Trump Card

Title: Trump Card
Author: ExcentrykeMuse

Fandom(s): Pride & Prejudice / Twilight Saga
Pairing(s): Bella Swan/Darcy

Word Count: 2k
Rating: PG

Warning(s): Wickham, mentions of gambling, mentions of prostitution, Darcy forgets Elizabeth Bennet as soon as he sees Bella Swan, sorry Edward—we hate you
Prompt: for publicstaticvoid who asked for a p&p crossover with the infamous Mr. Wickham

Trump Card

Bella Swan was not a respectable gentlewoman.  There was, in fact, nothing respectable about her.  Since she was hit on the head when lost in the woods in Forks, having been abandoned by Edward, and having awakened in 1811 England, she had done little that was respectable beside buying a dress—sans whalebone corset.  Having no money and not wanting to end up on the street, Bella had two choices.  The first was unfortunately very apparent to her when men leered at her unbound hair and tight fitting sweater—prostitution.  That not being an option, however, the second was relying on her wits at the gaming table.  There was always a game about with less than reputable players that would allow a woman, if for the novelty alone, and so she found her way to Hertfordshire, to a little town called Meryton.

“I’m not playing you,” Bella told Lt. George Wickham one night in October.  She picked up her cigarette, a vice she had picked up somewhere between London and Hampshire, and took a hit from it.  “You haven’t paid your debt from last week.”

George Wickham was one of the Militia that was quartered in Meryton.  He was very handsome, very charming, and didn’t have two pounds to rub together.

“I will pay you back next week,” he promised, pulling out a seat across from her and sitting down.  “I am as good as my word.”

“And how good is that?” Bella demanded, setting down her cigarette.  “I don’t play for credit.”

“I am a gentleman,” he demanded.

She leaned forward.  “I don’t care.”  Picking up the deck of cards, she began to shuffle and then laid out a game of solitaire

“Miss Swan,” he opined.

“Coins or nothing,” she demanded.  “Go back to your Misses Bennet and Misses King.  I don’t want you here.”

“Come now,” he murmured, pulling his chair around the table so that he was leaning close to her.  “Surely we can come to some arrangement, Miss Swan.”  Wickham lifted up a finger and traced the lobe of her ear.

She didn’t react.  Instead, she turned over a card.

“I’m sure your Miss Bennet will gladly receive your advances, Wickham.  I am afraid your charms will not work on me.”  She turned over another card.

Bella could feel him looking at her.

“You’re quite pretty, you know.  Nothing like Miss Elizabeth, perhaps—”

Bella was pointedly ignoring him.  “Ah, Mr. Hayes!” she called out when she saw the man across the room.  “Do you fancy a quick flutter?  Lt. Wickham was just leaving.”

Mr. Hayes was a middle-aged man with a wife and three children at home, but he had money from his small estate that he was happy to spend on a quick card game with Bella.  Bella feared he may have a crush on her, but she was willing to take a few shillings from his pocket if it meant she could pay the inn keeper for her lodgings an extra week.

Wickham blew breath out between his lips and it smelled distinctly of stale ale.  “Miss Swan—”

She turned to him.  “Weren’t you leaving?” she asked sweetly as she nudged his chair away from her hard with her foot, causing it to lurch suddenly from beneath him.  “Goodbye.”

Bella continued to refuse to play George Wickham because he rarely (if ever) had any coin on him.  She was never wanting for partners, however, and always had a deck in her pelisse for when the occasion arose.  Gossip was an accepted currency in Meryton (except at the card table), and Bella knew about all of the five Misses Bennet and Mr. Bingley at Netherfield.  Mr. Hayes informed her that Bingley was likely to marry the eldest—a Jane Bennet—and then a fortnight later it was rumored that the second Miss Bennet—Elizabeth—was to marry her cousin, Mr. Collins.

Bella hoarded all these names as much as she did her coin as she had no other friends than the men with whom she played cards—and men she took money from could never truly be her friends.

There was to be a grand ball at Netherfield Hall.  Bella, of course, not being a gentlewoman, did not garner an invitation, but some of the gentleman she played with were going and promised to tell her of the dances and the decorations and if any proposals were to take place.

Bella wondered if Jessica Stanley would be proud of her with all this gossip.

The day before the ball arrived, Bella was sitting in the Meryton Arms with her deck of cards.  It was a bit early so none of the usual gentlemen had appeared to play, though she did expect Wickham to come make a nuisance of himself.

At first she did not notice him, but a tall gentleman entered and approached the inn keeper.  Bella saw that he was handsomer—certainly handsomer than Edward had ever been in a human kind of way.  His hair was a mass of dark curls, his eyes a piercing green, and he held himself with distinction.  This was a man who could bluff, Bella thought, as she could read nothing on his face.

She was surprised when after a short conversation, the inn keeper pointed her out, and the tall gentleman approached her at her table.  Wondering if he was looking for a card game after all, Bella smiled at him and asked when he came close enough, “Care for a flutter?”

He didn’t seem surprised at her question, but instead of answering, he pulled out a chair at the table and set his hat down.  He was still quite tall without it.

Bella shuffled her cards and took him in, waiting for him to name his game.

However, he quite surprised her when he spoke, “I understand that a Lt. George Wickham is in your debt.”

She looked up at him quickly and set down her cards.  “I refuse to play with him any longer,” she told the gentleman.  “He owes most of the merchants here in Meryton.  I am the rule, not the exception.”  Pressing her lips together, she considered.  “Are you purchasing his debts then or are you his keeper?”

He looked at her sternly, clearly displeased, but took out a purse of coins nonetheless.  “If you would be so kind, Madam.”

Flipping over a card, she saw it was the three of clubs.  “He does not deserve a friend,” she told him plainly.  “If I may say so, I have known many gentlemen through my profession, and Mr. Wickham is barely a gentleman.”

“I am not his friend,” the gentleman agreed.  “However, I do own all his debts in Derbyshire.  I do not look to own them also in Hertfordshire, but I learnt by chance that he is in debt to a lady.  It is unpardonable.  I seek to rectify the matter.”

She blinked at him.  “I doubt many would call me a lady.  I play cards.”

“You may not be a lady of society,” he agreed, “but you are a woman with a profession.  It is still unpardonable.”  He looked at her openly, dare she think it admiringly, and she looked back at him with equal frankness.

“I do not know your name,” she murmured after a long moment.

He nodded, as if to himself.  His voice, however, was firm.  “Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley in Derbyshire.”

Uncertain why, Bella offered her hand and gave him her full name, “Isabella Marie Swan.”

Darcy’s grasp was warm through his gloves and Bella felt a shiver run through her.  “Your name is not the name of a commoner,” Darcy murmured, his eyes shuddering to her lips.

“I was named for both my grandmothers,” she told him, the memory of the dream of Grandmother Marie coming to her forcefully.  “You have them to thank for my name.”

His gaze fluttered about her face.  “Why do you play cards?”

“Honestly?” she murmured, his grasp still warm in hers.  “I have no father; I have no husband.  What else would you have me do?”

There was a commotion at the door and she blinked several times, coming to herself.  She let her hand slip from his and turned slightly to the door only to see Wickham there, calling out for wine.

“Why can the Misses Bennet never fully occupy him?” Bella muttered to herself in her annoyance.

Darcy looked at her, perhaps a little stunned at her boldness, before he stood and approached the man whose debt he was attempting to buy.

“Darcy!” Wickham exclaimed.  “Do you fancy a flutter with Miss Swan?”  His tone was suggestive and Bella felt a blush suffuse her cheeks and neck.

She was modestly dressed, as she always was, in a deep gray gown with a white blusher that fastened around her neck.  Bella never showed her decolletage even though she was of an age at nineteen, and her sleeves always came down to her wrists despite modern fashion.

There was a decided, though muffled, argument between Wickham and Darcy at the door, which lasted only a handful of moments before Wickham left in an angry huff.  Bella looked on in surprise as she had never known Wickham to mind anyone.

“Is he frightened of you?” she asked when Darcy retook his seat beside her.

“He knows I am not to be trifled with,” he told her simply before signaling the inn keeper.  “Now, how much is Wickham in your debt?”

Two glasses of red wine were placed on the table and Darcy handed over a shilling.

Bella looked at her glass, but did not touch it.  She always liked to have her wits about her.

“He only owes me for one game,” she told Darcy honestly.  “Thirteen pounds, four shillings.”

Darcy took a sip of his wine before opening his purse and counting out the coins, rightly guessing that a ten pound note would be more of a hindrance to Bella than useful.  When he had apportioned the correct amount, Bella took out her own coin purse and produced the promissory note Wickham had given her and slipped it to Darcy.  “I don’t think you’ll ever see the worth of it,” she told him.

“No,” he agreed, placing it in his breast pocket after reading it.  “I’m certain that I shan’t.”  Then, “Do you dance?”

Surprised, Bella laughed and then realized, “You’re serious.”

“I would not have asked if I were not.”

Grasping everything she knew of 1811 England and its people, Bella carefully explained, “I’m afraid I do not have the benefit of a liberal education.”

Darcy, however, did not seem deterred.  “I should very much like to invite you to the Netherfield Ball—”

“But you are not Mr. Bingley!” Bella exclaimed.

“I am his guest,” Darcy explained, “and have the power to issue invitations.”

“I am not a lady,” Bella reminded him, taking in his green eyes desperately.  “I am told all the ladies should be wearing white—I have nothing in that color—”  She searched her mind for more excuses, but Darcy only regarded her steadily, as if all of her prevarications were meaningless.

“Do you have dark gray or black?” he asked carefully.  “A woman in mourning—for your father, for instance—would not be expected to dance.”

Bella did have several dresses in deep gray, but it was immaterial.  She was a professional gambler—and Mr. Darcy was looking at her quite openly and admiringly.  Bella could not quite account for it.  He was a gentleman and she was not a lady.

“I shall bring the invitation tomorrow,” he told her quite firmly, “and I beg the first two dances—for your company.”

She blinked at him several times, but realized he wouldn’t accept any of her excuses.

He leaned in and murmured, “There will be gaming tables,” which she realized, years later when she was Mrs. Isabella Darcy, had been the trump card.

The End.

Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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