Disinclined To Dance

Title: Disinclined to Dance
Author: excentrykemuse

Word Count: ??k
Fandom(s): Pride and Prejudice, the Twilight Saga
Pairing(s): Bella/Darcy

Written for Insomnimaniac who wanted more Bella Swan in Regency England.

For: Insomnimaniac
Prompt: Hi is it possible to have more Bella crossovers? I really love the Jane Austin crossovers with her. I love reading how she fits so well into that era.

Note: This is a Work In Progress (WIP).

Other Parts: (Part I) | Part II | Part III

Warning(s): time travel, memory loss, stupid Jane, not likeable Lizzy, Mary seems to have disappeared somewhere else (maybe Phoenix, Arizona? Pre-twilight?), sweet Kitty, Lydia is not quite so bad, affectionate Mrs. Bennet, slight Renée bashing, no mention of Edward, adorable/shy Mr. Darcy

It is an awkward situation, to say the least, but then again Bella hasn’t told anyone.  If she did, they would think she was having an attack of the vapours (or, well, Mama would), and Bella didn’t like to upset Mama if she could help it.

Her sisters—for all that they were never her sisters—thought Mama was a little silly (at the best of times), but Bella adored her with every fibre of her being.

When she analyzed the situation, which is really all she did for a full year and a half, she would believe that it was her need for a mother—not just a mother who was physically present but one who would actually care, even if hysterics might follow on rare occasion—is what brought her here.  It wasn’t that Pride and Prejudice was her favorite book.  It wasn’t that she loved the manners and the language.

No, it was much more basic than that.  It was a need.  Isabella Marie Swan needed a mother, and so the night before her thirteenth birthday (Renée forgot, per usual, and hadn’t paid the electric, so Bella’s candles were old, stubby, and ones she found on her own) she went to sleep reading her favorite book, and somehow managed to wake up inside of it.

A little known fact about the Bennet family of Longbourn (and there were many) was that the middle child was Christened ‘Isabelle Mary Bennet’ and Bella, with a bit of maneuvering, and proving that she wanted to be an ‘independent woman’ (Mama was horrified, Papa laughed into his paper, and Elizabeth only rolled her eyes) managed to have her full Christian name used – or “Isabelle Mary.”  It wasn’t quite ‘Isabella’ and it certainly wasn’t ‘Bella,’ either, but it was enough that the fourteen year old who got her way could be quite pleased.

Jane was a darling, beautiful, and daft as anything.  She didn’t have what it took to be an IT girl in junior high back in the twenty-first century, but they were living in a time apart, Bella reasoned.

Elizabeth was independent and liked to take walks.  She would laugh at anyone’s expense, especially at Bella’s (who took quite some time to grow into her gangly legs and freckled face).

Kitty was a sweetheart (and it was Bella, strangely, who gave her the name from ‘Catherine’) and would often rest her head in Bella’s lap when she curled up to read, the two of them often neglecting visitors, but no one truly minded. 

Lydia took up the slack and was a bit wild.  Jane was too sweet to deal with her, Elizabeth didn’t care to try (though she was embarrassed all the same), so Bella somehow adopted her as a duckling, and Mama praised her frequently for being such a good influence.

In time, Bella almost forgot that she was somehow living in a book.  She knew the characters, knew the people, but perhaps that’s because she’d lived here all along.  The old beaten paperback that she remembered hadn’t arrived with her, all those years ago, and she was eighteen if not a day, nearly clumsy (but Lydia helped her practice her graceful dancing), and never really wondered why all of her sisters (and Mama as well) had golden hair and hers was a deep russet brown.

When, one morning, Mrs. Bennet said to her husband, “Netherfield Hall is let at last!” Bella didn’t even quite pay attention.

If she thought she’d heard it somewhere before, she supposed it was something to do with why Papa looked so mischievous.

Of course, at dinner, Lydia was begging to go to the Assembly so that she might dance with Mr. Bingley.

“You’re not out,” Mama stated, repeating a line that Bella usually said.  “Your sister Isabelle Mary has not yet gone fully into society, and so Kitty may not, and so you may not.”

Lydia sat a little straighter, trying to look older (she was, after all, only fifteen years old) and bit her lip.  “Jane,” she pleaded, changing tactics, “do be so kind as to become engaged tomorrow—or by the end of the week—that way Isabelle Mary might go and take mercy on us younger sisters!”

Jane, kind sweet stupid Jane, laughed softly and smiled (as she was far too prepared to do).  “I shall endeavor to correct the problem, Liddy,” she promised.  And so was an end to that particular conversation.

Of course, something strange happened that no one could quite have predicted not a half week before the Assembly.

Elizabeth was the one always out of doors, always walking (never riding, she hated horses).  Jane did not have the strong constitution, but would consent to walk to Meryton on occasion.  Lydia wanted to look at ribbons so Jane might look her best (“It’s only sensible, Isabelle Mary!” she cried. “The prettier she is, the likelier she is to be married soon!”) – and so three of the five sisters set out to the neighboring town.

Papa was in his study, where even Mama was not permitted to go.

After Bella had set her mother up with some tea and smelling salts for a quiet afternoon, she took up a book of scandalous poetry she had acquired earlier that fortnight, took Kitty’s hand, and they went wandering into the fields to find some place to sit and read to one another.

The sun was high in the sky when Bella first became aware of the sound of hooves.  Kitty had fallen asleep not a half hour earlier, and Bella looked up from the tall grasses to see two riders approaching.

“You go on,” the taller and the handsomer of the two called out.  “Pay your respects to the neighborhood.  Surely I can wait for proper introductions at the Assembly.”  He tipped his hat, tall as it was and surely expensive, and slowed his horse not half a dozen feet from where Bella was reading.

Before she could properly signal her presence (the sleeping Kitty was a weight on her arm), the other gentleman had laughed—a full, bright, charming, and yet vapid sound—and had continued on his way in the general direction of Longbourn.

The first of the two remained still a moment, his eyes far off, considering a private thought, and then he swung down on to the ground.

Kitty shifted in her sleep, mumbled something, and then seemed to still again.

Bella was in quite a quandry.  Finally, raising her hand, book still clasped within her fingers, she hoped the gentleman was looking their way and might introduce himself or leave for the sake of propriety.  She really was curious if he was the mysterious and much discussed Mr. Bingley, but perhaps that was the other gentleman who had gone off to pay calls.

Trust Papa not to mentioned he had already called when Mama brought up the subject.  (For, after all, Mr. Bingley could not call in the direction of Longbourn if Papa had not visited him first, as was proper.)

It was but a handful of long moments before steady strides fell through the grass and the book was carefully plucked from her fingers.

“I apologize, Madam,” the unnamed gentleman greeted, bowing formally, her book still in hand.  “I seem to have disturbed your afternoon repose.”  His green eyes glistened and fell to Kitty, looking so young, sleeping beside her in the tall grasses, and something softened in his gaze—as if he, too, might understand what it was to have a younger sister.

“You are not to blame, sir,” Bella replied quietly, twisting up to a sitting position, where the gentleman helped her stand.  “We so rarely come out this way that it is most improbable a stranger might predict it.”

His hand, though gloved, was strong in hers as he helped her up, and Bella was proud that she did not completely trip, although the bottom of her dress caught a bit.  Bella could not quite get over her gangly limbs from her earlier years, and so was a bit clumsy.  Still, she looked up at him, eyes wide and brown, unrepentant, not looking to catch a man or to entice one, simply curious. 

Her own gloved fingers still curled in his, neither seeming to notice, his green eyes searching her freckled nose for perhaps some direction in which to take the conversation.

“Are you to be at the Assembly this next moon?” he asked, clearly grasping for a subject.  He seemed to want to take off his hat in deference, but his right hand was still holding the book of subject poetry, the other holding hers most delicately.

“No,” she responded carefully, taking back the book that was offered (he hadn’t inspected it, for which she was grateful; Papa might not mind, but Mama certainly would).  “Our eldest sisters will be, however.”

A look of quickly concealed disappointment crossed his face, but she let it pass. 

“You are not yet out,” he ventured carefully.

Biting her lip, uncertain how to answer, she finally turned away slightly to look at the book.  “I am, indeed, out, although Jane and Elizabeth are unmarried.  However, I prefer not to dance in revelries and use their unattached state as an—excuse, if you will.”  She smiled, deprecatingly, a memory of Renée (a woman no more than dream if that) casting shadows in her thoughts.  “Not every young woman is taken to ribbons and officers, sir, even if this is not London.”

“No, indeed,” he hurried, clearly wishing to confront any misrepresentation she had of him.

However, when she smiled warmly, a smile only ever reserved for Kitty and Mama, he smiled bashfully back, looking down at his hat that he was holding between his hands.

He bowed then, respectfully, clearly remembering himself.  “Forgive me, madam, for my inattention to detail.  I am Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley.”

Something about the words, so formal, seemed to wake Kitty and she shifted, before tuning on her back and blinking at the sky.  “You stopped reading,” she murmured, as if to herself.  “Isabelle Mary, why did you stop–?”  She looked up then, quickly deduced the situation, and was both baffled and clearly grateful when Mr. Darcy stepped forward and offered his hand.

Kitty’s bonnet and fallen off to the side, but she was still presentable if a little windblown with her soft angel skin and her brilliant golden hair.

“This is Mr. Darcy of Pemberley,” Bella told her quickly, trying not to wonder why that name sounded as if she might have read it somewhere before.  Turning back to the gentleman, who was waiting calmly with the smallest hint of nerves, Bella curtsied and Kitty quickly followed.  Precise, perfect, just as Mama had taught them, even if they were in a field of wild grasses.  “I’m Isabelle Mary Bennet of Longbourne, and this is my next youngest sister, Catherine.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Kitty tried, clearly a little lost for words, “on such a lovely afternoon.”

“Yes,” he agreed, a little quickly.  “A lovely afternoon.  Lovely—” he looked about, his eyebrows furrowing “—country.”

“Hertfordshire,” Bella informed him playfully, “is not quite the country.  At least, not this part of Hertfordshire.”

“But is this not the countryside?” Darcy asked, now looking intently at her with a bit of hope in his face.

“Indeed, I suppose it is,” Bella agreed, wondering why it should be so easy to talk to a stranger.  “But I like to think we are still civilized here in the villages.  I’m forced to play whist once a fortnight, if not more.  Surely that is a sign of society.”  Her mind was falling now to her Aunt Philips and her table, wondering if a gentleman such as Mr. Darcy would feel himself above such an invitation.

Kitty was glancing between the two of them (Bella caught it, even if Mr. Darcy clearly did not notice), laughter in her dark eyes that Bella felt was meant to encourage her.

“I should dearly like to play you in a game at whist,” Darcy countered, a little too quickly, “although surely I might lose.”

“It’s not about winning,” Bella told him.  “It’s about the experience, the enjoyment of friends, family, and acquaintances, an evening to be sociable but no less quiet than at home.”

“I find you have described the perfect evening,” Darcy confessed, “outside of one’s own home and family.”  His green eyes looked at her imploringly.  “Still,” he began cautiously, “I should have liked to dance with you if you were inclined toward the Assembly.”

At this, Kitty spoke, “Isabelle Mary is not inclined to dance and has been arguing against the necessity for well over a year, sir.”  Bella laughed a little to herself, glad that Lydia’s desire for dancing was not mentioned.

Looking down, he took in his hat, emotions briefly warring over his brow.  But then, course clearly decided, he looked up and reached out to kiss the back of Bella’s gloved hand.  “I shall have to prove constant, then, so my argument has more validity before the next Assembly or Ball.”

It was a strange declaration, lovesick, surely, but Bella found she could not care.

Kitty was nearly vibrating with joy behind her and when Mr. Darcy offered to escort them home, they were introduced to Mr. Bingley (the rest of their sisters still in Meryton).

Later that night, Lydia slipped into Bella’s room and sat behind her on her bed, picking up her brush and running it through her long, dark hair. “I hear you met an eligible gentleman who wishes to dance with you.  To think, we didn’t buy any blue ribbons—for surely that is your color.”

“I told him I was not inclined to dance,” she returned.

Lydia paused but then leaned forward, “and?”

“He told me he would have to change my mind in the future.”

At breakfast the next morning (among talk of Assemblies and ribbons and Mr. Bingley and his friends he must surely be bringing) a card came addressed to Bella.  She picked it up, confused, and opened it to find that she and Kitty were invited by a Miss Bingley for tea that afternoon.

“Oh, Bells,” Lydia exclaimed among all the commotion, when the full story of the previous afternoon was revealed, “you shall be married before Jane, I am sure!”

Not looking at any of her sisters, a smile crossed Bella’s face.  Somehow she couldn’t find herself to dislike the idea.

TBC

Continue to Part II

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

13 thoughts on “Disinclined To Dance

  1. I loved it. I have always thought that (despite how much I love Pride and Prejudice) that Lizzie would be hard work to live with and that Mary would have made a waaaay better choice for Mr Darcy. Their temperaments seem a lot more alike. Looking forward to the next instalment. Thank you. 🙂

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