If you've read many P&P fanfiction stories, you'll probably get the point. :-)

Elizabeth Bennet sat watching her sister sleep peacefully. Jane's condition was slowly improving, but it was likely to be a few days yet before they could leave Netherfield and return home.

She had planned to sleep in the chair in Jane's room, but she found that her mind was too much in agitation to allow her to rest, tossed between her concern for Jane's health and her irritation with the inhabitants of Netherfield (except for Mr. Bingley, of course). It occurred to her that some reading might distract her from these troubling thoughts and help her to find sleep.

Elizabeth was already in her nightclothes. She had not bothered to plait her hair, knowing that it was not likely to tangle, since she would be sleeping sitting upright, so her long dark locks hung freely down her back. After assuring herself, through a gentle touch to Jane's forehead, that the fever was not recurring, Elizabeth donned her robe, took a candle, and padded quietly down the stairs to the library.

She had reached her destination and begun to peruse the titles in Mr. Bingley's sparse collection when she heard a husky male voice – "Miss Elizabeth!"

She turned abruptly and saw, in the candlelight, the face of her unintended companion.

"Mr. Nicholls!", she exclaimed with delight.

The graying butler of Netherfield chuckled. "I should have known that if anyone would discover me here it would be you, Miss Lizzy!"

Elizabeth found a chair near to the man who had known her since her youth. "Do you often come to the library in the middle of the night, Nicholls?"

"I like to come here any time that I can. During the day I have so much work to do, of course. But sometimes at night I do come and spend a little time trying to improve my old mind. Histories are my favorites."

Elizabeth smiled. "I will leave you to your leisure, then."

"Please, Miss Lizzy, if you will give my regards to Miss Jane. I was told that she is getting better and I'm so happy to hear it."

"I will be sure to tell her that you are thinking of her. Good night, Nicholls." She gave him another affectionate smile, then rose to quickly select a book from the shelves and return to Jane's room.


The next morning, after a surprisingly refreshing sleep and time spent tending to Jane, Elizabeth set out for a long walk, grateful for any time she could spend away from the more vexing members of the Netherfield party. In the quiet of the gray morning, she put all thoughts of other people out of her mind as she walked the familiar paths alone.

Suddenly she heard in the distance the snorting of a horse and the sound of a man's cry of alarm and then of pain.

She rushed in the direction of the noise and came upon a horse whose rider had either fallen or been thrown off and was now struggling to get himself up from the grass.

"Sir! Do you need help?", Elizabeth cried out as she came closer and finally saw the face of the fallen man.

"Sir William!"

He was breathing heavily. "Good morning to you, Miss Eliza. Perhaps you could give me a hand up. Thank you."

Elizabeth helped him to his feet. He showed some signs of pain, but generally appeared to be well enough. "What happened, sir?"

He smiled sheepishly. "I am afraid I led my horse too close to that tree over there. I misjudged how low the branches hung. The branches didn't reach the horse, but I suddenly found my own face full of leaves. My struggling and flailing caused him to stop abruptly, and I lost my balance."

Elizabeth stayed with Sir William while he walked a bit to confirm that he was not badly injured. Presently, he remounted his horse.

"Miss Eliza, you won't . . . er . . ."

She smiled sweetly. "I will tell no one, sir. Good day."

"Good day," he said before riding off, at a careful pace, in the direction of Lucas Lodge.


Elizabeth continued her walk through the countryside. After some minutes, she began to feel drops of rain falling on her. It was a light rain and seemed unlikely to last long. She looked around for a temporary shelter and spotted a large tree, with leaves that hung almost to the ground, only a short distance away. She made her way to it and positioned herself underneath the thickest branches. She sighed with relief until a masculine "ahem" let her know that she was not alone.

She whirled around to see who was there with her. "Papa!", she cried.

"Good morning, Lizzy!", Mr. Bennet said. "I suppose you are surprised to see me out this morning. It's true that I am not usually much of a walker, but these days I find myself taking desperate measures to find a bit of peace. There hasn't been a word of sense spoken at Longbourn since you and Jane left. And your mother has now taken to barging into my study at all hours with prattling talk about ways that I can deepen my acquaintance with Mr. Bingley. It has become necessary to escape the house completely from time to time."

Elizabeth spoke to her father of Jane's health and of how wearisome most of her housemates were. Mr. Bennet, in turn, shared news of the latest happenings at Longbourn. The rain soon ended and they parted ways.


On returning to Netherfield, Elizabeth entered the breakfast room and found Mr. Bingley, Miss Bingley, and the Hursts all seated at the table. She sat down as well, finding her desire for a meal to be stronger than her annoyance at the catty remarks that Caroline immediately launched into.

Eventually, Mr. Darcy came downstairs. Miss Bingley exclaimed, "Mr. Darcy, at last we see you! Did you go out for a ride this morning?"

"No, actually, I have been in my room until now. I find that it is the only place where I can be assured of having solitude."

At this, Elizabeth joined the conversation. "While you and I rarely agree on anything, Mr. Darcy, you are quite right on that point. It seems that anywhere one goes in hopes of being alone, one is likely to run into other people at the most unexpected times. But I must say that those unplanned encounters can often be quite pleasant."

Mr. Darcy stared at her and raised an eyebrow. Elizabeth stifled an exasperated sigh. Insufferable man.

That's it. A just-for-fun one-shot. The idea is that this could have happened without changing anything in the canonical story. So everything from there on continues like usual.