Previously: Darcy mistakenly believes that Hastings and Elizabeth are engaged so he gets drunk and proposes.
"I think that I shall never see,
A poem lovely as a tree."
"Trees" by Joyce Kilmer
Elizabeth ran to her room, no longer caring about waking anyone. Once she got to her bedchambers she rushed to her bed, climbing under the sheets and hoping this was just some sick dream. She breathed slowly and tried to analyze her thoughts. Why did Mr. Darcy propose? If he was more open with his feelings, she might have come to the conclusion that he admired her, but as it was Elizabeth could not fathom that idea. Therefore she believed that he only proposed because he had compromised her. And he had only compromised her because he was in his cups. Yes, that made sense.
Now why was she so hurt by Mr. Darcy's proposal? If he had asked at any other time and meant it, would she have said yes? Did she want to marry him? Elizabeth gasped as she realized the truth. She would have said yes. Bloody hell. Sometime in the past couple of weeks she had fallen in love with him. Somehow that arrogant man had wormed and scratched his way into her heart without even knowing it. The revelation was not a pleasant one at the moment because Elizabeth was positive that Fitzwilliam would conveniently forget anything that happened that night. And if he did renew his proposal, it would only be because he felt obligated. She didn't want him to propose for those reasons. She wanted a union based on mutual affection, and she couldn't trust herself to say no a second time.
Would he remember the night's events? Elizabeth felt dread at the thought that she had fallen in love with a man who could only reconcile with the thought of marrying her when he was inebriated. She know she should be sad at this idea, but Elizabeth was not prone to despondency. Therefore it was easier to feel angry at him. How dare he make her love him? Who did he think he was, waltzing in with his handsome features and intelligent conversation?
Elizabeth got up and paced back and forth but stopped soon because she felt overwhelmed. She needed fresh air. Elizabeth donned a morning dress and made her way towards the pond, passing Darcy's valet on her way out of the house. Once there she sat next to a tree, and the babbling sound of the water eventually lulled her to sleep just as the sun was rising over the horizon.
Hastings opened the door to the study, scanning the room for his missing friend. He was about to leave when he noticed the container of rum on the desk. He walked over to where Darcy laid behind the desk, curled up into a ball and asleep.
"Darcy? Are you alive?"
Darcy sat up when he felt somebody nudging his head.
"Hastings? Why the devil are you doing bothering me?"
Hastings looked to the glass in Darcy's hand and the circles under his eyes. "Higgins was alarmed when he couldn't find you this morning. What's the matter with you?"
Darcy ignored his question and instead pulled himself up to sit in his chair.
"Oh and Higgins asked me to inform you that he saw Miss Elizabeth leaving a couple of minutes ago. He was concerned because it's still dark outside, but he didn't think it was his place to stop her."
Hastings had known Darcy for many years, but could honestly say he had never seen him move faster than he had in that moment. Darcy stood up and rushed out of the room, ignoring the pounding in his head. He pushed past Hastings and managed not to trip in the process. Darcy ran towards the pond, telling himself that there were hundreds of other places she could have gone to. It didn't have to necessarily be that one. If she saw his message would she be confused? Flattered? Enraged? He had to be there.
Darcy burst into the clearing, breathing heavily from the running. He smiled with relief when he did not spot Elizabeth. He could explain later, maybe after he bathed (he still reeked of alcohol and sweat). The relief was short-lived though, as he heard a movement near him. Elizabeth had woken from her nap when she heard footsteps next to her. Her body tensed as she recognized Darcy. She mentally prepared herself for the upcoming conversation, telling herself that she refused to marry him if he didn't love her.
"Mr. Darcy," Elizabeth said coldly as he turned to look at her.
"Elizabeth, I can explain what happened last night."
"There is no need. You can rest easy. We can forget it ever happened."
"So you still refuse me?" Darcy asked with anger and hurt evident in his voice. "Might I ask why?"
"I do not see why we should marry. My reputation is not ruined and I can be assured of your... discretion in the matter."
Darcy moved slowly towards her, trying to refrain himself from pushing her up against the tree and kissing her senseless until she said yes. Why way she so adamant in her refusal? Had he been imagining that she admired him?
"Do you believe that I would propose merely out of consideration of your reputation?" Darcy asked, irritated with her ignorance for his feelings.
Elizabeth tilted her chin up and in a challenging manner replied, "I can think of no other reason."
"So you have absolutely no feelings for me?"
Elizabeth looked at her shoes, and for the first time since they began conversing lost the iciness in her tone. "I never said that. But I promised myself that I would only marry if those feelings were mutual. Nothing hurts more than unrequited love."
Elizabeth looked up and Darcy cupped her neck, brushing his thumb across her cheek. "Unrequited? Elizabeth, look behind you."
Elizabeth turned around, just noticing that the sun had risen and she could finally see the area around her clearly. A word was carved on each of the five trees behind her, forming the sentence, "Lizzy will you marry me?" Elizabeth's thoughts went back to earlier in the week, when Darcy had been disappearing for hours on end. She turned around, surprised beyond words. Darcy, of course, was unable to decipher her expression and began speaking almost incoherently and making odd hand gestures.
"It was really hard, that is, to uhm... with the knife. Kept becoming- not sharp. I remember you saying that poetry was not conducive to romance and I thought- if you refuse again, I swear I will cut the trees down. Glad I didn't have one of the gardeners do it... would have been embarrassing-"
Darcy stopped talking as Elizabeth silenced him with a kiss.
"Is that a yes, Elizabeth Bennet?"
"Yes, Fitzwilliam. It is."
2 years later:
A very tired Elizabeth Darcy sat across from Mrs. Hastings, rocking her son back and forth. Their husbands came and sat down next to their wives.
Darcy smiled brightly at their friends and announced without any preamble, "We are going to name him James."
Hastings turned to his wife. "Ha! I told you!"
Charlotte looked confusedly at her husband. "You did? When?"
"At the Netherfield ball, remember? I said they were going to be so grateful for my interference they would name their first child after me!" Hastings said with triumph in his voice.
Elizabeth laughed at his statement. "Actually, my father's name is James."
Hastings looked disappointed until Elizabeth said their next announcement. "We want you two to be his godparents."
James and Charlotte nodded eagerly, but their acceptance was interrupted by Georgiana barging into the room.
"There's my nephew! And right before Christmas. Perfect timing," Georgiana said with a teasing note in her voice.
Fitzwilliam laughed at Georgiana's statement and looked around, admiring the scene before him. If anyone had told him 3 years ago that he would have felt like this, he would have called them crazy. He felt... incandescently happy.
Later that evening, after leaving their newborn with Georgiana, Darcy and Elizabeth walked to the pond.
"Fitzwilliam, why did you decide to propose here?"
"Do you remember when we first went here together?" Elizabeth nodded and resisted rolling her eyes. Of course she remembered.
"It was when I took you here that I realized how seamlessly you fitted in here. You belonged here. With me and Georgiana. Mostly me though."
Elizabeth laughed at her husband's statement, turning slightly to kiss him on the cheek then running her fingers over the words etched in the trees.
"I'm glad I said yes."
"Me too, Elizabeth, me too."
Author's Note: I can't believe I've finished my second story! So exciting. Anyways, remember reviews are always welcome and you can also read my other fanfiction piece "Is It Creepy That I Already Know You?" if you want to (it's LBD). This is by no means my last P&P story, and I've already started thinking about the next one. It's modern, because even though I love Jane Austen, I can never seem to emulate her writing. So look out for it towards the end of May because I think it's going to be a lot of fun. Thank you to everybody who reviewed, favorited, followed, etc. You guys are the only reason I've decided to keep writing. Again THANK YOU (because I can't say that enough), and I hoped you enjoyed this story :)