This idea came to me a wee while ago, and would not leave me alone. So I spent some fevered hours draughting an outline that seemed to work. I hope you think so too.
Please bear with me, it's my first period fic, and my first fic ever on FF. I am finding the speech patterns somewhat more a challenge than I like to admitt! Also finding the time is challenging with 4 small childeren bustling about!
Let me know what you think :)
This Fic asks what would have happened had D & E met under far more more humble circumstances, same characters, small differences. Deviates markedly from the origional storyline, but most existing events still happen around our characters.
Darcy hides from his identity in Hertfordshire in a bid to reconcile himself to his duty and find peace before accepting his inevitable fate. What he discovers instead, is family, love, and acceptance. A story of the sacrifes made in growing up, and learning what is truly important. But will his new discovories help him become the man his family expect him to be? Or will he refuse to return? Either way- he must make a heartbreaking sacrifice.
Lady Catherine's voice echoed through the great halls of Pemberly, uninhibited by the heavy wooden doors that strived to muffle the commotion within.
"Surely you see what an agreeable match it is, Fitzwilliam. It will be of great benefit to the entire family! And just think of Georgiana! Her prospects will be even greater! Why, to be sure you will be the most influential couple in all of England!"
"Georgiana will have her choice of fine gentlemen as it is, Aunt, and although I do think of the pleasure my marrying Anne would bring to the family, surely I must consider my own happiness in this also must I not?" Fitzwilliam Darcy sat in his chair, his knuckles white from the force of his grip on the rich Rosewood arms, his voice uncharacteristically high pitched as he once again pleaded his case. This time, however, he faced down not only the scarlet faced Lady De Bourgh, but all the great personages of his family.
Indeed, The debacle of his marriage to Anne, which he had been successfully avoiding for many years now, had finally reached it's inevitable crescendo, when his Father George Darcy, had suffered a small turn the day before. As all the family had been present, it had allowed the perfect opportunity for Lady Catherine to demand a definite arrangement. With Darcy's Father looking old and frail, it reminded each family member that it would not be long before Darcy himself took his place as Master of Pemberly. Apparently- that meant his current status as unattached was simply unacceptable!
"Do you have some reason, at least, for your objection Darcy? Is there something you find particularly wanting in Anne?" The gentle voice of his Aunt Matlock broke through Darcy's reverie.
"No, of course not, You know I am fond of her..."
"There, you see! Therefore there can be no impediment! Be sensible Boy! It is time you desisted in your childish manner and accepted your responsibilities! You are the heir of Pemberly. It is high time you started behaving like it!" Lady Catherine's arch voice echoed about the room.
"I am fond of Anne, we have grown up together, but I do not love her! I do not see my ever loving her! And the same goes for her! You cannot force us to marry!"
"Love! Is this your complaint? What on earth does love have to do with it? Your father has spoilt you since your mothers death- mark my words! But you must do your duty! Are you a peasant that you might marry the first pretty thing to catch your eye? Have you taken leave of your senses boy? It is not for one of our class to speak of such foolish things! Duty, and family, that is where you will find happiness! It is the way it has been for generations! You will desist in this foolishness!"
At this point, Darcy's Uncle, Lord Matlock Stood up to his full height, and looked firmly down at his nephew.
"Fitzwilliam, you know both your Aunt Matlock and myself have the deepest affection for you. As such, we desire nothing more than your own happiness,..."
"Thank you, Uncle- I knew you would understand..." Darcy's voice started in relief, but trailed off as his Uncle levelled a look at him to silence.
"As a young man of privilege, you have always enjoyed the finest things in life, always known a way of life that few could rival. And for the better part, you have grown into a fine young gentleman for it. You are an asset to whom-so-ever you choose to befriend, you are level-headed, and not given to excesses as some of the young men are. You are a responsible young man, always doing your duty, even where it causes you discomfort. Do not think we miss how uncomfortable you are in mixed company, Son, yet you perform admirably well considering. Perhaps that is why I am so confounded by your refusal to do your duty in this matter also. Perhaps, you do not understand just what is at stake.
The great families of Darcy and Matlock, as you well know, are an alliance that goes back many centuries. We hold many of the greatest estates in the country, and as such, our power in the first circles is unrivalled. As a unit, we are protected from the many social pitfalls and snares that beset other families, because nobody would dare touch us. We can protect our loved ones, such as Georgiana, who is so innocent she would normally be easy prey for scandal mongers. As a whole, we are the single most influential family in England. That is not a position that comes lightly!
Both Rosings and Pemberly, are an integral part of that delicate position we hold. If we loose both, or even one of those estates, we could easily loose our position. I do not think you are so naive as to not recognize the dangers that would then face such ones as precious Georgiana! There are many among the ton, who would delight in the fall of our family. It could easily be our ruin!
Normally, this would not be a concern, as in the past there have always been plenty of offspring between the two families that the tying together has occurred almost naturally. However, in this circumstance, you are the only male heir to Pemberly, and Rosings has no male heir whatsoever. A match between Anne and yourself would solidify our families position. Up until now, we have all indulged you in allowing you time. But your fathers degrading health has served as an overdue reminder. The estates must have an heir. It is time for you to accept your duty, and halt your procrastination."
Darcy sat a moment in stunned silence. He had counted on his Uncle for an ally, but now he saw they were unified against him. At last, Darcy offered up the only remaining argument, despite the bad taste it left on his tongue.
"Forgive me for what I say, Uncle, but what you say is true. Pemberly must have an heir. As much as I hate to speak of it, however, it must be said. Anne is of a delicate constitution as it is, I do not think she is built for child-bearing." Darcy's words were spoken low, not wanting to cause Lady Catherine pain of the acutest kind. Her softly spoken response therefore came as a surprise. With firm conviction, tinged with only a hint of sorrow she replied,
"Anne has the same constitution as your own mother, my Sister. And she bore her husband two beautiful children did she not?"
Darcy's eye's burned with passion and grief as he recalled the day of his mothers passing. "Indeed, Aunt. But at what cost? Childbearing cost her her life, she was so weakened after my own birth, and even though she did not bear another child for many years, she still did not retain enough strength to survive the birth of her second! Is that what you would wish for Anne?"
Sadness lurked in Lady Catherine's eyes, as she acknowledged the truth in what Darcy said. But raising her chin high, she quietly replied,
"My Sister did her duty, Darcy- as will Anne."
"Her duty?... Her duty!... I... She... Her DUTY killed her!" Darcy spluttered in shocked rage.
"Your Mother chose to give her life in giving you and your Sister yours. Do not ever think she would have regretted one moment of it."
The weary voice of George Darcy spoke from a chair nearby. Despite the pallor afforded his appearance due to his sudden turn that day, his voice was strong, his manor proud, commanding the attention of the entire room as only he could.
"I will not allow you to depreciate what she gave you by making it sound like a price she had to pay. Your Mother was allowed fewer years than most young women, but she would not have changed the way of things for a paltry few years of existence. Your Aunt is right, Anne did her duty to her family despite the cost, and she was happy in the doing.
Perhaps your Aunt is right. Perhaps I have spoilt you since Anne's death. But I have always thought that there is little point to being born to a life of privilege if one cannot enjoy it. For the most part, as your Uncle has said before me, you have become an admirable young man. A young man I am proud to call son. But it is time you let go of your boyish ways, Fitzwilliam. You are born to privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility. You will marry Anne, or the entire estate will be entailed to Georgiana upon her marriage to Richard."
"Richard? You would make her marry Richard!"
"Richard is a good man, it would be an acceptable alternative."
Darcy stood, and began to pace the room. His anger growing by the minute. He had always desired to marry for love, as he had seen so many of his contempories do. Granted, most of those were not of the peerage, and that did alter things a little, but he still found the prospect of a loveless marriage to his sickly cousin repulsive. Darcy had told the truth, he was fond of Anne, but only ever as a friend. They had played together as children, but after Anne caught fever at 13, she had never fully recuperated. To know that the certain cost of implanting his heir within her would be her death, disgusted him. To be sure it would solidify the family wealth, but how could they see it as anything but blood money- knowing as they did the cost!
Hearing his Father side with Lady Catherine came as little surprise. Although Fitzwilliam had no doubt that his Father loved his family very much, he had always been cold and aloof. Hiding behind such emotionless words as duty and honour.
But to hear him threaten to give away little Georgiana's hand so lightly, whilst she was yet little more than a child, disturbed him none-the-less. Georgiana was as yet only 13. A shy and timid creature, she was delicate in every way. Georgiana had never known her Mother, Anne Darcy having passed away a mere two weeks after Georgiana's birth, but she was the perfect reflection of her Mother. Delicate and innocent, and so easily manipulated. In his grief for his beloved Mother, Fitzwilliam had become fiercely protective of his Sister, doting on her even as his Father distanced himself. George Darcy had been disappointed to not have a second son, and his daughters ever growing resemblance to his late wife had rendered him almost incapable of being in her presence. Fitzwilliam therefore, had been almost more a Father figure to the girl than a brother. It was then little wonder, that this was his price.
Accept a loveless marriage of his families choosing, or allow a loveless marriage to be foisted upon his Sister. Richard, although admittedly a very good man in all the ways that count, was a good 20 years Georgiana's senior, and as a soldier, he was worldly-wise and rather given to his pleasures. A marriage between the two of them would likely result in even more unhappiness than that between himself and Anne. There was, really therefore, no choice at all. But still Darcy railed against his fate.
"How long do I have to decide?" He spat out, turning a cold visage to his Father.
"Oh, contrary to what your Aunt seems to think, I have a few good years left in me yet, so I can afford to be lenient. Not too lenient mind you, considering Anne's health. So let's say one year. This time next year, an engagement will be announced. Yours,... or Georgiana's."
Fitzwilliam Darcy merely stared in open fury at his Father, before turning on his heel and stalking out of the room.
Fitzwilliam took the stairs to his quarters two at a time in his anger, servants and maids scurrying out of his way hither and thither, unsure what to make of the young master in such a mood.
"Harvey! Harvey man. Good, you are still here." He called slamming open the door to his rooms. "I need you to pack my things immediately." Darcy closed the door behind him, tearing as he did so his silk cravat from his collar, sitting in his arm chair and pinching his nose with his forefingers, trying as best he could to still the trembling that emanated from within.
"Master, are you quite well Sir?" Asked Harvey, coming to kneel beside the young man who to him had become so much more than merely a master.
Indeed, Harvey had been with young Fitzwilliam Darcy from his earliest years. It was he that had been the only one to see the true extent of the boy's grief over his Mother, who had watched the carefree yet always overly mature young boy turn overnight into a sombre and troubled young man. It was Harvey alone who was trusted to see beneath the cold and sombre mask that Master Fitzwilliam wore for the rest of the world, to the fragile and insecure boy within.
The night his mother died, Darcy had been a mere 10 years old, though tall for his age, and reserved in his manner, he appeared much older. But he was yet only 10 years of age, and as his Father, stricken with his own grief, ensconced himself alone in his study, the boy had reached out blindly for the comfort of a parent that simply hadn't been there.
On that cold winters night, Harvey had found his young Master sobbing in his mere shirt sleeves grasping the snow laden trunk of the old willow his Mother had loved by the frozen lake, his teeth chattering as he begged to know what he done that would make her leave, swearing over and over again words of growing up, of being strong, and making her proud, begging one long since beyond hearing, to stay.
It had been Harvey, that had carried the incoherent youth back into the house, and nursed him through the fever. Harvey that had held his hand as he called in his delirium for the Father that would not come. And Harvey, that had witnessed the death of an innocent child, as a young man took his place that from that day forward would strive to do almost anything to please a Father who scarcely acknowledged his children. It was Harvey that fished out of the rubbish a teddy bear, and carefully kept it, in hopes that someday, someone would see the child within his Master, who screamed out for affection and acceptance, and perhaps that symbol of youth and innocence could take it's place once more, perhaps to be lovingly passed from his masters hand to that of another small child that might know the happiness it's own Father had been denied.
It was Harvey, who had slowly begun to loose hope as he saw the last remaining embers of that boy drowning under the weight of duty and propriety, as he desperately tried to sort out the man he was inside and the man he tried to be to please the family.
Darcy lifted his eye's, the anger now replaced with a vulnerability that tore Harvey apart, and quietly inquired desperately of his valet and friend,
"Am I truly such a failure Harvey? Have I really not done enough? I try so hard to do all that they ask, be all they desire. Is it truly such a terrible thing to ask to be true to one's own heart?"
"Oh Master, you have done more than enough. No-one could ask for a more dutiful son."
"Than why am I yet not enough?" Darcy's eye's bore into the older mans, pleading for an answer he could not give.
"You have always been enough for me Master." The old man choked out, grasping his Master's head as it came to lay on his shoulder as it had when he had been but a boy.
"I need my things packed, Harvey. Nothing much, just my riding habit and the like."
"Are we going somewhere Master?" Harvey asked, not liking the dead look that had come to rest in his Masters eye's.
"Just me, old friend. I have been allowed one year before I must sacrifice my soul, if indeed I have one, for Pemberly. I intend to use it to discover if indeed I have one to sacrifice at all."
"Master, you'll not go doing anything rash now, will you?"
Darcy smiled with fondness at the old man, "No, no of course not. But I can take a leave of being a Darcy. For just one year, I'd like to see the world through another's eye's."
"Might I ask how so Sir?"
"Oh, I don't know,... I will ride until I find a place where the names of Darcy, De Bourgh and Matlock mean nothing, I suppose."
"And if you find such a place, Sir, just what do you seek."
"I don't know, Harvey. But I have to go, I cannot breathe here." The words escaped him as little more than a puff of air, yet Harvey felt them as a knife in his heart.
"Than I hope you find what you seek, Sir."
Darcy offered a weak smile, before the emotionless mask fell over his features once more.
Lord Matlock met his nephew at the foot of the stairs.
"Darcy man! What is the meaning of this!"
"I have one year, do I not?"
"Well,... yes,... but..."
"Where are you going?" Mr Darcy's hard voice echoed across the foyer from the doorway he stood in.
"I don't know exactly. Somewhere nobody has heard the name Darcy for sure."
"As if such a place exists!" Scoffed his uncle. "Really, Darcy. Be sensible boy! These dramatics do not suit you!"
"And you would know, wouldn't you, Uncle!" Darcy sneered at Lord Matlock, "After all, you are the authority on who I am and am not, are you not? Perhaps I ought apply to you, in future, for what colour coat I ought wear!"
"Let him go." His fathers voice said dispassionately from his doorway. "But Fitzwilliam, wherever you go, remember you cannot outrun your fate. Perhaps in your travels, you might find the man your mother sought to make you." The door closed quietly behind his Fathers back, even as his words reverberated around the room, taking all the fire from Darcy's eye's and leaving only pain.
"When can we expect your return?"
Lord Matlocks question hung unanswered as Darcy headed for the carriage, turning his back one last time on the house that seemed to hold only shadows for him.