Summary: Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth and Darcy reunite on a plane that crashes an hour after take-off a year and a half after their break up. The modern equivalent of Elizabeth and Darcy meeting after Hunsford. OOC, modern AU
A/N: Happy new year! I hope you've had a safer time travelling than my two heroes are about to be. As always, if you have subscribed because of Twilight please feel free to ignore my foray into the world of Pride and Prejudice. (Although I will be incredibly happy to have you here, of course.)
by Anton M.
Chapter 1: Impact
"33E? At the very back, Miss. Have a nice flight."
Elizabeth waited after wailing children, earbud-wearing teenagers and frequent fliers, most of who were filled with relief and impatience after an hour's delay. Letting go of her carry-on, she forced a tired smile at a particularly snail-paced woman, but when an opening cleared the aisle, Elizabeth nearly knocked over a gentleman with her forty-pound suitcase.
A brown-haired, pleasant-looking man rubbed his elbow.
"I'm terribly sorry, sir."
He came to her aid when she struggled to lift her bag to the overhead compartment, and she had no choice but to express her gratitude. His smile was filled with charm.
"Are you a geologist?"
"You appear to have stolen all the rocks in China."
Elizabeth smiled but didn't reply. Between her and her seat sat a man whose neck was protected by a giant scarf, immersed in Nature. She tapped his shoulder, but when dark eyes locked with hers, she took a step back.
Imposing build, strong jaw-line and equally severe eyebrows made the man look stricter than he was, and while Elizabeth had thought of the man often, she'd never thought she'd see him again.
Doctor Fitzwilliam Darcy.
He opened his mouth, but no words came out. His nose was red, and the clearing of his throat revealed a cough. As if in slow motion, he stood up and avoided her eyes.
"Elizabeth," he whispered, folding the magazine in his hands when he stepped out of the way. "I can request another seat if sitting next to me makes you uncomfortable."
Her heart ached for the man.
"No." She sat down. "It's quite all right."
Indecisive, Darcy stood, staring at his chair until a coughing fit hit him. When he sat, he put his magazine in the pocket by his knees and intertwined his fingers in his lap. His thumbs started circling each other.
"I have Advil and Tylenol, if you'd like some."
His eyes firmly in his lap, he said, "I have codeine and penicillin, thank you."
Leaning back, Darcy shut his eyes. Elizabeth couldn't help but feel responsible for some of his discomfort. He ran his palms up and down his thighs as the captain greeted the passengers, and Elizabeth couldn't help but wonder why a man like Darcy would not fly in first class.
"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board China Northern Airlines Flight 9122 from Beijing to Montreal. We apologise for the delay. The flight will last 12 hours and 55 minutes, and our arrival is now scheduled at 12:05 PM local time at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport. Please follow instructions given by the crew. I wish you a pleasant journey."
She pursed her lips in a smile as a girl, perhaps 12 or 13, sat on her right.
Brushing her hand against Darcy's forearm, she gathered her courage and said, "I owe you an apology."
His palms stopped rubbing his thigh as his eyes popped open.
"You have nothing to apologise for."
The plane turned and started moving toward the runway as the crew started showing how to buckle seat belts and react to oxygen masks.
Darcy's pursed lips emphasised the severity of his features, and she couldn't help but feel tenderness for the man who guarded his vulnerability so valiantly.
"I was arrogant enough to assume that you could feel for me what I felt for you," he said in his hoarse, near-cough voice. He rubbed his chest, over his tie. "I've learned my lesson."
"No," she argued. "I made so many mistakes—"
He shut his eyes. "If we're counting, I'm sure I'd win."
"You helped to pay for my mother's surgery when she wasn't bothered to get insured in the US. If my family knew you were the one who saved her—"
"—they would be eternally grateful, as am I." She bit her lip, pondering. "I've wanted to tell you this for months. You're a hard man to get a hold of."
"You were not supposed to know."
"I'm glad that I do."
"I don't want your gratitude."
"Yet you have it."
He turned away his face, his jaw and lips hidden in his scarf, and she could not help but feel a surge of clarity and affection. His sharp words disguised his admirable traits, and she'd had two years to digest his proposal. She had been misguided by her own insecurities and his pride, but his actions toward her mother, a woman he despised, revealed a man worth more than any she'd met before—or after. She noticed the tense he'd used to describe his feelings, and she had no right to hope that he'd hold a candle for her after everything that transpired between them.
Elizabeth was a bit taken aback by her affection and worry for his health, but it could not be helped. He hid his character too well, and now that she knew of it, she could neither dismiss his silence nor his sharpness.
Playing with the plastic around her overpriced water bottle, she asked, "Do you think we could be friends?"
"I don't think that's a good idea."
His rejection stung, but she could not fault him for his words.
"I understand," she replied, wishing to reach over and squeeze his arm to show how much his help meant to her. But she couldn't.
The plane took off. Darcy sat, palms on his thighs and eyes shut. A bead of sweat had started to cover his forehead, and Elizabeth wondered if it was caused by fever or fear of flying. She took off one earbud to hear the captain when the seat belt lights were switched off.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we have now gained an altitude of 35,000 feet or ten and a half kilometres. The weather is nearly windless, but we might brush past a storm just before Alaska. We do not expect anything extreme, but for your own safety, please pay attention to the seat belt signs. Food will be served in three hours. I wish you a pleasant flight."
Darcy shivered as he struggled to cover himself with his blanket, but he didn't open his eyes. She unfolded her own blanket, laid it on top of him, and held out her pillow.
"Darcy," she whispered.
He blinked at her. Sitting up, he started to peel away her blanket from his, but she squeezed his wrist.
"Please. You have every right to hate me, but I'm not a monster. You're sick. Let me help."
His eyes were unfocused. Sighing, he accepted a second pillow before reclining his seat.
"I have to take penicillin an hour after takeoff," he said. "What time is it?"
"It's quarter after one."
She caught the attention of a flight attendant and asked for water. She would've shared hers, but Darcy wouldn't have agreed to share his germs. If it weren't for his illness, she would've asked what caused him to fly economy, or to fly at all in his state, but he shut his eyes and she covered him with another extra blanket that she got from a stewardess. She wrapped arms around her knees, feeling chilly, and listened to music. The distant buzz of flying and flickering touch screens prevented her from sleeping, but she was happy to keep an eye on Darcy. She'd flown with a runny, clogged nose. It was painful.
When food was served, Elizabeth squeezed Darcy's arm to see if he was up for it, but he swallowed his painkillers and shut his eyes. She felt for him.
The seat belt signs flickered. A rumble shook the plane. She shut her eyes to focus on her music but the plane jerked. A stewardess hit the ceiling, and a man fell headfirst against the corner of the lavatory. People screamed. Oxygen masks opened. Elizabeth didn't realise she had clutched on to Darcy's hand before he squeezed it, looking at her with sick but alert eyes. She put on her own mask before helping Darcy with his. He coughed into it. The girl next to her was gasping for air, and Elizabeth helped her, too. It distracted her from the bubbling panic.
Life, suddenly, felt infinitely precious, and she couldn't accept death. She didn't want to. She thought of her silly but smart sisters and her eldest expecting her first child with her boyfriend. She thought of her parents. She regretted the brutal words she and Darcy had exchanged, two years ago. It all flashed in her mind, an aimless kaleidoscope of emotions and pictures. She was terrified.
The shouts felt distant but the crying went through her bones. They were no longer nosediving but descending at a speed that wouldn't allow for a safe landing. She could feel it in the barest feeling of floating, and after locking eyes with Darcy, she knew that he shared her thoughts. He wrapped both of his hands around hers, breathing heavily but staring at her, maybe willing for her to stay with him without losing her mind. Without him, she might've been screaming like everyone else.
"Brace for impact."
The voice was alien, like another entity, and she recognised that the captain had spoken other words she hadn't registered. Darcy put his arm on her back, nudging her forward, and she squeezed his thigh. A blast echoed in her ears just as freezing cold knocked the breath out of her. The plane shook, cracking, circling, but she could not see or hear or feel anything but the freezing prickling in her lungs and Darcy's hand in hers. Her head bumped against the seat in front of her as the motion stopped.
Silence, unlike anything she'd experienced before, followed.