Posted on: 2008-11-04
"...you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!"
Darcy stared, his entire being frozen in place by the icy chill of her words. The rain poured down around them, but he heard it not; indeed, all he could see, all he was aware of, was the utterly lovely, captivating Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who had occupied his thoughts in every waking moment and indeed even in sleep for this past year. Miss Elizabeth Bennet, who was currently in the process of destroying him with a few well-chosen words.
Darcy felt as though he could not breathe, gazing at Elizabeth and -- perhaps for the first time -- truly seeing her; seeing beyond her surface smiles and teasing comments, beyond her arch looks and flashing eyes, to her true utter disregard of him. Nay, worse than that, for if it were simply disregard, the words that had frozen him so would never have been spoken; no, he feared it was a much, much worse fate than mere indifference he suffered!
Truly, he had not believed that she could hate him, even that she could dislike him, until this instant. In his own mistaken arrogance and confidence he had misinterpreted her every word, her every glance; had twisted them all around until he observed in them the exact opposite of what they truly spoke of.
Yes, even through his anxiousness, through all his worry and fear and the indescribable hollowness in the pit of his stomach when he had approached her just minutes ago, Darcy had sincerely believed that she would accept his suit. And his confidence was projected through his words as he spoke; his voice strong as always and, as always, equally sure. Urgent, yes, but then, much of what he said had a sort of urgent air about it, as though he wished to get the words out of his mouth as quickly as possible so as to end the conversation that much sooner; and indeed, most of the time, that really was the case. There were few exceptions to whom Darcy was not constantly somewhat impatient with; namely, his sister Georgiana, his cousin Colonel Fitzwilliam, and of course his dear friend Charles Bingley. Elizabeth Bennet could also be counted among those who Darcy was far from impatient with, but even so his voice always sounded rather hurried and strained when he spoke to her, most likely due to the great effort it took for him to actually think of things to say that possessed his usual wit and could rival her own, rather than simply staring enraptured.
So, for these reasons, when Darcy spoke his hurried, urgent, sure, confident, proud, and heartfelt proposal, it was to his great disadvantage that all but the last emotion was readily apparent in his voice -- and, due to his general stern features, which none save Georgiana could easily melt away to smiles, not even his beloved -- and face, giving what he thought at the time of utterance to be a magnificent speech that informed her of the depth of his love, as it conquered all he, or anyone else, could place in its way, instead led his would-be fiancée to think quite differently.
"Miss Elizabeth," he began immediately upon seeing her, the words bursting from his lips of, it seemed, their own volition, "I have struggled in vain and I can bear it no longer. These past months have been a torment." Here, his control slipped and even the second-eldest Miss Bennet, prejudiced against him as she was, could easily see the truthfulness in his voice and face as he continued, "I came to Rosings for the single object of seeing you; I had to see you..."
Observing Miss Elizabeth's shocked features, Darcy endeavored to regain control, so that he not frighten her with too much lack of control and passion at that point. Still, he could not resist going on, telling her all his struggles, for he knew she, being of uncommon wit -- one of the main attractions she held for him, and what had, other than her quite beautiful eyes, originally caught his attention -- would be able to understand what he was truly proclaiming to her, how much his love could not -- would not -- be depressed or conquered.
"I have fought against my better judgment, my family's expectation, the inferiority of your birth, my rank and circumstance; all these things that I am willing to put aside and ask you to end my agony."
"I don't understand," Elizabeth said, and Darcy could do nothing to stop the words escaping his lips, almost before she had finished speaking.
"I love you," he blurted, and for a moment the only sound was the rain, as he gazed deep into Elizabeth's -- Lizzy, for surely as her fiancé he would soon be allowed to use the endearing nickname, why should he restrain himself from thinking it now? -- captivating eyes, seeing the confusion and shock within.
Dear God, had she thought him indifferent to her? -- surely not, for she had to notice his gaze upon her. She must have known him to be in love with her, surely! Well, it was of no consequence now, Darcy assured himself, as now she knew the truth of his heart and could no longer doubt his affections.
Still, as the silence stretched on -- it had been only seconds, but Darcy was not to know that; for him it felt as though many, many long minutes had passed in the time he and Lizzy stared at each other -- Darcy's control completely fled him, and he could not help but add, "Most ardently," in a voice that quivered with suppressed emotion.
Another few short moments passed, and when Darcy spoke again, the tremble remained in his voice -- as well it should, his heart was beating fast enough that, should he have been a lady, he would have fallen into a dead faint. As it was, however, he was most certainly a man, and such a man that the emotions that coursed through him did not affect him, visibly, and only a slight tremble remained in his voice. Perhaps if he had looked more affected, he would have been spared a bit of Miss Bennet's anger, but Elizabeth could not see beyond the gentleman's past crimes or at the present moment, his fixed features. Yes, he looked much more vulnerable than usual -- but Elizabeth automatically attributed that fact to the rain, and she was quite blind to the way his eyes shone devotion and love at her, far too caught up in Darcy's words. An impartial observer may have remarked that Lizzy Bennet was making much the same sort of mistake as Darcy himself had, in misjudging shyness for a lack of affection, and in taking far too much stock in the words of others. However, any such comment would have been far from appreciated by either Darcy or Elizabeth, if indeed it was understood, for at the time, Lizzy knew not of Darcy's true nature, and he was likewise ignorant of her sister's deep affection for his friend.
Poor Mr. Darcy! -- he had no way of knowing that beneath the shock in Elizabeth's gaze, there was a growing loathing as he spoke, and so he uttered his next words in a highly confident manner, albeit very emotional, just barely resisting stepping closer to her than propriety allowed. "Please do me the honor of accepting my hand."
Finally, their long gaze was broken, as Lizzy looked down, attempting to find words, and Darcy felt such a pang at the loss of just her gaze that in that instant he knew there was nothing that he would not do for her.
It was unfortunate, then, that the words Lizzy Bennet finally found were such cold, if polite, ones: "Sir, I -- I appreciate the struggle you have been through and I am very sorry to have caused you pain." In the slight pause before she spoke again, Darcy felt as though his heart would burst for joy, as he was sure he could predict her next words to be an admission of her own struggle, and her willingness to accept his hand.
Thus, it came as an utter shock to the gentleman when she next said, "Believe me, it was unconsciously done."
Suddenly, Darcy became aware of the rain that soaked his clothes, or at least, he presumed that was what he felt. What other explanation could there be, for the sudden chill that infused his entire body, soaking deep into his bones? He swallowed, for the moment pure shock overcoming his devastation.
"Is this your reply?" he asked, pleading with all his might that it was not. But Elizabeth was not skilled in the art of reading minds or granting wishes, and so spoke promptly, almost overriding the end of his query.
Darcy looked her over, detecting no trace of deceit, and he could not contain his question, "Are you -- " Here Darcy paused, and almost stepped forward once more, though he managed to check himself at the last instant and instead repeat his unfinished question. "Are you laughing at me?"
Darcy was shocked to find himself almost hoping that it was true; hoping that Lizzy was laughing at him, punishing him for taking so long to offer, perhaps, and she would eventually halt her joke on him, and give him her true answer. But he knew, deep inside, that his beloved would never be capable to such horrid treatment of one she loved or even cared deeply for; if she had been willing to accept him, she would have done so straightforwardly, with no artifice or pretense otherwise.
"No," she said, and before Darcy could even think, the words spilled out of his mouth.
"Are you rejecting me?" God, how the word hurt to say, let alone contemplate! -- but Elizabeth showed no mercy, her eyes coming alight again with anger.
"I'm sure that the feelings which, as you've told me, have hindered your regard will help you in overcoming it." In any other situation, at any other time, Darcy would have appreciated the wit behind this barb, the talent Miss Elizabeth had at using his own words against him; but at that time, in that circumstance, the barb cut all too deeply, incensing him to anger himself.
He nodded, closing his eyes for a very brief moment and pulling back from her -- but before even a second had gone by, he was looking back at her and making no move to complete his step back. Despite the terror he was just beginning to face, poor Darcy could not bear to look away from his Lizzy for more than an instant.
Still, love or no, his anger, shock, and humiliation would not be deterred, and Darcy spoke, "Might I ask why, with so little -- " Oh, anger he needed, for without it Darcy feared he would collapse to his knees in front of her! The true meaning of Elizabeth's words was just now hitting him, and Darcy's voice almost broke as he said, " -- endeavor at civility, I am thus repulsed."
However fiery Darcy's fury may be -- and in truth it was not very; it was much more of a crutch to keep him standing then a sword to wield against his foe -- Elizabeth's was that much greater, and she almost cut him off again, raising her voice and stepping forward to him, distaste so evident in her every aspect that it was quite impossible for even the previously self-deluding Darcy to mistake.
"And I might as well inquire why, with so evident a design of insulting me, you chose to tell me that you liked me against your better judgment!"
"No," Darcy cried, a slight -- so very slight, and yet so strong! -- hope springing up in his breast; that this was merely the result of Miss Bennet misinterpreting the words in which he had conveyed his love for her. Perhaps if the matter could be cleared up, perhaps he might still be happy tonight. "Believe me, I didn't mean -- "
However, Darcy was never to have the chance to explain just how his earlier words had been intended for Elizabeth finally did as she had been on the brink of several times already, and cut him off, flinging angry words into his face.
"If I was uncivil, then that is some excuse, but I have other reasons, you know I have."
Perplexed and the chill rapidly spreading through his veins quite disconcerting, Darcy could only cry, "What reasons?" completely clueless about what these reasons might be. Perhaps if he'd had a quiet moment to think, he would have been able to figure them out, but Lizzy's fiery temper was unlikely to allow him any such peace and even if he gained it, it would have been impossible for Darcy to think in his usual rational manner now.
"Do you think that anything might tempt me to accept the man who has ruined, perhaps forever, the happiness of a most beloved sister?"
This, more than anything, struck Darcy hard, as he could feel himself transported back, not long ago, to the discovery of a most wretched man who he would have once treated as brother, to the endless tears of the one who he would give anything to keep happy, and who he had failed, to the -- No! It was not the same! It could not be!
"Do you deny it, Mr. Darcy? That you separated a young couple who loved each other, exposing your friend to the censure of the world's caprice, and my sister to it's derision for disappointed hopes? -- and involving them both in misery of the acutest kind?" Elizabeth's voice was furious and horrified and disgusted all at once, and Darcy was all the more tormented -- by his memories, that such painful words as a young couple, disappointed hopes and most of all misery of the acutest kind brought on; by the current impact of Lizzy's words, for they meant that she truly felt nothing for him, even resented him -- so tormented, in fact, that he might have remained quite speechless, but for his anger suddenly rising up again, saving him from the tide of memories and reminding him that this situation was nothing like his sister's had ever been.
This remembrance gave Darcy both his courage and his voice back, and he shook his head, stopping Elizabeth before she could continue with a curt, "I do not deny it."
At this, it appeared Elizabeth's turn to be speechless, at least for scant seconds before she asked, utterly horrified, "How could you do it?"
The anger had transformed into words, rushing to escape from his mouth, leaving Darcy no time to consider them, to wonder how they might sound or if they were even true as he replied, "Because I believed your sister indifferent to him." Luckily, the words that escaped his lips were indeed true; true and quite helpful for his case, though Lizzy seemed to find them unsupportable.
"Indifferent?" she echoed disbelievingly, and again the self-righteous anger, the defensive attack of words came upon Darcy once more, and he was quick to explain himself.
"I watched them, most carefully, and I realized his attachment was deeper than hers."
"That's because she's shy!" Elizabeth cried, quite desperately; but the anger had helped restore Darcy somewhat, and he would not bend -- indeed, he did quite the opposite, his own voice raising to a shout in the defense of his friend and himself.
"Bingley too is modest, and was persuaded she didn't feel strongly for him!"
"Because you suggested it!"
The words were flying fast now, and had Darcy at that moment stopped to remember that he had approached Miss Elizabeth mere minutes ago with the express intention of proposing for her hand in marriage, and indeed expecting a favorable reply, he would have been quite astonished to realize it, for he was distressed and caught up in the argument.
"I did it for his own good," Darcy shouted, quite prepared to do anything to defend his actions -- until Elizabeth's next words caught him off guard.
"My sister hardly shows her true feelings to me!"
At this, Darcy was paused, and for a few brief, horrified instants, he had time to wonder if indeed Lizzy was right, if indeed he had so grievously injured his friend for so little cause --
Elizabeth looked away, clearly regaining her composure, but Darcy could do aught but stare at her, guilt, confusion, and satisfaction warring within him. Before any one could win, she spoke again, still not looking up at him.
"I suppose you suspect that his -- his fortune had something to do with it."
"No!" Darcy cried, "No, I wouldn't do you sister the dishonor, though it was suggested -- "
Blast, could his tongue not quit? He, Darcy, who was renowned through many societies for being the most taciturn of men, digging himself deeper and deeper into his own grave with words of all things; even worse, words that insulted what ought to have been his future wife!
"What was?" Elizabeth, having looked down again, quickly lifted her head to meet Darcy's gaze once more.
For a brief moment, Darcy considered saying nothing -- but he knew Lizzy would just attack him until he told her anyway, and at the moment he was feeling far too ill of her to care much if his words wounded her.
"It was made perfectly clear," he said thus, "that an advantageous marriage -- "
"Did my sister give that impression?"
"No -- no!" Darcy was quick to reassure Elizabeth on her sister's goodness. "No, there was however, I have to admit, the matter of your family."
"Our want of connection?" she cried, and for the first time since he had arrived, Darcy had to turn his face away. Despite the utter fury he found himself in, despite the burning need to share with Miss Bennet some of the agony she was inflicting on him, Darcy was in love with her, and hurting her hurt him in turn. "Mr. Bingley didn't seem to -- "
Turning back, Darcy didn't allow her to finish, and though she kept on talking, he spoke over her, delivering the harsh truth that perhaps she needed to hear, "No, it was more than that."
"How so?" she demanded coldly.
"It was the lack of propriety," Darcy spat, suddenly incensed all the more, "shown by your mother, your three younger sisters, even on occasion your father!"
Such a blow was designed to cut deep, and cut deep it did, shocking Elizabeth into silence as a sudden roll of thunder erupted about them. Darcy was still too caught up in his rage to be truly apologetic at first -- but as she simply stood and stared at him, the rain suddenly seemed horrendously loud once again, and Darcy recalled -- finally -- his senses, and his memory that he had come to propose his hand, not hurt her thus, and all his anger instantly evaporated.
Truthfully, the anger, however fierce it may have become, was only a defense mechanism, for Darcy was quite wounded by Elizabeth's words -- wounded, to tell the truth, more than he had even been, for due to his holding so few in high regard and being so picky about those few, Darcy's heart was generally quite safe. In fact, this was the first time he had ever affected to be in love, and he would daresay the last. Sadly, for him it currently seemed not to be so -- and due to mistakes of his own, when he had believed himself the greatest gentleman, indeed, prided himself on it! Oh -- that hurt Darcy, surely, but in fact, the reasons at that point did not hurt so much as the refusal itself. For the reasons Miss Bennet had so far given him were, he believed, no fault of his own, but mere misunderstandings. Yes, being accused to be such a rake hurt; but what truly caused him grief was not that Elizabeth accused him so; it was that she believed him so, so much so that she would not accept his hand.
All these feelings together added with Elizabeth's insults and his own shock had induced Darcy into such a furious anger as to strike so deeply; but now, seeing the result of his words -- her wide eyes, her frozen face -- he could not be more remorseful if she were his own dear sister whom he had made cry -- which had indeed happened only once, and that situation Darcy could not leave alone until he was convinced he was in his sister's favor again.
Well, perhaps Darcy had no hope of regaining Lizzy's affection -- especially since he had never held it in the first place -- but it was the least he could do to try. Deeply ashamed, Darcy murmured, "Forgive me." Then, as elaboration seemed necessary and indeed only fair to the poor woman he had just insulted, he added, "You and your sister I must exclude from this."
Perhaps it was not the best apology ever given; but it was from the heart, and more importantly, it was honest, for as sorry as Darcy might be for saying what he had, it was undoubtedly true, and as an honest gentleman, he could not in good conscience take it back.
This apology seemed to stun Elizabeth too -- she remained silent for several long moments, during which Darcy eyed her quite anxiously -- before she nodded and opened her mouth to speak.
It can be safely said that the words that then escaped her mouth were quite surely the most unexpected and the most unwelcome that Darcy could have ever heard in that moment.
"And what about Mr. Wickham?"
Darcy shook his head in shock, an altogether new type of fury filling him; one that consisted of two parts. One part he was all too familiar with, and had been since the near-elopement... since the issues with Wickham's inheritance... since their college days. The other, he was less familiar with, though it had grown quite strong during the short period of time he had been led to believe that Elizabeth was to be wed to Mr. Collins; jealousy was its name, and it was quite strong within Darcy, jealousy that such a despicable rake as Wickham could gain Elizabeth's favor, but he -- he could not even hope for indifference, as he was instead treated to the most dreadful disregard.
Darcy faltered once in saying the name, and took several steps forward, hoping to remain at least somewhat calm, but still unable to keep the sharp edge out of his voice as he asked, "Mr. Wickham?"
Elizabeth Bennet's face was defiant once more. "What excuse can you give for your... your behavior towards him?"
Perhaps if Darcy had not been so incensed at the mere mention of Wickham's name, he might have noticed how Lizzy faltered when he drew near, either anxious over the matter of which she spoke, concerned with propriety, intimidated by his presence, or -- he would have fondly hoped! -- made nervous due to an attraction brought about by the closeness. However, he could hardly be expected to take notice of such things, no matter how they would occupy his mind otherwise, at such a moment as this.
"You take an eager interest in that gentleman's concerns," Darcy observed, trying to hold back both his disgust at calling Wickham a gentleman of any kind, and his disgust and jealousy over what he had just spoken aloud, for he unfortunately observed it to be quite true.
Mr. Collins was one thing, but Mr. Wickham was quite another!
However, Lizzy was already speaking, having begun even as he finished his comment. "He told me of his misfortunes," she said, and Darcy, even knowing it would gain nothing but her ill regard, could not contain his immediate sarcasm. The thought of that man lamenting his misfortunes -- and to Elizabeth Bennet!
"Oh yes, his misfortunes have been very great indeed," Darcy retorted sarcastically, scarcely noticing how close he had drawn upon the lady in his anger. Indeed, they had, each in steps of anger, advanced from a very proper distance until they were standing less than two feet away.
Lizzy failed to notice this as well, her horror at Darcy's words much to great; indeed, she expressed her disgust aloud to him, "You ruined his chances, yet you treat him with sarcasm!"
Darcy could not have been more distressed. It was enough that Lizzy believed him a snob, enough that she resented his actions concerning her sister and Mr. Bingley, enough that she steadfastly refused him -- all this, perhaps he could bear, but bringing Wickham into the discussion and having her come to his defense! Having her -- Miss Elizabeth Bennet -- Lizzy -- his most dearly beloved, though she did not share the sentiments -- having her disgust him on Wickham's behalf, taunting him about the other man; it was more than any sane man could bear!
"So this is your opinion of me," he stated in a low, tortured voice. The sarcasm returned, trying to cover up his hurt, as he snapped, "Thank you for explaining so fully." He wanted to leave then, he truly did, but he could not. Elizabeth kept him there, as surely as if he were tied to her by a length of rope. For as much as he hated the woman at that moment, as much as Darcy utterly loathed her and wished her pain -- he was deeply, inexcusably, irrefutably, and regrettably in love with her.
"Perhaps these offences might have been overlooked had not your pride been hurt by my honesty!" Darcy shouted the last two words, quite drowning out her offended cry of "My pride!"
He continued on regardless, " -- in admitting scruples about our relationship!" A great cold swept over him, and he nearly shivered, but the heat of his anger was somehow within the chill, keeping him shouting in her face. "Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your circumstances?"
It was now Elizabeth's turn to express herself and her anger. Their respective outbursts were having a rather negative effect, building on each-other; had Lizzy not mentioned Wickham, Darcy would not have been currently angry, for just minutes ago he was wracked with worry and guilt -- and had Darcy not been so rude in his original manner of address, whether he meant it or not, Lizzy would not have brought up her sister in the first place.
"And those are the words of a gentleman!" she exclaimed, utterly horrified. "From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others, made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry!"
A roll of thunder followed Elizabeth's passionate statement -- but, this time, Darcy made no retort, simply staring down at her.
In the midst of her speech -- right about when she was describing him as conceited -- the force of Darcy's anger had receded, and he was left alone, with no icy fury to hold him up against the hate of his beloved.
Somehow, despite the force of their argument, a part of him had truly believed that she loved him, or at best did not hate him, but now, with her words, he knew. He knew how she hated him, and it froze his heart.
The cold spread outwards, from his core to infuse through his entire body, bringing the most unwelcome news to every part of his body: she despises me.
All of his dreams, all of his hopes were shattered in that single instant. His entire life stretched out before him, and now he could not even begin to see the mere hope of his most dear Lizzy at his side. It was all quite hopeless, and, locked in a passionate staring match with the woman in question, Darcy felt quite ready to cry.
His dignity might have been what saved him; perhaps even his pride, which of course greatly protested his heart's wish to simply sob out his utter desolation, to howl it to the world.
And yet, it was neither of these that stopped Darcy from his sorrow, though perhaps one would have stepped in had it become too close a call. No; it was the remarkably fine eyes of one Miss Elizabeth Bennet that held him so enraptured he could not move.
Darcy could hardly believe it; this woman had just, in a single well-chosen sentence, broken his heart, frozen it, shattered it and let the pieces melt away into nothing without the slightest regret or consideration, for she believed him beneath it -- and yet he could not look away from her, and he knew, he was absolutely certain that she could undo it all with just as few words. No more than three were needed to make him the happiest man to ever live, and no more than one was necessary for the mending of his heart.
Should she say, I love you, Darcy would have been better than repaired; he would have been built anew, he would have been bestowed with a new heart far better than the one that preceded it, for it would belong to Elizabeth alone, no matter that it lived in his chest.
And yet, even that was not necessary, for if she had simply said yes, if she had but consented to his hand in marriage he would be so close to as happy that he was sure he would not miss the difference. Suddenly Darcy could very well hate himself on Bingley's behalf -- who knew, who cared if Jane Bennet loved him back! -- it was far more than enough, for him, simply to live in companionship with this most radiant of all women, no matter if she loved him, for just being allowed to worship her at leisure was suddenly all he required in life. Oh yes, had Darcy met Bingley in that instant he would have corrected his wrong at once and bid his friend good luck!
...But despite his being held in so firm a captivity within the depths of Lizzy Bennet's eyes, Darcy was not a fool. A fool for love, but not a fool. Lizzy -- no longer Lizzy, how dare he use that informality, even in his own head -- Elizabeth was not his, and nor would she ever be. There was absolutely no chance of him ever hearing any of the words he longed for, none.
And, knowing this, Darcy utilized all his will and pulled his gaze away from hers, blinking as he did so. The immediate loss was shocking, but bear it he did -- until his eyes lit on something a little lower.
Her lips, quivering with the remnants of her rage and disgust, a pale pink that he could not help but think looked to be the most softest to the touch. Without thinking, Darcy leaned forward, his own lips parting, succumbing to the magnet that was her presence -- but, with a great effort of will, he managed to stop his head from moving forward any further. His mouth wished to speak more, to utter more traitorous declarations of love, but Darcy trusted it least of all now, and forced himself to remain silent.
He flicked his gaze back up to Elizabeth's eyes, attempting to distract from her lips -- only to be caught once more in their depths. His breathing came faster, now an almost harsh panting -- his head swayed forward quite on its own -- his hands, out of Miss Bennet's sight, half-lifted, only too ready to grip her waist; -- and Darcy might have sworn that Elizabeth herself might have also swayed closer, her perfume invading his nostrils in a sweet medley of wildflowers and rendering him that much more insensible.
Darcy's eyes drifted shut in reaction to the scent, and his hands completed their unseen journey, to land on Miss Elizabeth's hips. Then, with a deep, shaky breath, he leaned forward, so utterly intoxicated with her presence that he could not help but abandon all his sensibilities, his restraints. Even the lady's own objections, accusations, and insults could not deter him -- for Darcy was aware it was only they that would allow him to do this. For had Miss Elizabeth not entirely destroyed his heart, had she not shattered all but the tiniest bit that kept his blood barely pumping, then Darcy would never have done this. He would never have lost control so much as he had now, for then he would have had so much more to lose. Now -- now, what did it matter, if she slapped him? Who would care if she destroyed him still further with her cruel wit? For his heart had been so utterly destroyed that all it would take was one harsh word, and he would crumple, utterly broken, completely beyond repair. All it would take was one word, and proud Mr. Darcy would be no more, merely a shell of a human being -- and if he was so close to the end, why not risk all that he had left?
Such would have been Darcy's thoughts at that point, had he been capable of thought; but he was not, for the only thing that remained in his awareness, the only thing that existed, was Elizabeth.
Their lips touched; Lizzy.
He called up his voice from wherever it had gone to dwell during those eternal seconds, and whispered, "Forgive me."
Yanking his gaze away from her lips, and only glancing at and away from her eyes, Darcy felt more strength growing in him, and he forced the words out, "Madam, for taking up so much of your time."
Again -- he could scarcely breathe, it was too much -- with another deep, aching breath, bringing life to some part of him that somehow could live without her, some hollow deep inside that had saved him from kissing her (though what a save that might be, most of him could not yet bear to understand; and so resented) -- Darcy stepped back, one last look over his shoulder enough for him, to feast his eyes upon her before he turned fully and walked away.
He would never have her; he knew that, and it was only thanks to some infinitesimal part of him that he had not destroyed the last piece of his heart left, only thanks to the smallest part of him that he could still survive -- and yet that tiniest piece was strong enough to sustain him around the temple, through fields and woods, up the staircase, through halls and into his bedroom, and to sit at his desk.
It compelled him write a letter, explaining all, and once it was done, it bade him attempt to sleep, though he knew full well he never would.
But Darcy lay among his sheets, wearing his bedclothes and staring up at the ceiling above him, through the entire night, and though his body did not thank him, his mind and heart gained from the night enough resolution and strength to carry him through his delivery of the letter -- and after having done so, he made immediate preparations to quit Rosings for his house in town, claiming urgent business.
One tiniest piece of Darcy's soul was all that had managed to withstand Lizzy Bennet's attack; but that tiniest little morsel, a single sliver of a shattered heart, was all that was necessary for him to survive, and even eventually begin to heal.
It might be called... Fitzwilliam.