Contains: past-Slash, angst
Summary: The arrangements, arranged; the settlements, settled; and Darcy takes his leave of Wickham the night before his wedding to Lydia
Fandom: Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice
Wordcount: ~700 words
Author's Note: Dissertation!panic-induced insomnia is a terrible thing. This came to me, almost entirely formed in some kind of a fugue state last night, and now I can’t unsee it. This chapter on Austen sequels better be freaking worth it, is all I’m saying. The title is taken from a line in Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth: “This, madam, is a faithful narrative of every event in which we have been concerned together; and if you do not absolutely reject it as false, you will, I hope, acquit me henceforth of cruelty towards Mr. Wickham.” Also, there’s a line in here that I use myself quite often, but upon googling, have discovered to be cribbed from Shakespeare In Love! Woe! Please to consider it an homage, rather than outright theft.
Upon the point of quitting Wickham’s lodging, Darcy paused on the threshold one final time. Without turning round to look at him, he said, low, “Did you ever care for me, George?”
“I cannot conceive of why you should ask such a thing,” Wickham replied; his voice was, for once, harsh, stripped of its intention to please all listeners at all costs.
“Was it always the money?” Darcy asked bitterly, turning to face him. “I suppose it must have been. Your affections, if I could call them such, cannot have been very fixed; they have sprung from myself to Georgiana, to Elizabeth, to Lydia, with the greatest of ease, it seems, and we are all as unlike as may be.”
“If you would have it so, let us, by all means, be frank,” Wickham said, with an ugly twist of his mouth. “My attentions to you at least were not ceased by any will of mine; it was you who ended our… understanding.”
“You were for the Church! How could we have continued our association? It would have been an unconscionable lie.”
Wickham looked at him mockingly, and drank again, straight from the bottle of Blue Ruin. “Yes, I suppose neither clergymen nor gentlemen ever do so. You are not so naïve as that, surely.”
“We always knew it must end.”
“Did we?” asked Wickham. “Alas, I was the more deceived.”
“You gave up the living; you asked me for money in exchange; what was I to think? My father’s dearest wish was for you to enter the church. You spit upon that—“
“Not for any other man but his son would I have done so,” Wickham flung back at him. “A son who could not bear to live a, what was it? Not only a sin, but an unconscionable lie. And, of course I asked for something in exchange for the living; only a man endowed with wealth from the cradle would think otherwise. And then you threw me away like so much dross. What was I to do?”
“I don’t know. But I had not thought that you were such a cad as to cast out your lures for my poor sister. She was but sixteen!”
“Older than we were, when it started.” After a pause, Wickham continued: “Can you truly not see it, Darcy? As unlike as may be, you say? You cannot be serious. Your sister, first. She has the look of you, did you know? When she smiles and parts her lips just so, and I… well. I knew it would hurt you, and I wanted to do that. Very much. And then, well, I had not the honor of her acquaintance for an hour before I realised that you would be in a fair way to love the charming Miss Elizabeth, even if you would choose not to see it. It was you, always, to wound, and to be near.”
Darcy looked at him, aghast; Wickham shook his head, and took another long swallow from the bottle.
“Upon my honor – what’s left of it -- I did try to stay away, then; but Miss King’s family took umbrage to my prospects, and swept her off to greener pastures. And Miss Lydia was too tempting a bit of muslin to be left in the shop window, not that she would have stayed there for long. You will be wondering why I have so easily agreed to your persuasions; you have, I think, found me more reasonable than you had expected. But it is quite simple. We will be brothers now, will we not? Tied together until death parts us.”
Darcy’s face worked; he set it grimly, and then turned away; his face once more towards the door, he said, “I shall see you at the church. Eleven o’ clock. After that, I never want to see you again.” The clatter of his boots in the vestibule, then down the stairs, and he was gone.
From the window, Wickham, bottle still in hand, watched him depart; he dashed his hand once roughly over his eyes. He stood there at the window for a long time, but Darcy never once looked back.