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Double Pride, Double Trouble

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“Darcy! Get off her this instant!”

Everyone froze. Two bodies, just a second ago entwined on the soft surface, went rigid.

“Get. Off. Her. Now.”

The trainer’s voice was ice calm.

Darcy sprung up and stood to the side, trying to dust the worst dirt off the colorful t-shirt.

“Get up, lass” the other trainer drawled and helped Bennet up. “Now, we’ll go to the camp consuelor and she’ll sort you out.”

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Written by Srebrna

2014/04/07 at 12:51

Manners

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“So this is the famous good breeding and proper manners that are so important in the Town?” she asked, both brows high on her forehead. “I’m so happy we don’t have these in the country. We wouldn’t know what to do with such a treasure.”

He stifled a giggle and made a choking sound.

“How terrible, Mr Darcy! You are already ill of it, I’m quite sure!”

“Thank you, Miss Elizabeth, but I’m quite well. However I’d like to see some members of the ton reacting to your statement. I’m almost certain the spectacle would be… interesting.”

“Oh, la, sir” she waved her imagined handkerchief and rolled her eyes heavenwards. “I’m perfectly aware of my status as a poor, unsophisticated small-town girl – practically a country savage! I’ve actually walked on an unpaved path at least once and most probably got sunburnt doing it! All town ladies would eat me for breakfast with their accomplishments, education and vast knowledge of topics most suitable for morning visit discussions.”

He executed a slight bow in her direction.

“I would however place my bet on you – if any bets were placed on ladies in situations such as these – to be able to survive any conversation on good walking shoes, ways to evade unruly horses and which trees are the best cover from rain.”

She blushed so hotly he could well nigh feel the wave of warmth coming from her.

“Please, Mr Darcy. These are hardly the topics for a proper morning visit in the Town. They aren’t even quite proper for a visit in the country, especially if one’s mother is sitting in on said visit and making various remarks about the fate that awaits the girls who climb trees.”

“So you also climbed trees, how interesting. Which kinds?”

“Mr Darcy! I’m not going to discuss the theory and practice of climbing trees in the middle of the park!”

“Would you rather discuss it in the middle of a drawing room?” he frowned in mock non-understanding. “I have not the pleasure of comprehending your unwillingness in this subject.”

She closed her eyes for a second, making the face of a person praying for patience.

“I’d rather not discuss my few painful and traumatic – at least to my mother – attempts at climbing trees with anyone and at any time or place. I’d rather not discuss the state of my dresses afterwards, either. Or the talking to I received from my father on each of these occasions. Or the one time that I managed to fell down a particularly tall chestnut tree and land on young Tom Lucas who was standing there and shouting encouragements all the time.”

“Ah” he inhaled slowly. “Did you break anything?”

“Yes. His left ankle.”

“Ah. Did it hurt?”

“From the way he screamed, a lot. He was, however, a rather plump boy, so my landing was soft.”

“May I inquire as to your age at that time?”

She stretched her gloved palms and counted silently.

“We must have both been about seven or so.”

“Did he keep accompanying you on other excursions?”

“I’m afraid sir William thought I was a bad example to his heir and he sent him away to school as soon as the ankle healed. That was the only way to make sure we won’t come into any contact before we’re both quite grown up.”

He smirked and looked down at the top of her bonnet.

“I’m finding such astonishing new things about you, I’m quite scared of the idea of introducing you to my sister. She’s but fifteen and could probably happily climb numerous trees in our gardens, had she ever had this kind of idea. I may want to keep the two of you separated so that she doesn’t get too… well. Just thinking about the cost of gowns she could shred to nothing if she took to climbing pines…” he shuddered theatrically.

She sighed.

“What can I do? You’re already committed to accompanying me to the dinner at your aunt’s tomorrow, and your sister will certainly be there. We will have to speak a little, and as we’ve already ascertained, I’m unable to keep to the correct topics. So I will either be absolutely dull and speak about weather in Hertfordshire as compared to the, most probably, superior weather in Derbyshire, or we’ll stray into the dangerous subjects of walking the stony paths and getting our dresses muddy.”

He smiled, unseen by her. Quite happily. She was holding his heart in her slender palm, not even knowing it. From the moment he almost run her over with his horse and she told him off so soundly he almost fell from his saddle, he admired her wit and vivacity and willingness to experience life in all its aspects. Their paths crossed again and again, as he met her ruining her parasol to fish someone’s purse from stinking river water and that someone turned out to be his own aunt Theresa, or when she snatched the last copy of a book he was looking for and paid for it before he managed to protest. He followed her, begging to let him buy the book off her, even for double or triple price, until she was joined by an older couple who looked at him with visible surprise – and a bit of apprehension, even though she was laughing all the time.

He felt like a fool. He was talked about in the Town and he hated the feeling, but he couldn’t help himself and keep away from her. Her relations in trade, her position in life, everything should have helped him to rein in the feeling of being pulled towards her, but every time he thought about them, they seemed somehow unimportant. His aunt was all for the match, as Elisabeth made her recall her own young years in her family’s estate. His uncle kept wisely silent on the topic, probably recalling the same. His cousins… He didn’t care what they thought. He thought she was perfect and this small walk in the park only made him even more sure, especially watching her trade barbs with some of the fashionable wannabe-Mrs-Darcys that accosted her just before he arrived.

“Mr Darcy?”

“Pardon?” he blinked and came out of his reverie. “I’m so sorry, I was just a bit lost in thought.”

“As long as we don’t get lost in the park, I’m quite happy” she smirked. “I was thinking about manners and wanted to consult with you, you having much more experience in the way the Town works in these matters.”

“Anything I can do to help. I’m yours to command.”

She tapped her lips with a finger.

“I was trying to work out the proper way for a lady to determine whether a gentleman’s intentions towards her are serious or not. Is there a savoir-faire solution for this kind of quandry?”

Written by Srebrna

2014/02/05 at 02:08

Medical Care – 1

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A/N A story that is totally disconnected from all other ones, a multi-crossover. At the moment it is not finished and I’m not sure I’m going to finish it anytime soon, I’m afraid. So I’m posting this as it is, and will be adding parts as they come to me.

The mountains were awful. The weather was terrible. He hated snow, he hated wind and he hated this stupid little town with some stupid name he couldn’t even remember. He had to breathe. In, out, in, out. Getting angry will not help Elizabeth. The midwife. They said she lived in the middle of the town in a big, fancy house. So here he was, in the middle of the town, but the most fancy thing he could see was a snowflake on his own eyelash. He stomped to get some feeling back into his toes and started to circle the marketplace.Finally, after passing by several town offices and smaller houses, he came across something that the locals could probably call “fancy”. He knocked on the door…

…and was now seated on a big, overstuffed chair, with a mad-looking cat salivating at him from the top of the table, and the old biddy of a midwife wrapping herself in layers and layers of shawls and coats. Finally, as she fastened a fur cloak on her shoulders, he stood up with a sigh of relief.

“One more thing, young man.” She turned back to the mantlepiece and took a little, delicately-carved eggtimer. “One never know when some time may be useful.”

He looked at her with bewildered eyes.

“Are you sure you are up to the task?”

“I’m the best one around here” she smiled, looking as if a winter apple smiled. “Actually, I’m the only midwife around here.”

He swallowed. Elizabeth was in trouble. Big trouble.

“Oh, so maybe you want a second opinion?”

“But you said…”

“I’m the only midwife. We have this doctor, or so he calls himself. A medic, he says. Noone wants to deal with him, but in time, they will get used to it. He is not from around here, you see.”

She pulled on her boots with visible effort and motioned for one of the young women to tie her shoelaces.

“Daughters in law” she smiled. “Good for such things.”

He followed her outside.

“So, lad, do you want the second opinion? You would feel better with a man doing… this?”

“If you think he may be useful… I can cover all his costs.”

“I’m sure a good dinner in the inn will be enough for him. So, we go. But not be worried and not be surprised. He isn’t as many others. He is a bit out of his place” ‘And time’ she added mentally.

He sure was. Fitzwilliam Darcy was a tolerant, open and curious man. He had seen a black man before, but a black medic, and a bit crazy one himself was way too much for him.

“I don’t bite, I don’t kick, I’m civilized.” the strange man was apparently used to such stares. “If you have someone ill at home, I can go with you and try to help. I don’t promise it will work. These primitive conditions…” he stopped.

Fitzwilliam Darcy could certainly sympathise. Primitive they were, to be sure.

“Actually, it’s not an illness in itself. My wife has gone into labor an hour ago and I just found a midwife, and she was so gracious to show me your abode. Would you accompany us and try to help? It’s our first child and Elizabeth is absolutely terrified…”

“As are you, yes, I see that. I will go with you – I have nothing better to do today, after all. Nobody comes here.”

As they fought against wind, trying to reach the inn where the Darcys were lodged, Stephen – because the black medic gave only his name – asked him quite a lot of questions regarding the pregnancy, the dates, even going into such intimate details that Fitzwilliam felt rather ill at ease.

“I’m sure my wife, or her maid, may answer you more specifically.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I’ll ask her, if she is still in a somewhat communicative mood.”

The walked back to the inn, old woman chattering merrily, producing large amounts of smoke from her pipe and making saucy remarks, which reminded him of his mother-in-law (and this was not a good thought, as he could only begin to imagine the dressing-down he would receive as soon as the woman understands she had missed the birth of her first grandchild). He fixed his overcoat and held it closer, observing his other companion quietly. The black man was wearing a weird, tight-fitting outfit that couldn’t be doing much to keep him warm.

“Aren’t you cold… doctor?” he asked finally.

“What? No, not at all” white smile in the dark face. “My uniform is prepared especially for harsh weather.”

“This is… a uniform? Are you an army doctor?” he asked incredously.

“In a way” the medic sighed. “I shouldn’t tell you too much, sorry. I don’t want to seem rude…”

“My cousin is a military man. I understand the need for secrecy. But… an uniform like this? Most soldiers I know would not look at it twice.”

“Oh, I get it. You mean a dress uniform? Colours, shiny metal plates, medals and distinctions? This one is for everyday use.”

“Our soldiers use civilian clothing off-duty.”

“So do we. But one can be on duty and not on official business. Or any dress-uniform kind of business. And this one is more practical. More freedom of movement, easier to get rid of stains – and I tell you, as a doctor, I’m practically covered with various kinds of dirt after a day of work – does not stand out too much. And is much lighter than my dress uniform. Easier to pack, too.”

“I see.”

They walked in silence, when he dared to venture a question.

“Do you… do you have any experience with…” he was lost for words.

“Midwifery? Some. My instructors made sure I could cover for any kind of specialist in case of… if I was the only medic present.”

“But this is not an area- what I would expect- as an army doctor?”

“I’m sure even your military units have some women. No?”

He choked. What?

“I mean, officers wifes and so. They do travel with their husbands, don’t they?”

“Yes, usually. Although I suspect that any colonel’s wife who finds herself expecting settles down in a safe place – like her or his parent’s house – for the time needed…”

“Unlike gen-um wifes who travel the country in winter” interjected the midwife. “Now very wise, mind you. She should be sittin’ in her own home, fireplace and all, with servants to fetch the midwife, and not you by yourself.”

“We expected this to be next month.” he murmured through clenched teeth.

“So either you can’t count to thirty or we should hurry up, because the little one is early” she picked up a brisker pace. “As you look e-doo-cay-ted, I think the little one is the problem. Would you walk a little faster, you two?”

As they finally arrived at the inn, the innkeeper looked at them with fearful eyes.

“Your wife, sir…”

“What of her?” the gentelman barked sharply. Then he breathed deeply and closed his eyes. “What of her?” he repeated in a calmer voice, laced with the tiniest bit of respect and courtesy.

“She… She sent one of the maids to search for a doctor. She screamed and repeated that… I probably shouldn’t…”

“Say it, man” he sighed.

“She screamed that she is not going to wait for you to pull the stick out of your… and get to talk to the midwife. And that you can go to hell as this is all your fault. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t you worry, boy” the old midwife patted his shoulder, unwrapping herself from the many layers of woolen scarfs. “They scream all kinds of things, want to go to a convent, want you to go to one, want their mum or want to die. It’s pain talking. After a while they forget and you are their own darling husband again, no worries. Now, take me… us to her” she patted his arm again, smiling.

He straightened his back, nodded and led them to the only suite of rooms the inn possessed – and he paid dearly for it as soon as they had became snowed in in this backwater, God-forsaken place. On entering the miniature parlour they found it surprisingly occupied by three people of rather unusual appearance.

Young woman in a dark dress was not so unsettling – even though her hair was not done up as the propriety demanded – as her neighbour. Pretty blonde in her mid-twenties, dressed in light blue trousers and shamelessly small blouse – or vest – with all the signs of advanced pregnancy blatantly displayed. This being her extended belly over the hem of her trousers. Their third companion was male, dressed in sober brown suit of a rather outlandish cut, emphasising his slight, wiry built. All three were watching the left bedroom door with concern.

“Who are you?” he asked wearily. “And what are you doing in this parlour?”

“Parlour!” exclaimed softly the man. “That’s the word I’ve been looking for. Thank you, sir” he bowed, rising slightly. “As to what we are doing here – we are waiting for our friend to finish examining your pretty wife, as we were quite concerned for her health.”

One man. Two women. That means…

“She is in there alone with a strange man?” he uttered.

“Do you think we are stupid and left your wife with a man? In a state she is in?” the girl in the dress spat. “Martha is in there and is taking good care of your wife which you have left alone, to go for a stroll. Coming back finally, are you? Well, I wouldn’t be so sure that she ever lets you near her again.”

“For your information, miss, I have been sent by her, to fetch a midwife. Which I have done. Your ‘Martha’ – is she a midwife?”

“No” answered the blonde. “She’s a doctor.”

For some reason all three of them smiled widely.

“She travels with us and oversees my pregnancy.” she added seriously. “I’m quite sure that she will have more problems with me than she could ever have with your wife.”

He sat stiffly and the midwife followed suit. The black doctor positioned himself beside the window and took off his jacket, uncovering stark white, high collared shirt with some markings on the shoulders.

“Oh, you are military!” exclaimed the blonde in a voice which eerily reminded him of his sisters-in-law. “What unit? What army?”

“Navy…” the medic caught himself. “I cannot tell.”

“Oh, come oon…” mock-whined the second girl. “We can see you’re not from around here, you can see we are neither. Spill.”

“He should not hear” the medic indicated their host. “And I don’t think I should bend our rules even in these conditions.”

“It’s good you have rules, but from what I managed to see, we already have an information leak. Or will have if we explain to this good sir what is happening with his wife and heir. And we should, if this whole situation is to be solved” the man in the suit rose and strode towards the left door. “Martha, dear? Everything going well?”

Someone answered in a muffled voice.

“If I send Donna inside, would it be any help? There is the local midwife here, too, maybe she could help?”

The door opened a bit.

“The midwife? Come in, the mother here needs some support. Talk to her. I’m afraid she is a bit overwhelmed.”

As the elderly lady entered the room, the ‘Martha, dear’ exited it, stripping some weird, elastic gloves from her hands and shaking her black hair out.

Fitzwilliam Darcy was a tolerant, open and curious man, but a black female medic did it for him.

“Now, you all sit down and I want some answers. Who are you people? Why are you all sitting here and what… What was she doing to my wife?” he uttered slowly, almost coldly. He was on the verge of nervous collapse, but he had to keep his wits about him if his wife was to deliver safely. Even if it meant cooperating with this… motley crew.

“I was checking the progress of the birth” she answered simply. “As it begun prematurely – I would say, three weeks early – I was anxious as to the rapidity of the process. But everything seems to be going smoothly, or as smoothly as the situation of giving birth allows. There was one problem on the way, but it was solved as soon as it was diagnosed.”

“A problem?” he repeated quietly.

“It seems…” the man in suit begun, but stopped suddenly and walked towards the fireplace. “It seems, from our observations, that someone was attempting to hurt your wife and child. More than once. Wait!” he prevented Mr Darcy from rising. “It has been treated. Fixed. It has been…”

“Healed” finished the blonde.

“Yes, thank you. It has been healed. There are ways… There are ways in which a child is positioned in the mother’s body. The most common is with the head down, or forwards. Stay, wait. I know, it is not something you would like to learn, being a gentleman of means and all, but you must. If you want to know what happened. Please, sit down. Yes. So, the child is facing down, everything goes well, the delivery happens, the child is whole and sound. This is the ideal scenario. The less-than-ideal, but still bearable, is with his – or hers – seat down. It is harder on the mother, and really hard for the first-time mothers. But, still, doable” here he paused and touched the blonde’s shoulder. “I… we did some research on this subject lately, you see. Now, there is also an option which is, at this point of time, not good. To tell the truth, in most, cases, fatal. If the child is lying on the back. And this was the situation here. It was. It isn’t anymore.” He breathed deeply and caressed the girl’s arm again. “As soon as we were… as we arrived, Rose here almost forced us to seek shelter in this inn. As we heard about an expecting mother enduring much pain and on the probable brink of delivery, we offered her any help we could render. Rose made sure your wife understood that we are conscious of the delicacy of the situation, as she is herself in the same state, I, on the other hand, could not be so comforting. As we entered the parlour here and your wife… As I saw her…” he paused to breathe. “I could see something is not… occurring as it should. As a doctor” here all three girls smiled – yet again “I could only asses that either there was a natural problem with delivery or that an artificial obstacle had been introduced by someone from outside. Martha has some experience with such matters and she confirmed that the situation had been arranged by someone. Did you ever notice that you have became snowed in here, miles from any larger town, with one elderly midwife to assist you – if you manage to find her – and in a situation where the help of one village midwife would certainly not be enough?”

Mr Darcy nodded with grim face.

“This is what awakened our suspicions. And I have to tell you, this is one fine mess we found ourselves in. Because, I need to ask, what is the year now?”

“1814” said Fitzwilliam Darcy immediately.

“Donna? Martha?”

“2010” they both answered.

“Rose?”

“2012. Or 2010, yes.”

“Stephen?”

The black medic swallowed.

“It is 2275.”

“And… excuse me” he opened the door a crack. “What is your name, madame?”

“You may call me Nanny. Now, lie on your side, that’s a good girl…”

“So, Nanny. What is the year now?”

“Why, the Year of the Swallowing Horse, of course” she smiled at him and… winked?

“So, you see, Mr Darcy. We cannot agree on what year it is, and most certainly, we are all quite normal. Mostly normal. Let’s check if we can agree on the place, what say you?”

After proving to the expectant father that they were indeed in an undefined place – but probably in the Ramtop mountains somewhere, probably near Lancre, as the only local person – the midwife – was most stubborn about this – they moved to the explanations.

“For some reason, someone interfered with your child’s safety. It has been turned in your wife’s body so that it was lying in the most unfortunate position. And the delivery has been forced, just so that you knew, by the same person. We still don’t know who, why and how, but it has been reversed. Now the birth should progress in the normal way and in the span of – I’d say – ten hours tops you should have your heir.”

“What would they – whoever it was – achieve by this?”

The younger man pursed his lips.

“Your child would not survive. You wife neither. If, by any chance, she managed to live, she would never be able to carry to term again and even an attempt – conceiving and… well, anything in this area could be lethal to her. In short, someone wanted to ensure that you, Fitzwilliam Darcy, would be unable to produce your legal heir with your wife, Elizabeth.”

“Who could have had the means? What would have been needed?”

“I would say that it would necessitate the use of at least the same kind instruments we have at our disposal, if not more advanced. It would call for imagination, trickery and rather high level of animosity towards both of you. In short, it would mean an enemy with access to technology at least two hundred years ahead of your point in time.”

“But you have such technology.”

“Ah, yes. And my friends here gave you the year they feel is now. So you see, we actually are from this point of time. I’d say, it would call for one of my kind, with the same knowledge, to start this process. As I am the last of my kind, or rather, last but one” his hand again caressed the blonde’s shoulder. “I would bet that it was someone even further on. 2080, this is the year they make some breakthroughs.”

“Or a Time Agent” added Donna.

“Yes, or a Time Agent, which would make our lives even more interesting. Well, now I have told you everything I know. Ah, not everything. You see, we travel in time. But in a way, we are drawn to certain… problems in the history when other time-travelling entities try to make trouble. Our… our means of transport has a kind of sensor which is set to catch any kind of time-altering activity. If we follow the signal, we became locked into the stream of events. As we have gathered here people from at least three different times, not counting you and your wife, of course, it means that the birth – or death – of your child would influence greatly some part of the universe. And we were drawn here to rectify the situation and help your heir to be born. Now, do you wish to see your wife? Martha, could you check if madame Nanny has done everything she could for Mrs Darcy?”

They sat in the parlour, looking at the fire, as Martha emerged from the birthing room with a worried face. She whispered something into the blonde’s ear and her friend replaced her immediately beside Elizabeth’s bed.

“Sir? Mr Darcy?” Martha lowered herself to the seat next to him.

“Yes, madame?”

“Your wife is asking for you. I must warn you, she is very weak. Terribly. It… This process of turning the child, both ways, had taken its toll on her. She is half-conscious. If you could go there and… support her somehow, I’d try to find a way to provide her with more strength. She does not keep her food down and I don’t think giving her any more injections would not be more harmful than helpful.”

“I’ll go. Thank you.”

She looked at his retreating back and shook her head in wonder.

“Excuse me, miss…”

“Doctor Jones, if you don’t mind.”

“Certainly. I could not help overhearing your conversation here and I would like to offer my help” at her curious stare he shrugged. “Your… your friend here stated you were drawn here for a purpose, yes? So maybe I have my purpose here, too.”

“And this would be?”

His smile glimmered.

“This would be the most treasured medical secret of Earth Alliance” he reached into his duffle and pulled out a weird, wired contraption.

“And it is?”

“A life energy transmitter and transformator. With additional safeguards to keep the donor alive.”

“You mean… you could lend her some of your lifeforce?”

“Give. As we have checked, no way to give it back, at least not immediately” he seemed pensive. “But there are four of us in good health – I wouldn’t recommend using it on your pregnant friend there – and we could support Mrs Darcy in turns.”

“You sure it works?” she licked her lips unconsciously. “This may be a breakthrough…”

“Yes, it works. And no, I can’t give it to you. I have no idea why I’m stuck here, maybe I’m waiting for something else to happen, so I can’t lose this” he patted the side of the contraption. “Also, it should stay in my timeline.”

Suited man looked at him appreciatively.

“I like a time traveller who knows his paradoxes.”

Stephen regarded him for a moment calmly and then turned to his newly-found colleague.

“So, what say you?”

“I say aye” she smiled crookedly. “Not that I have any alternative method of helping her.”

The old midwife entered the parlour and sent Martha a scathing look.

“You gave her sumit for pain, didn’t you? Stupid girls. They think a mother can’t stand the pain by herself and look what good it did – the lassie may now bleed herself to death before the lil’one appears. Fat lots of good, I say. I know, I know. She was scared, you were scared…”

“I was not scared, madame” Martha answered curtly. “She was scared, in pain and her heart was going to fail if I didn’t give her something. It was over twelve hours ago, it is certified not to prolong the labour and it was vital for her to get it. She would be dead by now otherwise. Now, Stephen. Can we proceed?”

As soon as Elizabeth was arranged to be covered enough for the propriety to be satisfied and Martha convinced her to stay calm, the machine was placed on the night table and her left arm was hooked to it.

“Now, Rose, you are not going to participate in this. We don’t know what would be the reaction and frankly, I don’t wish to have two labours on my hands – sorry for the bad pun – so stay on the other side and talk to Elizabeth. Stephen, I’ll go as the first donor, as I think it would be wise to have you at the controls. Right?”

Martha sat down, next to the bed and put her hand into the energy rings.

“I’ll set it for 10%. It was the setting we mainly used when experimenting with the machine. Sometimes we went as high as 75%, especially when the risk was high and time for recovery short. Now we want only to support the lady here and we don’t know if it affects the child, so…”

The warm sensation running up and down her arm surprised Martha at first, but then she found them quite interesting. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was sitting rigid and scared as the light went on around her wrist and elbow.

“How did you come to be here?” she leaned back on a couch next to him.

“No idea. I just got off a heli from the London spaceport and voila, here I am.”

“Why did you have this” she pointed to the alien machine “with you? Do you carry military secrets with you as a norm?”

He frowned.

“I was going to a medical conference – top secret, hush-hush, no outsiders. We were going to show this to the main medical minds of Earth. But as soon as I stepped off the heli, I didn’t even manage to get my main bag out, and bzzt, here I am. In the middle of a busy town square in the middle of the winter, instead of nice, summer day on Cardiff Plass.”

Martha blinked.

“Cardiff, you say? 2275? Was there a security escort of some kind?”

Stephen rubbed his eyes.

“Of course there was. After all, it was a secret military-medicine operation. There were some guys from local alien-detection service… one of them tried to hit on me” he added with a bit of bemusement. “Why?”

“Nothing… just, was he, like, pretty? Doll-like pretty?”

“Yeah. Tall, blue eyes, all militar-y. And all his men called him ‘Captain’. You know him?”

She smiled, finally.

“Yup. Rose!” she called to the blonde. “Apparently Jack makes it to 2275 without change. It gives us what?”

“Donna is still in, I’m out. I bet on until 2248. You’re still in, but remember about the conditions.”

“Very well” she grinned to Stephen. “We placed bets on how long he is going to make like this.”

Stephen blinked.

“What?”

“He’s immortal. Well, not exactly. But nobody yet managed to kill him.”

“How long…?”

“Since around middle nineteenth century, or something like this. Rose there went a bit overboard with saving his life and locked him in one state forever.”

“Would you be able to explain me how the hell she did that? And why is the man not in military, government or espionage?”

“He is in civil service. As you witnessed. Being in public would make him too visible and people would start to notice. Espionage is… also part of what he does.”

“What does he do?”

“Guards the rift in time and space. Conveniently placed in Cardiff. You must have been hit by a spot of activity. I think chances are high you’ll meet him as soon as Doctor sends you back. Tell him we say hi.”

 

Cardiff, April 18th, 2275

“Martha says ‘hi'” Stephen watched the tall man from behing the bars. “Now, let me the hell out. I have a conference to attend.”

“Nu-ugh” Jack Harkness smiled at him sweetly. “Not for two more days. You’re landing up there in two days and three hours and you don’t want anyone seeing you before, now do you?”

He blinked.

“That’s what I thought. Now. Pizza, or Chinese?”

 

London, August 1897

Delia Darcy – she hated the alliteration, but could do absolutely nothing about it – was whining. Her farther had already given up and hid himself in his library, but her mother was made of much harder stuff. And she wasn’t giving up. Delia was not going driving around Hyde Park with James Tyler, whatever she said.

Delia so was going to. James – Jimmy – had the most marvelous new open carriage, with his own improvements implemented in the springing of it and conveniently furnished with several additional comforts, like a small heating stove under the seat or special holder for gloves.

Jimmy Tyler was the sweetest, most absent-minded young man Delia has ever seen. She determined he needed some management in the area of dress – someone should tell him and his father that the XIX century was just finishing, not starting, and that full Regency evening clothes were not so fashionable anymore – and in punctuality. Otherwise, he managed quite well himself, including the question of money. His improvements, inventions and clever gadgets sold pretty well and he made quite a number of special commissions for nobles and wealthy of London, which brought him to the salons (although as more of a curiosity to be shown off than a honored guest). This way the second daughter of Laurent Darcy (of Pemberley) had met the young inventor on one of the social functions of her second Season. She immediately felt she could be the one to take care of this specimen of masculine handsomeness (he was most definitely easy on the eyes).

However, her parents weren’t so happy about it. She even understood – their difference of birth, her dowry and his lack of base capital, his employment and lack of social life… BUT! He was so nice. And so gallant in explaining to her all the little complicated details of his inventions. Delia was well-versed in behaving as if she was overwhelmingly interested and completely understanding what was being shown to her, but here she didn’t have to pretend. She actually understood all his explanations and his sheer enthusiasm for all things mechanical somehow infected her, too.

Now all she wanted was to sit in his wonderful, comfy carriage and drive a bit. Mother didn’t have to know that this would be actually Delia driving, did she now?

Finally, her mother gave up, too. Delia had perfected her whining skills on her siblings – her mother had no chance.

The ride itself ended in Delia taking the reins and driving herself the nice carriage. Which included driving it into the pond, when the horses got spooked by something on the lane. Which itself led to some amount of indecent exposure, awkward embraces, public compromitation and forced marriage. None of the main participants of the ceremony had the slightest thought about putting up a resistance.

 

Not Pegasus Galaxy

He felt lost. At one moment, he was pushing the gurney to the infirmary, next thing he felt was an explosion and now he was here, in a middle of a small town, which itself seemed to be in the middle of bloody nowhere.

He was standing there, in his scrubs, with a small cache of medical appliances still in his hands and pockets, and he was shivering.

Finally, after a few minutes, he gave up waiting for a divine intervention and strode in a random direction, hoping to find some shelter. He could always trade his tools or his services for food and heat.
No sooner had he made this decision than he had a man, tall, well built man, barrel into him, running at full speed.

“I’m sorry, sir” he uttered “I have to catch someone… DOCTOR! Come back, DOCTOR!” he shouted, entering the main town square. “Oh, damnation. DOCTOR!”

“Lad, I’m a doctor. Maybe I can help you?”

The man turned to him, as if seeing him for the first time.

“Another one? Very well, please, follow me. My wife…” he inhaled deeply of the cold air and started coughing. “I’m sorry. My wife, she just gave birth. A doctor – a few of them – were assisting her. They said everything looked well, but now she’s bleeding and the innkeeper’s wife says it’s not good. Can you help?”

He closed his eyes for a moment. This struck so close to home.

“I will. Lead on, lad.”

The inn was warm and smelled of cooked cabbage. Somewhat homey. The innkeeper’s wife was sitting next to a young, dark-haired lady, lying in the middle of a large bed.

Next to it, some quite out-of-place items were scattered on the table and a newborn was crying in a crib.

“Very well. Please, madam, go prepare a large pot of tea. Quickly. And a bowl of warm water. Me fingers went stiff from the cold and I don’t want to hurt the poor lady anymore. Now, lass” he sat next to the bed and looked at her closely. “What happened to you?”

“I’ll explain” the tall gentleman removed his greatcoat, uncovering a slightly rumpled and stained shirt under it. “After the last few hours, I’d rather get to the most important parts without additional ceremonies. My name is Fitzwilliam Darcy and we’ve been through a hell of an evening today…”

He localized the spot that was bleeding, managed to fix the wound and stop the hemorrhaging. Fortunately, the elderly owner’s wife was a keen observer and alerted young father quite early as to her suspicions. The mother didn’t lose too much blood, as it would have been impossible to give her a transfusion there.

Now he was checking up the baby, listening at the same time to the Regency gentleman telling him an outlandish story of time travelers, aliens, strange medics – especially a female medic! – and weird happenings around the place.

“My lad, weird is in my job description. If you saw a female medic, you still haven’t seen everything. The place where I came from, they have a human population that didn’t come from Earth. I’m an Earther, yes. But them, they were born of different ancestors. I’ll tell you, lad” he patted the large man’s shoulder. “Be happy to live in your times. Risky. Hungry. Wars, famines, bandits and slow transport. But you still get to think only about your house, your property or, at the most, about your country. Me and my colleagues, we have to think planet-wide. Or, sometimes, humanity-wide. Which, I tell you, is not the same thing. And we are tired of it.”

He knew the man wouldn’t tell. After all, nobody would have believed him, and if he insisted – well, Bedlam would have earned a new patient.

“Please, doctor. Take at least my jacket” Mr Darcy insisted, walking him to the door. “You must be cold in this…”

“Coat. Yes, thank you. I’ll have a look, maybe someone is searching for me – somehow” he sighed. “I dearly hope so.”

“I do, too. And again, thank you… you saved Elizabeth’s life.”

“All in a day’s work.”

The town square was silent and empty. Except for a terribly out-of-place, blue telephone box. And a redhead standing in front of it, tapping her foot impatiently.

“Hurry up, will ya? We’ve been freezing our butts off here for some time already. Yes, now we know what happened, but you helped and we were really in a hurry, because Rose’s gone into her labour and the kid should supposedly be born onboard. So come on in, we’ll give you a lift. To whenever it is you should go.”

Atlantis team had never been more happy than on the day they found out that Carson Becket had indeed survived the explosion. The arrival and leaving of strange travelers went almost unnoticed, except for Ronon bowing deeply to the skinny, suited man and uttering some words of greeting in what he explained was the traditional central satedan language.

“What did you say?” Shepard joined him, as the blue box shifted in and out of reality, disappearing quickly.

“I welcome you and bow to you, o lonely traveler” Ronon said calmly. “That is what our elders taught us to say when we see him.”

“See who? The guy with the hair?”

Ronon eyed him calmly.

“Last time he was seen in my area, he was older and dressed differently. Has no importance. It was him. I know it.”

Shepard shook his head.

“You’re crazy.”

“Oh, yeah. But the Oncoming Storm is the craziness embodied. I’m honoured to meet him. Every Satedan would have been.”

England, 1856

“Nonna…”

Elizabeth eyed Giovanna suspiciously.

“You’re using that tone again, my child.”

Her granddaughter’s golden-brown eyes opened widely and innocently.

“And you’re overdoing that look.”

“But, Nonna…”

“Giovanna.”

Twenty-year-old flopped limply on the setee, carefully keeping her shoes away from the daisy-printed pillows.

Giovanna Victoria Balistieri, the seventh grandchild of Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy, made an attractive picture, despite her disheveled look and theatrically sad set of her lips.

“Giovanna!”

“But, Nonna! I want to marry him!”

Suddenly Elizabeth put down her book and regarded the girl carefully.

“Marry who, my dear? Neither Mary Anne nor your father mentioned anything to me.”

“Because they didn’t know” she sighed. “I told them only this morning.”

Elizabeth pursed her lips.

“Are you… in trouble?”

“Nonna! I may be half-Italian, but I’m still half-British!”

Elizabeth sighed. Anytime Giovanna did something not-quite-in-line with what the general public would do, someone came back to the old ‘it’s all because of her Italian blood’. Not that these social accidents really happened that much more often than other girls could account for, but the general consensus was that if only Giovanna wouldn’t have been half Italian (and what was her mother thinking!) she would have been a perfectly nice girl with good manners.

“Giovanna, I don’t give two pence for your whining about this newest bout of conflict with your dear parents. Tell me everything in order.”

Giovanna finally sat straight. Her shoulders pulled back, her fingers torturing a handkerchief in her lap and her eyes firmly on these fingers, she told her ‘Nonna’ about Samuel. Samuel Beckett, a Scot. Scottish merchant. Scottish wool and linen merchant of high standing. About meeting him at the modiste, where he was checking on the materials’ delivery and she was checking on her dress’ progress. About striking a conversation on the general topic of textile trade, her having a great-grand-uncle in the same trade and him being the third generation. About various following occasions, when he passed by her, bowing slightly, with his hat raised minutely and his smile, ooh, that smile…

“And he’s a prefect gentleman. He wants to talk to Papa, but Papa said he does not want to talk to him. So it turns out that I have a suitor, who has declared himself and has settlement papers in hand and my father, who is supposedly a nobleman, does not even think about meeting him.”

Have a Nice Life, Mr Darcy

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“My family?” she raised her brows in question.

“Yes! For one thing, your mother. Always talking. And she sticks to people as if she was covered with super-glue. And does not know when to be quiet and stop babbling about money. Or rank. And is so… so… obnoxiously flattering. I could not move because she was all the time looking at me, talking to me, asking me some inane questions about tea or cake or dinner, and I thought I would never be able to swallow even a bit of this chicken after she described the smallest details of how it was prepared. I… I can’t stand this noise! She babbled about my money – all the time – and about Charles’ money and about how good it would be to have such nice suitors for her daughters… she invited us for dinner and just didn’t want to hear about our previous plans!”

“I see.”

“And I just… I just don’t understand how you and Jane can be her daughters. Aren’t you adopted or something?”

Her face went white for a moment, making all her freckles to stand out.

“No, thank you for the compliment. How nice to know you consider my mother a twit. I gather you prefer other type of parents…?”

“Of course. Quiet, dignified…”

“Yes. So someone who is always talking – quietly – about others, not letting them be and sticking her nose into every conversation, be it public or private, who talks about rank and money, all the time comparing one people to other, who asks questions only to override the answers with her own opinion, who oversees others’ lives in detail, starting from the number of children they should have to the brand of birdseed for their canary, who talks about rich fiancés for her daughter and niece and who does not even accept the fact that others can have different opinion, or their own, unconnected plans, is much better?”

It was now his turn to stare at her in astonishment.

“Who…”

“And I suppose the fact that I talked back to your Aunt is something you would view as a proof that I’m indeed my mother’s daughter, yes?”

“Why, yes! You were abominably rude, in fact, that was the moment I was pretty sure I don’t want to ask you out.”

Her eyes flashed angrily.

“Rude? I was rude because I told her it’s not her business whether I’m sleeping around or not? Because I told her I won’t let her know my salary? That I don’t care for her advice about “appropriate, economical make of car for poor office girls”? I was rude??”

“Well, you were a guest in her house!”

“As you were a guest in my mother’s house, and I didn’t see you behaving any better! In fact, you were downright awful when you told my mother you won’t sit where she suggested and that you don’t take your tea with milk. I know she is not the most polished host around, but you know what? She intends her guests to feel comfortable and that’s why she behaves so – she doesn’t know how to do it otherwise. Your esteemed Aunt Cattie only means for her guests to feel worse and she is simply the best in this. And you know what else? If you feel Jane and I are adopted – well, I think nobody would make a mistake and take you for an adopted nephew. I wonder that people don’t take you for her son! But I forgot! You will soon be her son – or did I mishear the boasting about you and Anne? And the pre-nup arrangements she wanted you to make? Well, I hope you are happy with your anorectic cousin – she will not marry you for money, nor for position and prestige. And you will surely produce good heirs to Darcy fortune, well-bred, well-brought up, dignified, poised and proper.”

She stood up from the table and threw a few bills on the table.

“Here, for my coffee. So that you didn’t feel taken advantage of. Have a nice life, Mr Darcy.”

“Elizabeth, wait! I don’t want to mary Anne. I want to marry you. If only you…”

“What? Were less outspoken? Had a star career at a corporation instead of being independent? Or bowed and curtsied every time your family honours me with their presence and attention?”

“No! But could you slow down… like, calm a bit?”

“Would I be able to work at my agency?”

“No way! It would be absolutely unseemly!”

“To go for vacation fishing at my grandpa’s lake?”

“If any newspaper got even a sniff of this…”

“Walk out in jeans? Go jogging without bodyguards? Stay in bed until noon?”

He closed his eyes.

“So, basically, you love me, you want me to be attentive to your family, to cut my ties with my family, to change my lifestyle to suit yours, give up my job and take another under your command and, additionally, sleep in your bed and be available?”

He swallowed hard.

“If so, I have an ideal candidate for you. Obedient, flexible, in awe of your family, appropriately trained in bowing, is able to dress for official occasion if directed by an authority. Only the sleeping arrangements may be a problem, but you would probably get used to it, after all, every other ‘pro’ is in place.”

He inhaled, but stayed silent.

“The only person who could have something against is Charlotte. I don’t think she would be supportive of Bill hooking up with you…”

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/29 at 14:27

Story of Anne and George

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“Their wasn’t a love match, mind you” he added, standing aside and letting her view the painting at leisure.

“But… Mrs Reynolds said more than once that they loved each other dearly!” she protested, astonished.

“Oh, they did, for sure. But they didn’t marry for love. They were just good friends. Their families knew each other for quite a some time, they met at social events and gatherings at common acquaintances. They knew each other since they were ten, or something similar.”

“But… why then?”

“My Mother was set up.”

The snow behind the window sparkled in the candlelight.

“It is a rather unusual description of the situation, I should say. Usually it is a pair that is set up, isn’t it? As you say, not a love match, she was not set up by your Father…? It would mean they were both set up?”

“Yes, certainly, usually both sides are – if none of them is willing… But in this case, Maman was set up to be compromised by another man. Papa just happened to be in the vicinity… Have you seen his portrait, over there? Commissioned just before the whole affair.”

She took his hand as he led her down the row of the exhibits.

“Here. He was one-and-twenty, and loved betting. But his father – my grandfather – was absolutely against betting on horses, cock-fights or other sport like this. So my father and his friends invented a new, and completely socially acceptable venue – they started to bet on information. So one day they are in this great society event, some ball or other, in a great manor of some relatives, and they make a bet with his friends about, as far as I remember, the distance from Dublin to Gibraltar. One friend run hastily to find a seaman among the guests, as there were several soldiers and sea captains present, but my father dashed to the library. As soon as he made it, he locked the door – this is the important part – and run to find the atlas and some means of measure. He run across the huge room, absolutely ignoring the fact that there is a half-sleeping – and also half-undressed – lady on one of the settees.”

Her eyes were wide in the half-darkness of the Great Gallery, as he led her to the next portrait, that of a smiling, handsome young woman of about nineteen.

“Mother, commissioned before, but painted during the engagement time. Well, Mother was lying there, completely and absolutely without consciousness, as she has been set up, indeed. One of… One of her friends – so-called friends – was jealous of her. This was Mother’s first season and she was receiving quite a number of invitations and lots of attention. Male attention, of course. So this… This friend, let me keep her calling that, but remember – she didn’t wish my Mother well – this friend found a gentlemen – again, so-called gentlemen – eager to ‘compromise’ the young débutante and acquire her with her sizeable dowry.”

He sighed and held her hand tighter.

“This friend, as viscous as she was, wasn’t particularly bright. She got my Mother inebriated by the means of some doctored wine, placed her in the library, undressed her partly and left her there in search of the appointed man. Unfortunately for her, he managed to get just a little bit too much in his cups and instead of being cooperative, he became… teasing. So he didn’t want to listen to her and most certainly didn’t want to follow her to the library. Now was the moment when my Father made his run upstairs to the library and locked himself there with the poor, completely drunk Lady Anne Fitzwilliam. He run straight to the shelf where the needed books could be found, he pulled an atlas, with great vigour, you understand… and half a shelf of other, leather-and-wood bound books fell on him, mainly on his head, knocking him out.”

He waited for an appreciative sigh and exclamation, nodded and pointed at yet another painting.

“They both, together, before the wedding. At this time all wedding paintings simply had to contain at least one pigeon. Awful creatures, I say, but fashion must be followed. So, now we have a pretty situation – a drunk débutante, an unconscious young man – a bit dishevelled at it, as he had run through the whole house – and an elderly lecher pounding at the door and demanding to have them opened immediately, as he has an appointment inside – he finally understood what was wanted of him, you see. Nobody could find the main key – it was inside, used to lock the door – and nobody dared to use force, as the owner of the manor was also not to be found for quite some time.

“Finally they obtained the permission to use a crowbar and several footmen against the door and as soon as they used the whole set, the friend of my Mother’s came in, wailing about her losing her reputation and, oh, Lord Netrim, you simply must marryher. Lord Netrim was by far more wise than he was moral and he saw no gain for himself in the situation, so he promptly rejected the claim, stating that he stood at the door all the time, with four footmen, and he never saw the young Lady’s exposed flesh. So the friend looked frantically about the room – afraid that if someone asks too many questions, my Mother may remember who gave her the last glass of wine – and saw my father, trying to pick himself up after the onslaught of the geography books. He found himself dragged across the room and placed in front of an almost unconscious girl – daughter of his father’s friend – and her still partly-exposed… values…” he smirked with a bit of embarrassment. “and literally forced to propose. He did so and was soon brought in front of both sets of parents. They immediately understood that the youngsters didn’t see each other and most certainly weren’t meeting clandestinely, but the damage was done, several footmen, the old Lord and some other guests heard or saw the whole proceedings… and my Mother’s dress’ shoulder failed in the middle of the proposal and exposed everything there was to be exposed.”

She covered her lips with her palm to stifle an unladylike sound which threatened to escape.

“So they got married after a month of engagement, moved ‘into the country’ as soon as all the shopping and business was finished and stayed there for a year – they were back for the end of the next Season. All gossip died by then and as my mother was neither showing any signs of pregnancy – indeed, any effect of the scandalous night would have been four months old by that time, and no effect showed at all – nobody cared how the marriage came about and they were looked at as an example of happy matrimony.”

“And what about the ‘friend’?”

“She got her comeuppance – her family was disgusted with her behaviour and they promised they will marry her to the first suitor that comes asking. As she managed to scare away most of eligible young men in the vicinity, finally the only bachelor left was older than her by some fifteen years, usually a bit drunk and without much patience for whims of a young, independent lady. He largely limited her freedom, made her stay at his country house for most of the year… managed to produce a heir and died in the fifth year of the marriage, of apoplexy.”

They stood in silence for some time, until she felt the need to move and started slowly walking back.

“Who told you the whole story?”

“My father. It was just after one of my university friends has been maneuvred into a marriage of an ugly girl of low social standing by ‘compromising’ her in the hallway. He thought I should know that the lady is not always a willing participant and that I should never lock myself in a library without checking all the sofas. Especially… Well, it should be enough if I say that I simply knew Maman never wanted me to marry Anne.”

She clung to his side.

“Do you mean to say that the elderly aristocrat this wicked friend married was sir…”

“Exactly. Sir Lewis De Bourgh. And now, by dearest, we should be back in your room, soon. The midwife said ‘a walk’ and not ‘a sightseeing trip of the whole house’!”

“I hope you saved some embarrassing family secrets for the next occasion.”

“I’m somehow sure that if I didn’t, Mrs Reynolds would invent something!”

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/24 at 20:55

Rejection

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A short story about Miss Elizabeth Bennet and what happened at a certain ball.

The sparks in her eyes, so seemingly impish and welcoming just a moment before were now the very flames of hell, as she removed her gloved hand from his grasp.

“You… you disgust me” she uttered, slowly. “How could you… How could you even think that I would accept you, how could you even dream of me, accepting such a… such an offer?”

Her voice trembled with carefully controlled rage as she smoothed her hair.

The ballroom around them halted, the musicians suddenly silent, only the waiter quietly put down a tray of glasses and the bell-like sound reverberated in the chamber.

“How could you expect… I don’t even believe you. I can’t believe my own ears, the very fact that you could have said these… these things! About my family, my father… and myself.”

She was breathing faster and faster, his eyes strayed from her face to her décolletage, which rose and fell dramatically.

“Maybe I missed something? Because somehow I do not remember being courted – well, maybe it is not correct to expect being courted in such a situation! But… I just can’t understand, how – in this situation, in our relative…”

She threw up her arms and he could only stop himself from salivating.

“But my situation in life… Your parents would agree!”

Her eyes narrowed and her hands landed firmly on her hips.

“My parents? Oh, I see. You have been talking to my mother! And what did you promise her? To support her properly after my father’s demise? To make sure she doesn’t have to change anything in her life? Or does she just want to ‘have a daughter safely settled?”

He swallowed. This was becoming a nightmare. He came here, with all the feeling of benevolence towards his distant relatives, to offer for this… this… And that was how she treated it? He couldn’t believe. She had to be playing at something. Probably read one romance too many and though that by refusing him…

“What… What were you exactly trying to gain by offering for me in this place?” she inhales and makes a general gesture around the room. “I know only one reason for making a respectable offer in such a situation – when a man is so in love and so certain of the woman that he knows she will not refuse him and that she will be honoured and moved by his actions.”

Well, she should have been honoured. Apparently the girl was too stupid to see that his superior connections and the benevolence…

“And I can imagine one situation when the intentions are not that honourable. When a man is trying to shame a lady into accepting him – he counts on her being unable to reject him, due to whatever reason – her parent’s pressure, the society judging her as a flirt or her being distracted enough by the setting to accept such an offer without thinking. Or he counts on her mercy and not wanting to make him look ridiculous in front of his peers.”

She took a step back.

“You, sir, however, took your chances with the wrong girl. I’m not merciful. I’m not frightened. My parents will not press me, as I suppose you didn’t consult your suit – if I can call it that – with my father. I have not been flirting with you and if anyone judges me so, I can easily give up their company until they regain their senses. And I’m not distracted enough to accept due to overindulging in wine. Unlike you, I drank only water.”

She shook her hands, as if trying to get rid of something dirty.

“You may think you’re respectable. You may think that with your connections, patrons and prospects you’re someone a young lady like me should accept. You’re wrong, sir.”

Elizabeth Bennet, seventeen, whirled around in her first grown-up gown and stalked away, leaving her coming-out ball, the Meryton assembly hall and a dumbfounded younger son of a baronet.

In her heart she swore to never, ever accept someone who doesn’t even let her know in advance that he thinks he is courting her.

It worked quite well for her in the coming years.

Written by Srebrna

2013/07/24 at 20:41