Harlequin's Slash Fic

Remembering / Forgetting

Title: Remembering / Forgetting
Author: Julien
Universe: Pride & Prejudice
Characters featured: Darcy/Bingley
Category, Word count: Short story; 1896 words
Rating: R (but rather mild)
Summary: Darcy can’t admit it, but he wants to forget Elizabeth Bennet just as much as he wants his friend to forget Jane. As a distraction, he remembers (and then recreates) his attraction to Bingley during their Cambridge years.
Notes: This piece takes place soon after Bingley leaves Netherfield for London on a business trip; Darcy and Bingley’s sisters follow him the next day, determined to end his attachment to Jane Bennet. I wrote it after watching the 1995 BBC series, but it’s applicable to any incarnation of the universe. While I wrote the two pieces years apart, this works as a prequel to Skirmishes.
First published: 22 April 2004 in Homosapien 7

 

Remembering / Forgetting

 

Darcy had rescued Bingley from Bingley’s sisters, and brought him back to the privacy and relative peace of Darcy’s rooms. The discussion, however, continued. Darcy remained adamant, despite frustration at his lack of progress; Bingley was still clinging desperately to hope.

Finally – ‘She doesn’t love you!’ Darcy thundered, at his wits’ end. ‘Don’t you see that? If no other argument will convince you to withdraw, then at least pay attention to this! I can understand why you’d subject yourself to such a mother–in–law if Miss Bennet really cared for you, but she doesn’t!’

‘She does,’ cried poor Bingley; ‘I was so sure that she did.’

‘No more than she cares for anyone else, I am positive of it.’

Bingley sank to a chair, apparently sorting through all his memories and finding them capable of a disheartening new interpretation. ‘You’re right, of course,’ he eventually murmured. ‘Jane is – I mean, Miss Bennet is the most amiable person I’ve ever met, as well as the most beautiful. What do I have to recommend myself to such a woman? I was mistaken – I wanted her to feel more, and I convinced myself that she did.’

Having finally won his point, Darcy abruptly started feeling as deflated as his friend. He wandered over to the window, and stared out of it, though he couldn’t say what was out there. As so often these days, he was haunted by the laughter and the wit in a certain pair of fine eyes. He could picture her before him now, Miss Elizabeth Bennet, cutting him down to size with one look both sharply satirical and strangely forgiving. Darcy had never met anyone quite like her …

‘I’ve never met anyone quite like her,’ Bingley said, ‘and I don’t think I ever shall again.’

Darcy turned to look at him, and saw Bingley’s genuine grief. The man’s heart had really been touched this time, Darcy was sure of it. Poor fool. ‘I’m sorry,’ Darcy said, voice unaccountably rough.

Bingley looked up at him, and then walked over, concern focussing his expression. ‘But, my dear friend, you mustn’t be so dejected on my account. You must trust that I will soon mend.’

‘Of course.’ Though why Darcy sounded doubtful, even he couldn’t explain.

‘You have saved me from committing myself to a terrible mistake. To have heard this truth from her lips, to have realised it from her face; that would have undone me. You are all goodness.’

Miss Elizabeth Bennet’s smile mocked Darcy for the hypocrite he was. ‘Please, Bingley, you give me too much credit.’

‘Charles,’ his friend corrected him, stepping closer still and talking softly. ‘You must still call me Charles when we are alone.’

‘Then, Charles, please –’

‘Yes, Fitzwilliam?’

Damn it, how could Darcy own that he himself was in much the same sorry situation? Though there was one difference in their tales – Bingley had genuinely fallen in love, while Darcy was … Darcy suspected that his feelings were of a somewhat baser nature.

‘What is it? What’s troubling you?’

And the problem with Miss Elizabeth Bennet certainly wasn’t her amiability or calm countenance, as it was with her elder sister. Quite the opposite. Darcy had never met a woman who managed to combine everything that was proper with everything that was playful … She promised all that was good in a wife, and all that was desirable in a lover. Even all that was necessary in a friend. Such complexities shouldn’t be allowed in one woman, for the sake of a man’s peace of mind.

‘Fitzwilliam!’

The worry on Bingley’s good–natured face recalled him to some semblance of sense. ‘We must forget,’ Darcy muttered. ‘We must both endeavour to forget.’

‘What is it that you should forget?’ Bingley asked.

Darcy sighed for his friend choosing that moment of all moments to be so perspicacious. ‘You must learn to forget her, Charles, and I will stand by you while you do so.’

Bingley immediately melted into a smile, full of gratitude for his friend though it was made piquant by wistfulness. ‘Of course,’ he said. And Bingley stepped closer still, and took Darcy into his arms.

After a moment Darcy found the resources with which to wrap his own arms around his friend, and for a while they held each other, there by the window. Bingley turned his head, pressed his face against Darcy’s throat, and murmured, ‘I think that I shall never marry.’

‘Nonsense,’ Darcy gently admonished him. ‘You’ve been in love before.’

‘And I might well be again,’ Bingley agreed. ‘But never like this.’

Darcy sighed. He knew that his friend was genuinely hurt by the knowledge of Miss Bennet’s indifference, but other, less noble concerns were insisting … ‘Bingley,’ he murmured, drawing the man away from the window and any potential witnesses to their embrace.

The two men didn’t part. Hidden away in the sanctuary of Darcy’s rooms, they remained each in the other’s arms. ‘Fitzwilliam,’ Bingley murmured, his breath whispering against Darcy’s skin. And he didn’t have to ask Do you remember …? because of course Darcy remembered. He remembered with an ache that made it seem like yesterday, that made it seem like today.

 

It had been years ago, on the night following the last class and the last examination before their graduation from Cambridge … Liberation beckoned them all, intoxicating with its promise, freedom from the strictures of learning; and yet, as well, they knew this was their last night of being young men sans the full responsibilities of careers and estates and families. That night, even Darcy had felt the lure of wine and camaraderie too strong to resist.

He and Bingley knew each other by sight, but had never been introduced before; while they had attended some of the same lectures over the years, they lived in different colleges, mixed in different circles. Though now it seemed as if they might have something in common.

Before the night’s celebrations were half over, he and Bingley found themselves hanging back, slipping into the shadows and letting the rest of the party continue without them. Darcy suspected their erstwhile companions would soon be seeking pursuits in which he couldn’t indulge with honour, and he assumed Bingley wanted to avoid that, too.

It certainly wasn’t that Darcy wasn’t hungry for such an encounter. The widow with whom he had, on occasion, kept company, had recently married a young tradesman from town – a decent match for a kind and generous woman. But it had been months since Darcy had had the pleasure.

Instead he invited this very amiable and very gentlemanly young man back to his rooms, not really expecting Bingley to agree. But he did. They shared another glass of wine, and conversation more insightful than any Darcy had had all year. Not only insightful, but profound – though perhaps that was an impression created as much by the wine as by anything else.

It had happened then. Darcy – who’d been unwilling to follow the other men to a brothel and indulge himself with a loose woman – instead found himself committing a worse sin with a man he’d thought of as possessing a sterling character … He could never afterwards recall quite how it began, how it was possible that it could have begun. It would have been easy to blame Bingley, but Darcy was never one to shirk responsibility. One moment they’d been standing together by the fireplace examining the miniatures on the mantelpiece – Darcy had turned to find Bingley closer than he’d anticipated – Bingley had appeared as startled as Darcy himself, Bingley’s eyes bright, his mouth moist with wine – and in the next moment they were kissing, and clumsily pushing and tugging each other towards Darcy’s bed. Brief blisses of hands and mouths, the pleasure as light and sparkling as the best champagne, everything perfect. Somehow Bingley didn’t even seem to conceive of the fact this should be sordid or difficult; instead it was friendly and sweet and golden; and falling asleep in Bingley’s arms afterwards was like discovering a home Darcy had never known.

Bingley wasn’t there in the morning when Darcy woke, still mostly dressed and definitely suffering from the wine.

Bingley’s discretion, his tact, was proved in that moment and in every moment thereafter. Given a choice, Darcy would have dropped the acquaintance altogether, but Bingley seemed intent on assuming a friendship. It was soon clear that Darcy need not fear a return of the illicit embraces they’d shared. In fact, Bingley was so scrupulous that it seemed there wasn’t even a secret to be kept, and there never had been. Pride and decorum trapped Darcy into a relationship he would have run from; soon enough the gratitude and trust that Bingley naturally inspired grew into genuine admiration. The young men of their acquaintance often commented on how unlikely a pair of friends they made, and all Darcy could do was demure. Such a thing was even more unlikely than anyone suspected, but the two of them quickly became the best of friends.

 

Of course Darcy remembered, though it had been a lifetime ago. And in this moment, there were so many other things that he wanted to forget. Maybe Bingley’s indulgence could distract him for long enough for his urgencies to fade. ‘Charles,’ he murmured – and their mouths were seeking each other’s, tentatively, blindly – then wilfully, hungrily.

 

‘You have ten times my consequence.’

Darcy sighed, feeling oddly melancholy. He answered Bingley with honesty: ‘And you have ten times my merit.’

‘I never understood why we were friends.’

‘I never did, either.’ Darcy knew well enough that without Bingley’s unassuming insistence all those years ago, he – Darcy – would never have had a best friend, or even any close friends. He didn’t have the ease of manners that Bingley did, the attractiveness of Bingley’s simple, decent nature. ‘You are far too good a man for me.’

Bingley let out a laugh, obviously surprised. ‘No, it is quite the opposite, I assure you.’

Darcy let the back of his fingers trail down that pale cheek, wondering at himself. Allowing himself to wallow in the luxury of this post–coital embrace. ‘What a ridiculous argument to be having,’ he commented.

‘Nobody would ever believe me,’ Bingley murmured, gazing up at him with those warm malt–scotch eyes, ‘if I told them how humble you actually are.’

Irritation rose within him. ‘And they would have better reason for their opinion than you for yours.’ Darcy turned away. But he didn’t leave the bed.

After a moment Bingley moved up behind him, wrapped Darcy up in a close embrace. If there were any barriers between them, they seemed as insubstantial as the thin cotton of Darcy’s undershirt. Bingley was sans clothes, sans shame. Darcy recognised a truth he hadn’t let himself see before – Bingley was really quite beautiful like this, wanton and undone.

The irritation was already melting away, leaving nothing but an empty yearning in its place. For Elizabeth Bennet; for Charles, perhaps; for the man Darcy knew he himself could never be.

Bingley murmured, ‘If you remember this, Fitzwilliam, then help me to forget … I know this can’t last for long between us, but help me to forget her.’

‘Yes,’ said Darcy. And he laid his own hand over Charles’, where it rested on his breast. ‘Yes, together we’ll forget.’

Subscribe to these comments

4 responses to “Remembering / Forgetting”

  1. avatar slw2004 says:

    *smile* I really liked this.

  2. avatar Allis says:

    A shame that so few Pride and Prejudice slash can be found on the Net, but this is quite the best story on the subject I’ve read so far (I haven’t read your other entry yet though^^). You exactly met my expectations. Thanks :)

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Thank you so much! :-D Of course when one is trying to live up to Austen – or at least not embarrass oneself too badly by the comparison – it’s nervous times. I’m delighted to hear that this story worked for you. I hope you also enjoy the other, though they were written years apart, so all bets are off!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *