Fandom: Pride & Prejudice / the Twilight Saga
Pairing(s): Darcy/Bella, Fitzwilliam/Anne (if you squint)
Prompt: From Shelling Hosington: “I would love some more Pride and Prejudice.”
Warning(s): time travel, assuming someone else’s identity, memory fuzziness, silliness, where’s Elizabeth?
Lady Catherine was reading a letter at the breakfast table, which was not unusual in and of itself. What was unusual was the fact that Anne was looking at her pointedly.
Bella knew, from the experience of less than two weeks, that Anne de Bourg never showed interest in much of anything.
Roughly nine and a half days earlier (depending on how you counted), Bella Swan, a 17-year-old resident of Phoenix, went to bed having decided she was going to give her newly wedding Mom space and move in with her dad in Forks, Washington. She woke up—elsetime.
Her only explanation—if it was an explanation—was that she had fallen asleep reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and had just gotten to the part where Elizabeth had stumbled upon Mr. Darcy on the pathways of Rosings Park.
Now, inexplicably, she was at Rosings Park. Moreover, the characters of her favorite book believed her to be another daughter of Lady Catherine de Bourg’s. She had even snuck into the library the third morning, found the family Bible, and found her name there beneath her sister Anne’s. Isabelle Mary de Bourg (and wasn’t that peculiar given she had been born, in 1987, Isabella Marie) had been born in October of 1793 and then died three weeks after.
A rustling of paper brought her back to the present moment and she looked over at Lady Catherine (who, for the sake of self-preservation, she called “Mama”). “Your cousins will be arriving early next week.”
Bella’s heart dropped to her stomach. “Darcy?” she asked, her voice a bit breathy.
Lady Catherine’s piercing blue eyes met hers, and she nodded. “Yes, your cousins Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam.” She folded the letter and looked toward Anne, who looked like a mouse just about to be caught in a trap. “You will be congenial, Anne.”
Bella’s heart dropped into her intestines as she remembered—from the novel—Lady Catherine’s plan to join the estates of Rosings Park and Pemberley. Anne, of course, as the elder sister, would inherit. Bella was certain that if Sir Lewis’s Last Will and Testament mentioned her at all, she would have a dowry, but then again, she was supposedly dead.
The sound of the letter being placed back into the envelope met her ear, and she looked back toward Lady Catherine. “You, of course, Isabelle, are always congenial, if not a little quiet,” Lady Catherine declared, glancing at her younger daughter, her eyes then softening. “Do your best to speak in favor of the match.”
Bella’s eyes widened, but she murmured, “of course,” though when she looked over to Anne, she saw that her eyes had widened even further in terror. Before she could speak again on the matter, however, Lady Catherine had changed the subject—
“I have invited Mr. Collins and his guests for supper two days after our guests arrive. Anne, it will do you good to practice at your conversation. Isabelle,” her gaze slid over to Bella, confusion at her brow, “do you play? I can’t quite recall.”
Biting her lip, Bella shook her head.
“Ah, no. With Anne being unable, it does you credit not to wish to overshadow your older sister,” Lady Catherine reasoned. “Still, you can make conversation.”
“Yes,” Bella responded, uncertain. “I suppose I can make conversation.” Even to her own ears she sounded like a disappointment, but Lady Catherine smiled at her nonetheless.
“You look like you could use some sun, you are so pale,” she fretted. “Go find a book, and find a place of repose in the nearby garden. Poor, dear Anne,” (here, she looked at her true daughter) “does not have the constitution for fresh air.”
Anne was now looking at her hands, lost in her own thoughts, unheeding of her mother’s words, and Bella took the chance to escape to the grounds with a copy of a Mrs. Radcliffe novel she had found on a top shelf in the library.
She spent most of her days, when she wasn’t poking about the house or exploring the gardens, lost in novels.
No one much bothered with her, almost forgetting she was there, except to call her in for tea, and then to change for dinner.
So, the days passed, and she almost forgot to remember when her cousins were coming, except for Anne’s fearful mentioning of it one morning at breakfast.
No one, for example, told her when her cousins arrived the day it happened. Bella was not expected to greet them, only to be there at dinner. She had wandered down to the Greek Folly and then noticed that it might be time for dinner when she started coming up, her face turned up toward the sunlight. It was then that she almost ran into a rather sturdy pair of legs that most decidedly did not belong to her supposed sister or mother, or any of the servants.
“I do beg your pardon,” the owner of the legs stated, holding her steady as she blushed crimson despite herself. She pulled back an instant too late, and blushed an even deeper shade of red, if that were possible.
“The legs” looked at her a moment and then dropped his hands quickly, as if remembering himself a moment too late.
Bella blinked, realizing that it was impolite to stare, and dropped into the approximation of a courtesy (she had been practicing in the mirror, but still hadn’t managed to get it right). “Are you lost?” she asked.
He stared at her a long moment, taking her in, then looked back toward Rosings and stated, “No, I’m not lost, madam. I was about to make the same suggestion of you.”
Biting her lip in worry, she shook her head. “I was going back to the house for dinner,” she answered.
A look of comprehension then passed over the man’s blue eyes and he stated, “You’re Isabelle.”
She took a deep breath and stated, “You don’t remember me,” knowing there would be no reason for him to—as they had never before met.
“It is not that,” he answered carefully. “Only that I cannot place you, Cousin Isabelle, though I remember your birth well. I know I watched you grow, but I seem to have forgotten that you surpassed your sister in loveliness and accomplishments, if you permit me for saying so upon our reacquaintance.” The man looked at her as if for an explanation.
Bella breathed out and decided, since it seemed the world would work against her, “Perhaps we could reintroduce ourselves?” She held out her hand in greeting. “I’m your cousin, Isabelle Mary.” The name still felt like lead on her tongue, and she felt an imposter just saying it.
He did not smile, but his blue eyes brightened as he took her hand and lifted it gently to his lips. It seemed a delicacy he was ill-at-ease with, but a compliment he nonetheless wished to pay her. “Fitzwilliam Darcy, your cousin, at your service, Cousin Isabelle.”
“I prefer Bella,” she stated boldly as she took back her hand. “Lady Catherine will not allow it, but if you are at my service–?” She looked at him, wondering if there was some way she should flutter her lashes, but giving it up for lost.
Still, he bowed to her formally and addressed her, “Cousin Bella, then, but I may have to reserve it for when we are in private.”
“Cousin Darcy,” she agreed, a slight smile to her lips, her book twisted between her fingers. “I shall take it as a success.”
“May I escort you back to Rosings and, perhaps, into dinner?” he asked, holding out his arm, which she didn’t hesitate to take.
She said nothing but her acceptance was implicit in her actions, and the two walked up toward the house. She was aware how Darcy was looking at her, and it was no wonder. She was a marvel, given how he was probably having his memories rewritten (if that’s indeed how this magic worked) at that very moment, but it seemed a possessiveness worked its way into his eyes when he led her into the Drawing Room and set her on a settee before declaring, “See, now, Aunt, I found something precious in the gardens.”
Lady Catherine looked up and when her eyes lightened upon Bella, she smiled softly to herself. “Ah, Isabelle,” she greeted, taking notice of her. “I see you’ve greeted your Cousin Darcy. Do you remember Colonel Fitzwilliam?” She indicated a second gentleman (perhaps slightly taller, not quite as handsome), but didn’t allow anyone time to speak, “He’ll be taking Anne into dinner as Darcy shall take me in—although my days of making merry are over.” She took a breath, brow furrowed. “You haven’t changed. Oh dear. No one minds, do you, Darcy?” Darcy wasn’t allowed to utter an opinion. “No, of course he doesn’t. Isabelle is all loveliness.—Shall we?”
Lady Catherine made to rise, but Darcy interjected, “I promised my dear Cousin Isabelle I would escort her into dinner this evening,” he interrupted. “She was telling me her opinion on Alexander Pope and I found it most edifying. I thought to continue our discussion.”
Bella looked down at the book between her fingers and found that it was certainly not Alexander Pope and promptly stuffed it between the cushions of the settee.
“Oh?” Lady Catherine asked, bemused, and then smiled. “If you wish to amuse the dear child for an evening, then by all means.” She then swept into the dining room, the other cousin left to escort in an insipid looking Anne.
Bella looked up at Darcy who was still a head taller than her (even when sitting) and asked, “How do you know I like Pope?”
He turned to her and stated, “You have that look about you.” A smile teased at the corner of his mouth and he offered his hand, which she took readily.
And, indeed, upon the first anniversary of their marriage, he gave her a full volume of the poet, much to her amusement.