three daughters, all of whom loved to play with their father and the other children.
During her pregnancies, she spent much of her time in the conservatory, where Darcy had a daybed placed specifically for her to rest upon. She loved being with nature, and when she was banned from her long rambles in her last months of carrying their children, she would instead enjoy nature from inside the conservatory, where Darcy was often with her.
Merlin, too, could often be found keeping Elizabeth company in the conservatory, for the horse could not be kept out. The first day that Elizabeth was too large for their normal walk to the meadow, she and Darcy instead settled in the conservatory for their normal morning talks. They were looking out through the glass at the landscape, when a large black horse head suddenly appeared at the outside doors. With no hesitation, Merlin pulled down on the lever door handle and entered the conservatory, hooves ringing on the floor as he headed for them. Darcy and Elizabeth looked at each other and laughed. Nothing Merlin did now surprised them. The rather pleased horse stopped beside them and nuzzled Elizabeth's hair softly. She rubbed his check. "Oh, Merlin, you are a most tenacious animal," she said in a voice that made it sound far more like a compliment than a chastisement. He flicked his tail as if in agreement, and from that day on, if Elizabeth was in the conservatory, Merlin was too.
Their first two children, William Bennet Darcy, and Annalise Giana Darcy, or Liam and Anna, were exactly like their respective parents. Liam had Darcy's protective and steady temperament, though growing up with his lively sister and mother allowed him to be more relaxed and open than his father had been. Anna was a little spitfire, and Liam was often dragged off on her adventures and rambles, for he was too protective of his little sister to allow her to go alone, and he would never tattle on her either, due to extreme loyalty. Therefore, the pair, only a year apart in ages, would often escape from their nannies and run off.
Darcy and Elizabeth found the pair both worrying and adorable. Darcy doted on his little Anna, who was so much like his darling wife, and Elizabeth adored Liam, with all his similarities to his wonderful father. When Liam and Anna disappeared, while neither parent could keep from worrying a little, they were never too concerned, for they knew the children had inherited their own love of nature. Besides, the children were no match for Elizabeth and Merlin, who could always find them quickly and without fail.
The children were often found up trees when Elizabeth came upon them, and while she scolded them gently, she remembered her own childhood and could not be too harsh on them, for she did not want to subdue their natural curiosity of the world. Their favourite time to escape was when Elizabeth was out visiting the tenants, and her children were meant to be learning their lessons. Though she did often take her children on short visits, their education was important, and so, many times they would be left behind to study. Anna and Liam seemed to be of the opinion that if their mother was out with Merlin accompanying her, nobody would have any idea of where they had gone. Elizabeth would often arrive home to find the nanny and governess eying her with trepidation.
She would simply sigh, assure everyone that they would not be fired for losing her wayward children, and have Merlin saddled. She and Merlin would then head off to catch her young progeny. Merlin was better than a scent hound at finding the pair, who would always greet them with resigned looks, disappointed that they had been found so soon and so easily.
The children also learnt very quickly that lying was not only bad, but entirely useless when their mother could always tell. As it happened, for Liam and Anna, it was learnt when they were seven and six, when Anna came crying to her parents, with Liam chasing her. Darcy and Elizabeth had been spending a lovely morning in the conservatory, for Elizabeth had been heavily pregnant with their fourth child at the time. "Mama, Liam hit me," Anna cried.
"I most certainly did not!" Liam protested. "She fell!"
"No I did not – you pushed me!"
Once he had ascertained that neither was truly hurt, Darcy watched on in amusement, certain that his Lizbeth would be able to find the truth. Elizabeth raised an eyebrow. "You are aware, are you not, that one of you is lying, and that your father and I do not tolerate lying in our household?"
Both children looked down. "Yes Mama."
"Good. Now Liam, since your story appears to be the most truthful right now, why do you not tell us what really happened?" her voice was even and firm, and both children gulped as they realised that they had been caught.
"She tried to hit me, and she tripped and fell," his face showed his thoughts, that it had been a kind of poetic justice for Anna to hurt herself, when she had intended to hit him.
"I believe you, Liam, but what caused her to try and hit you in the first place?" Elizabeth could not be fooled.
The boy blushed. He hated being in trouble with his mother, for like his father, he absolutely adored Elizabeth. "I told her that she could not play with my soldiers," he admitted.
"And why should she not play with your soldiers?" His mother asked. Elizabeth was now rather amused as the truth unfolded.
"Because she is a girl," he protested. "She is meant to play with dolls."
Elizabeth could not help a small amused smile at her son's words. "Liam, there is nothing wrong with wanting to play with soldiers instead of dolls," she assured the boy before addressing her daughter. "Now, Anna, why did you want to play with his soldiers, and what made you tell us he hit you?"
Her daughter turned her sad face to her, eyes glistening with unshed tears. "I just wanted to play with Liam, Mama, and since he did not want to play with my dolls, I thought we could play with his soldiers." The little boy's eyes widened and he looked down in shame at his sister's admission. "I got angry when he said I could not, and I tried to hit him, but I fell, and it hurt. I thought I could get him into trouble. I am sorry for lying, Mama," the little girl cried.
Elizabeth gathered both of them into her arms as best she could around her eight months' pregnant stomach. "There there. Everything will be all right," she assured them in her sweet motherly tone. "You both know better now, and I expect you not to lie to me in the future." They nodded, and she and Darcy soothed them until both were back to their normal selves. In the space of a few hours, Liam and Anna were best friends once again, and could often be found playing with Liam's soldiers. On occasion, Liam even deigned to play with Anna's dolls.
As they grew, and their siblings entered the world, they showed their brothers and sisters everything, protecting and nurturing them as best they could. As Darcy and Elizabeth had hoped, all of their children were very close to each other, and a more loving and close knit family was hard to find. Luckily for Darcy and Elizabeth, the rest of their children did not inherit their temperaments. Some inherited a mix of both parents, and others turned out to be as sweet and gentle as Jane and Georgiana - a great relief for both parents. All of the children inherited their love of horses, and grew into honest and loyal adults that their parents were proud of. Once they outgrew their ponies, each child was given one of Merlin's progeny as their first horse, for better mounts could not be found.
When, nearly two decades after Elizabeth and Darcy married, Merlin finally began to show signs of slowing down, Elizabeth and Darcy did not know what to do. The stubborn stallion refused to be left behind to rest more in his old age. But Merlin came up with his own solution. A young mare in heat, that had been locked away in a bolted pasture, with seven foot fences, in order to keep the stallions out, was found in foal a few months later. There was no question as to who had sired it, for Merlin was the only stallion at Pemberley with the ability to get into, and out of, such an enclosure, without anyone being any wiser.
When the foal was born, his parentage was only further confirmed, for he was an exact replica of his father. The pitch black foal not only shared his father's looks, but also his inquisitive temperament. Barely hours after his birth, the young foal was already nosing at everything curiously, exploring the people, his mother, the stall and anything else he could find. Elizabeth dubbed the little fellow 'Magic,' for Merlin had obviously been up to his magic tricks when he sired the little colt.
The similarities became even more apparent as the Magic grew. As soon as he gained control of his limbs, and was allowed outside, he began following his father everywhere like a shadow. It appeared that Merlin was passing all his tricks onto his last son, for the little colt became just as good at escaping as his father. As Magic grew larger, and was able to travel further, it became common for both of them to accompany Elizabeth everywhere. People could barely tell apart the two imposing black stallions once Magic was fully grown, for they were mirror images. The only difference was the greying around Merlin's muzzle that marked him as the elder.
So with Magic taking over Merlin's duties, Merlin started resting a little more, something Darcy and Elizabeth were both grateful for, as neither wanted to see their favourite horse go. Even in his oldest years though, Merlin still accompanied them every morning to the meadow, though that became his only ramble of the day.
On the morning he did not show up to come with them, they both became worried, and searched for him in the stable, but he was not there. Instead, they followed Magic up to their meadow, where they found the great horse in his favourite corner. He looked at peace, lying there reposed upon the grass. At the grand old age of thirty-two, Merlin had left them.
He was burned there in his corner of the meadow, his ashes spread out over the meadow. Elizabeth and Darcy never forgot their best friend and most loyal companion. When their time came to an end, Elizabeth following Darcy by only hours, their children buried them in the meadow, all knowing the significance of the place to their parents.
That's it! Thank you all for reading my sweet fluffy low angst P&P, and for all your lovely comments.