A Masked Meeting

AU: Inspired by the Masked Ball at the Jane Austen Festival in Bath 2013.

'Why had he let Bingley persuade him to go to this ball?' Fitzwilliam Darcy wondered as he entered the masque ball of Countess Blakeney's. He was dressed as a musketeer with a feather in his hat, a wide brimmed hat, with a long white feather on top, and his handsomest waistcoat and jacket in a dark green colour and a dark green, almost black mask, which covered from his eyes and down to just over his top lip.

He tried to spot Bingley through the masses of dressed up men and ladies, but his friend seemed to have disappeared.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, owner of Pemberley in Derbyshire never attended the yearly masque ball the Countess Blakeney held, even if it was famous for its mysteriousness and exclusivity.

At that moment, a young woman, in a dress which looked like it came from the 15th century tripped over the hem of the long dress, he held out a hand to steady her, and asked: "Are you well, Madame?" The woman replied without looking him in the eyes: "Yes, I thank you, Sire." "My name is…" he didn't get to finish before she interrupted him: "You are a cavalier, good sir. A musketeer I believe." He almost cracked a smile, and then noticed her eyes: they were deep brown, beautiful and laughing so like Miss Elizabeth Bennet`s. "Yes, I was trying to look like a musketeer but I believe I have failed since I forgot my sword. Who are you if I may ask?"

"Well, I was supposed to look like Queen Elizabeth I but I think that my friend was right, and look more like the notorious Anne Boleyn." She replied with a laugh. He laughed with her, as he knew all the rules of etiquette didn't exist at this ball.

He bowed and said: "May I hope you will favour me with a dance, Mistress Boleyn?" "I would consider it a pleasure, Sire." She replied.

First on the dance floor, which he normally hated, the orchestra played "Ginny's market" and Fitzwilliam Darcy danced with his mysterious young lady. Each time he looked into her eyes, he was reminded of Elizabeth Bennet, her eyes seemed so familiar, her colours, laughs; all sent his thoughts back to Hertfordshire. After three dances, which at any other occasion would have rumours of an engagement flying, he and "Mistress Boleyn" went out in a small garden for a walk. All his thoughts were on his interactions with Elizabeth in Hertfordshire and at Rosings – he had been bewitched body and soul by her.
But he could still remember the words she had spoken to him in Kent, "if you had behaved in a more gentlemanlike manner." which had set his world on its head.

"Who are you thinking of if I may ask you, Sire?"

"I was thinking of a woman whose acquaintance I made last year and you remind strongly of the woman I admire. You have the same fine eyes as her." Fitzwilliam confessed a little guilty of being inattentive to his partner.

"Do you care much for this woman?" she asked.

"…Yes…I do, I offered her my hand, and my heart…everything and she wanted nothing to do with me." He replied, he didn't know why he told this woman all this, but he did.

"I see… Why not try again? Or indulge your fantasy with me…I wouldn't mind." She kissed his cheek, and looked at him; he stood frozen for a moment. "Why did you?"

"I…I wanted to comfort you, you looked sad as you told about this woman, who you had lost your heart to. I just wanted you to smile since you, sir, have a wonderful smile." she replied.

Her innocent kiss on his cheek had started something akin to a fire in him, and before he knew what he was doing, he was cupping her cheek and kissed her with a passion. Her mask was removed and so was his, as they both kissed each other with abandon. Soon she retreated a bit, and said in a hurried tune of voice: "I have to go." and then she was gone. He ran after her, but she was gone, then he saw her mask on the floor just in front of his toes. He picked it up, and studied it – it was delicate and yet it was sturdy and it smelled like a flower.

He knew the smell of course, but couldn't place it…

The next day, he was invited to dine at the Campbell's.

Daniel Campbell had attended Cambridge with him. Daniel Campbell was married to Emily, who had lived outside of London with her family. In their four years long marriage, they had been blessed with 2 energetic but wonderful children. Daniel was also his cousin, fourth removed. He was greeted at the door by the butler who told him that Mr. Campbell was in his study. As he removed his outer coat and hat, Emily came down the stairs in the company of…

Elizabeth!

Emily said with a smile: "Fitzwilliam! Wonderful to see you, Daniel is waiting." He bowed and said: "Mrs. Campbell, you look lovely. Miss Elizabeth."

"Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth greeted and curtsied. "You know each other?" Emily asked, she sounded very intrigued.

"Yes, Emily. Mr. Darcy was a guest at Netherfield last autumn."

"Really?! You told us that you only were helping Mr. Bingley with his estate, Fitzwilliam." Emily accused. "Yes, I was visiting Mr. Bingley! And I was introduced to society at an assembly, and there I met Miss Elizabeth." Fitzwilliam replied.

Elizabeth smiled and said: "Well…so much for poetry being the food of love." Fitzwilliam said: "I thought you said that to recommend affection you had to dance?" "Yes, I did, Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth replied with an arch smile. A baby began crying, and Emily said: "Excuse me for a moment." and then she left to attend to the baby.

Just then he caught a bit of Elizabeth's perfume: Lavender!

"It was you!" he breathed out.

"You were not hard to recognise, Mr. Darcy." Elizabeth said as she raised one eyebrow.

"You… you played me! Why?" he said, a bit mortified.

"I… I only did it… well because I never thought that I would… see you again! Or experience… your touch again…being so close to you…" Elizabeth stammered as she explained.

He smiled and then pulled her into his arms, and kissed her passionately and tenderly on her pink lips.

As he stopped kissing her, he said in a tune full of love: "Elizabeth, marry me and make me the happiest man alive?"

"Yes!" Elizabeth breathed out.

At that precise moment when he kissed Elizabeth, his fiancée, Daniel came out and said: "I wondered where you were, William." And then saw the couple, who was kissing each other. Then Emily came down, and said: "That's enough! Darcy let go of my best friend!" As they stopped kissing, Fitzwilliam said with a smile to both Emily and Daniel: "All is well, Emily, we are engaged." Daniel asked surprised: "Since when?" Fitzwilliam pulled out his pocket watch and replied in a very serious tune of voice: "Since 2 minutes ago." Elizabeth laughed out loud and said: "Behave, Fitzwilliam!" Fitzwilliam glanced at Elizabeth, and smiled at her.

Emily said: "How come you are engaged, you sounded as if you were nothing more than acquaintances when I left you." Elizabeth blushed as she answered: "Well…we… we have a history." and looked at him. "A lot more than just last night…" he replied to her glance. Elizabeth blushed hotly anew and replied: "Yes…"

Daniel said: "Elizabeth, you left quite suddenly last night, what happened?" All four walked into the sitting room, and sat down. "I was… I suddenly had a headache, Daniel." Elizabeth explained. Fitzwilliam knew why she had left, he had kissed her.

He pulled the mask out of his coat pocket and said with a smirk: "I think you, my love, in your hurry to leave forgot something, Mistress Boleyn." Elizabeth blushed at his words in mortification. "You were the one who stole my mask." Elizabeth accused. "I did not steal it. You forgot it after our meeting, my dear."

"Please don't call me; my dear, Fitzwilliam!"

He turned to look at "his" Elizabeth and asked in a concerned voice: "Why?"

"Because it is what my father always calls my mother when he is cross about something." Elizabeth replied with half a smile. Emily and Daniel had been forgotten as the couple talked.

Fitzwilliam asked as he held her hands in his: "Then what endearments am I then allowed to use?" Elizabeth said and looked to think hard about it: "Well…let me think. Lizzie for everyday, my pearl for Sundays and goddess divine but only on very special occasions."

"And what am I to call you when I am cross? Mrs. Darcy?"

Elizabeth replied in outrage: "No!" but then her voice softened as she continued: "no, you may only call me, Mrs. Darcy when you are completely, perfectly and incandescently happy." Elizabeth finished with sparkling eyes as she looked at him. He looked at her with all the love he felt for her in his heart as he said: "Well, how are you this evening, Mrs. Darcy?" "Very well, but I am not "Mrs. Darcy" yet, Fitzwilliam." "You will be soon, my Elizabeth. What will you call me besides, Fitzwilliam, my love?"

"How about… William… maybe? Fitzwilliam of course, and one I know you will be happy about… my love." Elizabeth ended with a tender smile. He didn't dare believe his own ears, and said: "Say that again, Elizabeth!"

"Say what again, Fitzwilliam?" Elizabeth teased. He looked at her with a pleading look in his eyes, and she surrendered. "My love." Elizabeth cooed at him, and sent a tender smile at him. He still held her hands in his, as he said: "My love, it feels so good to hear you address me thus." and pressed a tender kiss to her chuckles.

Emily was holding her husband's hand as they silently watched Elizabeth and William talk and become on intimate terms with each other. Daniel then let his wife out so his cousin and his betrothed could get some privacy.

Fitzwilliam asked Elizabeth: "When can we go to Hertfordshire, so I can ask for your fathers blessing?" "2 days, since my visit ends then. William, I… what am I to say to my family? They will never believe me about you…our history!" Elizabeth asked worriedly.

William replied to his worried fiancée: "I believe we have to tell them the truth." He was serious but still worried about baring his life to his hopefully soon-to-be-in-laws. "All of it?!" Elizabeth asked as she studied his face for his reaction. William said in a determined tune of voice: "As much as possible."

"William, I can't do it… not the part about Georgianna! I can't do that to her! I can't do it unless I absolutely have to! You have spent the last 2 years hiding what almost happened to Georgianna, thanks to George Wickham." The name was almost spit out in disgust, as Elizabeth looked at William. He sighed and said: "I know all that, but at the moment we don't have a choice. We also might… have to tell about our meeting at the ball." Elizabeth's eyes widened and asked in a voice of disbelief: "You can't be serious, William!? My father will kill you on the spot if he knew that…we…you… we spent half a night dancing, and spent more than a quarter of an hour in each other's arms!" William was smiling at her flustered tune of voice and the shock on her face was making her look truly adorable. "We are engaged, Lizzie." He replied. "We weren't last night, William! And that simple statement will be enough for my father." "He will only have to tell me to marry you, and I will." William said in a serious tune of voice as he turned from his pacing he had started a few minutes before. Elizabeth said: "I don't want us to start our marriage with a scandal, like...Lydia. It will be bad enough that we kissed, and attended the masque."

He couldn't help himself, and chuckled, and said: "Elizabeth, we won't start our marriage with a scandal since there is no scandal! I am sorry that I could not stop Lydia and Wickham, but I did what I could." Elizabeth replied: "I know, you did everything! The Bennet's was saved thanks to you. But still the simple fact that we weren't engaged last night, will have my father angry."

Fitzwilliam said in a serious tune of voice: "Elizabeth, I agree that the kiss was wrong of us, but the masque was just a ball with masks. There wasn't the biggest difference between the masque and a normal ball, besides I could hide who I was to a certain point, else I know it was like normal balls, attended by the same people with the same narrow-minded opinions. Your father can't do anything bad to us. I think we have said and heard the worst from each other." Elizabeth said as she sighed: "You are right, William. We have said and done so many stupid things to each other, so what my father will say can't be as bad as my words at Rosings were." "I deserved them, Elizabeth! I was arrogant, and thought any woman would love to marry me because of my position, money, and name and I insulted everything you hold dear – when I claimed to love you! Your words made me change, especially your words about 'behaving in a more gentlemanlike manner' I shall never forget those words."

"Oh William! I am so ashamed of my behaviour back then!" "You have nothing to feel ashamed of; I would say it was my own fault." Elizabeth said: "No, William, I was at fault, I believed the words of a man I didn't know, and I accused you of being dishonest and mean, and in truth you were a better man than he, all the time." William said with half a smile: "Shall we agree we were both in error?" "Yes, I can agree with that at least." Elizabeth agreed. They talked for a few hours, also over dinner, where they discussed their preferences for their wedding; autumn or winter.

1 year later

It was the night of the masked ball, which was once again held by the Countess Blakeney. Fitzwilliam Darcy was attending the masked ball, again. He was dressed as a wealthy Russian noble, and he also wore a black mask which covered half his face, he hated this ball especially because of his history with the ball.

"Milord." A woman said from behind him, he was having a drink, he turned and saw a woman who was dressed as a noble woman from Russia, he was close to break into a smile, when he saw the familiar deep brown eyes, but he kept his façade up and said: "Yes, Madame, can I assist you?" The woman smiled and said: "I believe you, Sire, promised me a dance." "I believe I did." He replied. They went out on the dance floor and a waltz began playing. During the dance, the woman said: "I believe we must have some conversation, milord." "With pleasure, Madame, please advise me on what you would like most to hear." He replied. "That response will do for the present. Maybe by and by I may observe that private balls are much more pleasant than public ones." Fitzwilliam was fighting the urge to laugh, since he remembered the same conversation which had happened during the Netherfield ball 2 years earlier. "I agree with you, Madame, that private balls are much more pleasant than public ones." As the dance ended, Fitzwilliam guided his partner out into a small garden, he remembered well from the year before. He pulled the woman into his arms and said in a husky tune of voice: "You, Mrs. Darcy, are a teasing minx!" and then he proceeded to kiss her passionately. As they came up for air, and both masks taken off, Elizabeth Darcy replied: "You, Mr. Darcy are no better, agreeing with me just to tease me." "Yes, I did, I love to tease you. You did want us to act like last year." Fitzwilliam replied and kissed her again, as they stood in their embrace.

Yes, Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth had been married for a little less than a year, and were still deeply in love with each other and enjoyed the perks of being married. Especially their romantic meetings, and on this night, Elizabeth got her wish for another masked meeting, like they had had a year earlier, thanks to Daniel and Emily Campbell. Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam were not seen on the dance floor again for half an hour, as they proceeded with their meeting in the garden. As they re-entered the ball room with swollen lips, flustered and less than perfect hair and clothing askew, but with huge smiles on their lips, they were observed by Emily and Daniel Campbell, Emily said: "They are still deeply in love, and still terrible about hiding what they have been doing in the garden for the last half hour." Daniel said: "Very much so, my dear, but what I am glad to see is my cousin's smile. I am happy for him."

On the dance floor, Fitzwilliam whispered in his wife's ear: "I love you, Mrs. Darcy." "I love you, William." Elizabeth whispered back.

Epilogue:

Elizabeth and William were happily married for the rest of their days, where they enjoyed many romantic encounters both at Pemberley, and while they travelled, so they kept the romance alive in their marriage. And you may wonder what happened to Bingley? He returned to Jane, and Hertfordshire 2 days after Darcy got engaged to Elizabeth, and he asked Jane to marry him on the spot when he returned to Longbourn. Therefore Bingley and Fitzwilliam became brothers, married to sisters, who were very devoted to each other, their husbands and later their families. Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth got after only 15 months of being married their first of eight children: Daniel Bennet Darcy.

And of course they lived happily ever after.

The End.

Everything which is recognised is borrowed from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice"!