In Search of Lost Time

Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have of them. –Marcel Proust

The unseasonable rainstorm rumbled into London without the benefit of a warning, turning the already grey skies into a tiresome blanket of insufferable gloom. Everyone hurried about on their way, anxious to remove themselves from the deluge and into a warm and dry set of clothing.

But not Fitzwilliam Darcy.

No, Darcy did not pay heed to the rain. Or rather he did, but he was only vaguely aware that he ought to seek shelter and refuge from the unrelenting storm that had every appearance of getting worse. The skies turned more ominous as dark blurs rushed past him, huddling under various forms of cover, desperately seeking shelter while Darcy trudged through puddles, caring not that he was getting soaked through and through.

It had been exactly two weeks to the day that he had made a disastrous proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennett at the parsonage. Two weeks since she had resoundingly put him in his place, had told him in no uncertain terms what she thought of him (how wrong he had been on that count!), had removed a rather large chunk of the foundation of his own self-worth that had sent it not crashing to the ground, but atop a precarious precipice that threatened to topple at any moment. Darcy knew that he had been reflecting his inner musings in his face and in his carriage since that day, but he cared not. How could one muster up the will to care about how others perceived him when she was the only one who saw right through him?

Darcy impatiently brushed away a cold drop of rain trailing down his face with the back of his hand, heedless that the action was rendered unnecessary by the continued rainfall. He was too lost in thought as he stalked down the street.

Well, he thought, she did not have the full measure of my character. No, her uncharitable words may have rung with truth (perhaps a little too much truth), but there were at least some points in which she was wrong. He had done all he could to change her perception of him through that letter (that vile, damnable letter!), and all he could hope for at this point was that she perhaps did not hate him as much as she once had.

Happy thought, indeed. To wish that the lady he had come to realize was the only woman he could marry did not hate him so much as she once had.

But she is so difficult! he thought to himself, and thus began a rather cyclical argument that Fitzwilliam Darcy had been having with himself for exactly two weeks. How difficult the lady in question was. How perhaps he was mad for thinking she returned his affections. How they were nothing alike. How she could be the balm he needed to soothe him. How her very presence could be the one thing that could make his existence worthwhile. And how she was much too stubborn and fixed in her ways to re-examine her final assessment of his character.

All of these thoughts swirled about in a predictable pattern in his mind, fluctuating between esteem and admiration for the person she was and an all-encompassing sense of depression and indignation that she would not have him. And her face, always her face- that beautiful, charming expression in which she would arch that imperfect, impertinent brow at him, taunting and judging him but beguiling him nonetheless.

The effect of these thoughts was that the few who knew him well were becoming increasingly anxious over his churlish behavior. His cousin the Colonel was perhaps the most astute of the three, but Darcy was certain that Richard was unaware of the exact cause. Bingley was similarly morose over a lady and would not have recognized the impropriety of his friend's standoffish manners had Darcy flung his clothes off and danced the waltz in the drawing room in Hurst's London townhouse. With a wince, Darcy pushed away the thought once again that the cause of Bingley's current emotional state was his fault. He could only handle one Love, Unrequited circumstance at a time.

As for Georgiana, the girl was too young to recognize a man who has had his heart torn from its cavity and stomped upon with a vehemently delicate slipper. Her anguish at his anguish was a continuing source of guilt for Darcy, however, and he vaguely gave rise to the thought that he ought to appear more cheerful in her presence. It was not her fault that Elizabeth Bennett found him wanting in every way.

Elizabeth. In his mind's eye, her eyebrow responded to his silent entreaty, taunting in its delicate arch over an eye full of passionate fury.

This will not do.

The rain continued to pour and Darcy continued to walk in a manner that invited no interruption. He passed through the streets of London, unaware of where he was going. He passed by Darcy House, passed through the park that was now clear of any sort of human activity. On and on he walked, lost in thought and only slightly aware that he was cold, wet, and very, very out of sorts.

With these dark thoughts invading his mind, Darcy was so absorbed in his own self-reflections that he almost didn't see the man until he had tripped upon his prone body. A crack of lightning filled the sky, startling Darcy from his heedless walk. Several feelings hit him at once: confusion as he had no notion where he was except that it was some sort of park and that to his vast surprise, it was raining rather torrentially; despite his ominous thoughts, a sense of wonder at nature that one bolt of lightning should light up the sky and give him but a moment's glimpse of all that lay before him; a primitive sense of danger and dread should the lightning strike closer than it did, which was right in front of him; alarm that the lightning should strike anyone down, much less the crumpled heap of man that lay at his feet. Darcy realized that the stranger was but a few paces away from him.

He rushed to the man's side (for it was a man in a greatcoat; no woman would wear a coat and boots such as he saw peeking out from the pile of cloth), anxiety and a sharp thrill coursing through his body as the man's obvious and immediate danger caused him to drop his selfish thoughts and react. He knelt in the wet grass and shook the man's shoulder; was he still alive?

With a groan, the stranger rolled over and opened his eyes.

Another bolt of lightning hit, this one not quite so close yet again illuminating the entire world before him. Darcy fell back into the grass, soaking the back of his breeches, but he was too stunned to notice or care.

"You," the man groaned. "Darcy? Thank God." Then his eyes rolled back into his head and his body went limp.

In the days to follow, Darcy would wonder at his actions, would question whether the consequences of coming to the man's aid were worth all that would transpire. In the weeks to follow, he would with no uncertainty thank the divine forces at work that would thrust this man into his care and consequently his future.

Oh, that he had any sort of understanding of what the future would hold! Nay, not only the future, but his past as well- his unrelenting melancholy and the words of a certain lady of Hertfordshire- his past, his future, but no matter how much he wished it, not his present.

Darcy sat there for what seemed like ages, unsure of what it was that he was seeing. Absurdly, he got the impression that he was looking at himself, but that would not be possible, would it? He saw another flash, felt the answering rumble of thunder indicating that the storm was nigh upon them, and that forced him into action. He scrambled up and rushed to the man, roughly shaking his shoulder. His entreaty for the gentleman to awaken was answered with another groan and he silently thanked God that the man was not dead, because Darcy needed answers. He ignored the relief that briefly washed over him as he helped the man to his feet; relief that at last, after two weeks of mooning and moping about, he'd have something else on which to focus his thoughts.

That something was this mysterious gentleman, who appeared to look exactly like Darcy's late father.

well, thank you for reading this! it's my first foray into pride & prejudice fanfic, oh dear. if you've happened upon this by accident, thank you for taking a chance on me. if you've read my other fandom stuff, thank you for taking a chance on a different fandom with me!

just a few things- i shall also be posting this over at adifferentforest.

special, special thanks to LJ summers and spanglemaker9 for reading this for me. and thanks to jandco, even though she is appalled that I have once again jumped fandoms.

i appreciate any thoughts you have since i'm not in the habit of writing like this, do not know what I'm doing, and am overly anxious at what is going to happen with the story. review, PM, tweets, tumblr asks, uhh letters by express.

Despite the story's title and the quote at the top, this will be in no way an emulation of proust. i simply found that the title and quote suited the story.

finally, i do not usually write author's notes to this extent, so thank you for bearing with me.

until we meet again!