A/N: I had not intended a second chapter but I got to thinking:
When Mr. Darcy found Elizabeth she was engaged in conversation with a man who looked familiar but who he didn't immediately recognize. It was probably someone Miss Bingley had suggested inviting. Why Miss Bingley had offered to help with the guest list was no less a mystery to Darcy than why Elizabeth had accepted her help, convinced as he was that they had no fondness for each other.
As he approached Elizabeth smiled and greeted him with these words, "Darcy, you remember Mr. Rushworth. We met him last month at the Hursts'."
Mr. Darcy bowed, "A pleasure to see you again Mr. Rushworth."
As he spoke he tried to remember the man but Elizabeth saved him by speaking again, "Mr. Rushworth was just telling me of his plans for improving the greenhouses at Sotherton."
"I understand Mr. Darcy." said Mr. Rushworth, "That you have some very fine greenhouses at Pemberley."
"I'm honored that you should say so. If I can be of any assistance I hope you will not hesitate to ask."
As Mr. Rushworth launched into a detailed description of his plan Darcy finally remembered him. If he didn't find a way to extract himself from this conversation the man would be talking all night! But he would have to be careful to do it politely if he wanted to convince Elizabeth to slip away with him.
As soon as Mr. Darcy could find an opening he said, "Perhaps you would do me the honor of telling me more about it over supper? I'm afraid at the moment there is a matter Mrs. Darcy and I need to attend to and I would wish to give you my full attention."
Mr. Rushworth was only too pleased to agree to speak with Mr. Darcy at supper but, noting the look on Elizabeth's face, Darcy wondered if he'd taken politeness a bit far. He quickly asked her to join him and led her away from the ballroom and up the stairs.
When they were out of earshot of their guests she said, "It was kind of you to show such attention to Mr. Rushworth. It must be difficult for him to go out into society after recent events." Then noting his confusion she added, "You must remember Miss Bingley telling us of his recent divorce."
"Ah, yes." Of course, he had only been half listening to Miss Bingley's story and hadn't made the connection. No wonder Miss Bingley had wanted him to be invited. She must consider him an easy target. But perhaps Elizabeth had invited him after all. It was a kindness to show him some attention. He was a very dull fellow but he did not deserve to be so ill used as he had been. Darcy was almost glad now that he'd promised to talk to him at supper though it would be a trial.
"What it is that we need to attend to?" Elizabeth asked.
"I will tell you shortly when we have more privacy."
Elizabeth looked curious but asked no further questions until they had gained her room and he said to her, "Miss Bingley brought something to my attention, out of concern, as a friend, that I feel we must resolve."
"What is it?"
"Your gown, she noticed you re-trimmed one from last year and is afraid people might think I've been stingy with your pin money." Revealing this information might not have seemed the best method of achieving his goal but he knew Elizabeth delighted in anything ridiculous and her reaction did not disappoint him.
Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, "I don't know what I've done to deserve a friend like Miss Bingley nor how I will ever repay the kindness of her concern but what was your reply?"
"That I am quite fond of you in it and that I would doubt the sense of anyone who observing you in that gown could think only of your allowance."
"Then you seem to have handled the situation perfectly. What else is to be done?"
"It occurred to me upon reflection that I cannot be impartial toward any gown you are wearing. The beauty of the wearer must always make any item of clothing appear agreeable."
Elizabeth repressed a smile, "Then what would you suggest?"
"That the gown be removed so I can form an unbiased opinion."
Elizabeth could easily discern what he was up to but she was of the philosophy that any attempted playfulness on his part ought to be encouraged and was willing to humor him. "Perhaps you are right. I will call Baxter to undress me and have her bring the gown to you for examination."
"There's no need to bother your maid, it will be more efficient for me to serve in her stead so that I might examine the gown immediately upon its removal."
"Well, in the interest of efficiency..." Elizabeth turned so that he could undo her gown. He unfastened it, kissing her pale skin beneath as the material fell away, and let it fall to the floor. Her corset and petticoat received similar treatment but when he started to lift her shift Elizabeth stepped away.
"Fitzwilliam this hardly seems the best way for you to appraise my gown."
"Hmm? Ah, yes of course." He lifted the gown from the floor, piled up some pillows at the bottom of the bed and draped it across them, so that it was somewhat upright, then removed his jacket, took a seat nearby, and pulled her onto his lap saying, "We can inspect it best from here. For example I am no longer distracted by the way it is cut here," he kissed her shoulder, "or the way it clings to you here," he touched her bosom in a way that made her catch her breath, "Or wishing it didn't cover so much here." He ran his hand up her leg, gently lifting her shift, as he reached her inner thigh and continued his caresses moving upward.
Elizabeth turned straddling Darcy's lap, he pulled her close and they kissed pressing against each other.
It was some time before Elizabeth's lips were free to say, "I presume that your examination of my gown is over Mr. Darcy. What is your conclusion?" As she spoke her fingers tore at his cravat.
"It is a hopeless situation. When you are wearing the gown I cannot be objective and when you are not wearing it I am too distracted to judge."
"In that case it might be best I put it back on so that we can return to our guests." By now she had undone his shirt and vest and was running her hands down his chest.
Darcy's hands were also pleasingly engaged and he touched her in a way that caused her to arch her back, moan softly, and rub against his fingers as he said, "I'm afraid something else has arisen which requires our immediate attention."
Elizabeth gave him in arch look, "And that might be?"
She was already undoing his breeches and he freed one of his hands to help her finish the job before guiding her hand inside and saying, "This."
"And this," she said moving her hand so as to be sure of having a firm grasp of the matter he was referring to, "is a matter of some urgency requiring our immediate attention?"
"It is if we wish for Georgiana to enjoy her party."
Here Elizabeth was forced to give up any pretense of serious conversation and laughingly asked him to elaborate.
"If the matter at hand is not attended to…aaahhhh ..." for a moment he lost his train of thought then continued, "…is not attended to, I'm afraid I will be in no condition to do much besides stand around looking sever and, I have it on very good authority, such behavior on my part would put a damper on the whole evening."
Elizabeth was not inclined to argue but did obtain the promise of his dancing with Miss Smith, a quiet girl Georgiana knew from school, who had very few acquaintances in town. Darcy was happy to agree to her request. Under the circumstances he'd have happily agreed to dance with Mr. Rushworth if she had asked it of him.
At this point all conversation ceased as the matter was resolved, to the mutual satisfaction of each, with the proficiency of two who had never neglected to practice.
It was not long after slipping back into the ball room that Elizabeth approached Caroline Bingley in order to say, "I must thank you, Miss Bingley, for your kind concern regarding my choice of attire for this evening."
For a split second Miss Bingley's face betrayed her surprise but she quickly recovered and, with a strained smile, replied, "If you wish to replace your gown with some others that are more appropriate I would be more than happy to advise you. The subtleties of fashion can be so difficult to negotiate when one has not had the benefit of moving in society."
"Oh, my replacing the gown is out of the question, it has proved invaluable to me, and you have done quite enough already I could not ask for more." Then gesturing to where her husband was leading Miss Smith onto the dance floor, and looking as if it did not pain him to do so, Elizabeth continued, "It is thanks to your kind hints regarding my gown that I discovered the best way of ensuring Mr. Darcy enjoys himself at a ball."
Miss Bingley was at a loss as to how to reply and Elizabeth lifted her eyes as if someone across the room had captured her attention and said, "I hope you'll excuse me Miss Bingley, I must talk to Lady Mandale, you know how it is."
Miss Bingley was left alone feeling as if Mrs. Darcy had out maneuvered her but unable comprehend how it had been done. She had not expected Mr. Darcy to pass on what she had said or to give her credit for it if he did. After a few minutes thought she decided it would be advisable to retain the right of visiting at Pemberley and resolved to drop all her resentment of Mrs. Darcy. Then, donning her most dazzling smile, she scanned the room for single gentlemen.