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The Library at Pemberley

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Prologue

The wedding was all joy and family and the occasional embarassment, as Fitz gently guided her mother away from a beleaugered Kitty. Jane could not look at her without crying, and Bingley blushed every time he looked at her. Charlotte seemed glad for her, though somewhat reserved and sad in a way that made Lizzie's heart ache. Overall, it was a joyous day filled with their loved ones, and they were glad to be done with it.

The disparity in their wealth caused a certain amount of gossip among the society pages. Despite her aloofness, many a suitor had sought the wealth of Pemberley and the hand of its elegant owner. Fitz Darcy wore her trousers well and tied her cravats with precision, and Caroline Bingley was not the only person at the wedding sporting a handkerchief and a broken heart.

Mrs. Bennet wished to visit her daughter and her wife as soon as possible; she was certain there were eligible suitors for Mary and Kitty in the neighborhood of Pemberley. As she no longer feared being left destitute when her husband died, Mrs. Bennet's nerves and matchmaking had relaxed considerably. Still, the Darcies longed for privacy before she descended enthusiastically upon their home and began hinting about grandchildren and suitable surrogates.

Fortunately, Mrs. Bennet was greatly occupied with her unwed children, particularly Kitty. Kitty had greatly admired Fitz's trousers and cravat, and firmly refused to meet London society in skirts. Mrs. Bennet was thus tasked with acquiring an entirely new wardrobe for Kitty before the Season. Mrs. Bennet could not be happier at the excuse to visit so many tailors, especially as she need no longer fret about economizing. Lizzie only hoped Kitty would be sensible in their choice of husband or wife, and not rush to outdo their sisters in wealth and status.

Lizzie suspected that her mother wished Kitty would follow the transition to breaches with a change in pronouns, name, and legal status. After all, a son would be allowed to inherit Longbourne. As Lizzie continually reminded her mother, it was Kitty's decision. Kitty may feel as Fitz did, and prefer to keep a blend of masculine and feminine characteristics. To break the entail, Kitty would have to give up any trace of femininity, even those they might value. Kitty deserved to choose for themself.

Mrs. Bennet huffed and promised to give Kitty space. Meanwhile, Lizzie and Fitz both extended an open invitation for Kitty to come to Pemberley. Privately, Lizzie was glad that Kitty had opted to stay first at Netherfield. She hoped to put off sharing Fitz with her relations until they had settled into their own routine.

Their honeymoon in the Lake District was divine, and included some rather enlightening wedding gifts from her wife. Yet as the time came for them to travel to Pemberley as a married couple, Elizabeth found herself filled a strange sense of dread.

* * *

"Has your sister been running the household, then?" Elizabeth asked in the carriage on the way back from their honeymoon in the Lake District.

"Hmm? Oh, the housekeeper Mrs. Cooper, does most of it, though I believe she has shown Georgiana what befits her station. I'll have her give you the keys tomorrow if you like," Fitz replied, running her hands through Lizzie's carefully tamed curls.

"Won't she mind?"

"It's not her job to mind or not," Fitz laughed, pulling her closer. "I'm sure she's just happy that I'm married at last."

Elizabeth pulled away, looking out the window. "Fitz, the last time I was at Pemberley, I was a member of the public given a paid tour by your housekeeper. I've never run a household of that size -- "

Fitz sighed. "Neither have I, much as my mother tried to teach me. It never interested me much. You know you don't have to do all of that, either. The housekeeper can take care of everything. She's very good at her job."

"If I'm not running the household, what would you have me do with myself?"

"Whatever you wish to do, Mrs. Darcy. You have options, but you do not have to manage the household."

"I won't be a burden on your staff, Fitz," Lizzie said firmly. "I will learn how the household is run."

Fitz sighed, wishing that the carriage was an appropriate place to proposition her wife. Perhaps she should consider investing in a more comfortable carriage, with curtains and plump cushions and doors that shut firmly. She wasn't just some young orphan raising a younger sister by herself anymore.

She slid her arm around Lizzie's waist, but her wife would have none of her flirtations. "Fitz! We need to talk about the household staff, not scandalize them."

"You are ruining my surprise."

"Surprise?" The corner of Lizzie's mouth quirked, though she sounded suspicious.

"I've had Georgiana prepare some rooms just for you. I...hope you like them."

"If they are in Pemberley, then how can I not?" Elizabeth replied.

The rest of the carriage ride they chatted about more amiable topics. Fitz resisted the urge to muss Lizzie's hair even further, and settled for enjoying the fine eyes studying her from across the carriage.

The new Mrs. Darcy's thoughts were less sanguine. She couldn't help thinking that as much as she was enjoying matrimony, she disliked being so beholden to anyone. It was true what her father had said after Fitz had rescued Lydia and her family's name from ruin: they could never hope to repay her.

Now that they were married, it was even more apparent. Fitz had insisted on paying for Lizzie's wedding gown, to spare her from Mrs. Bennet's tastes. For her part, Mrs. Bennet began to grow fonder of Fitz the more money she lavished on Lizzie, and the more she could boast of the match to her many acquaintances.

Fitz had even offered to pay Kitty's legal fees, if the young Bennet should decide to go through a legal name or gender change. "I always just felt happier in trousers and without such a very floral name, but I'm not a man. I know that. Kitty has to decide for themself. But I know how I feel if someone calls me by that very floral name, and I'm very glad I had a lawyer change it." She'd looked briefly haunted, and sighed. "I shouldn't let anyone suffer like that, least of all one of our relations."

Yet this generosity often did little more than remind Lizzie of the difference in their station. The expenses should have been borne by her own family, and Fitz's gifts began to feel like tiny debts piled higher and higher. The wedding contract, too, was more than generous; Fitz had insisted that Lizzie have an allowance more generous than her dowry should have dictated.

Though it was apparent Fitz enjoyed lavishing Lizzie with gifts, what could she hope to give Fitz in return? They loved each other, she knew. Their love had been tested. Yet she shivered, thinking of the bitterness of her parents' relationship when affection ran sour.

What if their happiness were all some delicate mirage, and it shattered when faced with the realities of married life?

* * *

To a gentleman's daughter whose estate was entailed away, 10,000 pounds per annum was an inconceivable amount of wealth. She had glimpsed its privileges before, from her trip to Pemberley to the cut of her wedding clothes. Yet as Fitz gave Elizabeth the family tour of Pemberley, she saw that the amount was more than she could truly comprehend: like trying to imagine how many drops of water there were in the ocean.

"I think you'll like this room in particular," Fitz said with a smile, opening a set of heavy oak double doors with gleaming brass locks to reveal an expansive library.

Elizabeth couldn't speak. She simply stood in the doorway and inhaled the smell of all those books as though she could smell the words on their pages. A beam of light from a large window filled the center of the room, and Elizabeth stood in it and slowly turned. The library was two levels, and had a spiral staircase in one corner leading to a balcony with yet more books. Elizabeth did not pause to examine the elaborate carvings made by some master craftsman on the stairs, nor did she pause by the delicately drawn atlas or the family Bible (which was sure to hold a treasure trove of information).

Brushing her fingers reverantly above the leather spines, she went to read the titles of the books closest to Fitz's desk by the window.

"What are you doing?" she chuckled.

"One can determine a great deal about a person by determining what types of books they read," Elizabeth quipped. "Are you reading *Wuthering Heights* or is that Georgiana?"

Fitz blushed momentarily before she recovered. "This...these books and papers are really for my business matters in London."

"*Jane Eyre* as well?" she said, reaching for another book. "I think Mr Rochester is -- "

"You won't get your surprise if you keep teasing me so," Fitz said, ushering Elizabeth from the library. She saw her placed the two books with care back beside the desk before leading her from the library.

* * *

Elizabeth smiled at Georgiana, for it was obvious her sister-in-law had worked very hard to decorate her late mother's sitting room to Elizabeth's liking. It did have a pleasing view down to the lake, and she saw with a smile that Fitz's portrait now adorned the wall. She sighed internally at the new pianoforte sitting in the corner, for she had rather hoped that she could dodge practicing the piano once she married. It might be worth it if Fitz watched her while she practiced.

The furniture was delicate, and had that distinct air of having been in the family for centuries yet still possessing modern sensibilities. There was a basket for her embroidery, and some very nice linen if she wished to start a new project. There was even a writing desk for her letters, so she would no longer have to rely on the small travel desk packed among her things.

Georgiana had ordered tea and a sizeable number of savories as well as sweets. As soon as the servants left, Elizabeth allowed pretenses to drop enough to consume her fair share of scones and the best of the little sandwiches while Fitz caught up with her sister.

She tried very hard not to let on how disappointed she was that there were no books in her room. Obviously, if she wished, she could simply borrow them from the library. It made sense that the books all be kept together. Her allowance was more than generous, enough for her to buy her own books. It was a delicious extravagance. She could simply order what she wished from a bookseller, or buy some in London. Perhaps she could get Fitz to read something other than the Bronte sisters, and whatever else lurked in that delectable room.

Her fingers itched to get back there.

"It's a very lovely room," Lizzie said.

"I wasn't sure what you wanted, exactly. I tried to make it welcoming, at least, so you'd have someplace to start. Of course you can change anything you like."

Lizzie pursed her lips, unsure how to express how strange it was to be mistress of such a large house that she had her very own parlor.

"I'm sorry, you must be tired from your journey," Georgiana said.

"Oh -- yes," Fitz said. "Your room adjoins this one, and er -- "

"I will go see Mrs. Cooper about supper," Georgiana said.

"Perhaps I should join you," Elizabeth said. "I need to learn the running of the house, after all."

"Not so soon after your journey, certainly." With a quick glance at Fitz and a curtsy to Lizzie, Georgiana hurried from the room.

"I meant to tell her to thank Cook for the scones," Elizabeth said. "They were divine."

"Elizabeth," Fitz said. "Your, uh, bedroom adjoins this one. It was my mother's. I thought you might want to decorate it yourself."

"Oh," she said as they entered, caught by the room's size and elegance.

Elizabeth reminded herself that she moved among a class of people where sharing a room with one's spouse was considered an oddity. Her parents had separate rooms once, before an abundance of daughters forced them to economize.

Fitz looked slightly crestfallen by her response, though she hid it by examining her gold pocketwatch. Lizzie caught Fitz's eye, and imitated Lady Catherine's tone and bearing. "What direction does this window face? It would seem a most inconvenient room for the afternoon!"

Fitz snorted, and Elizabeth raised an eyebrow at her. "I do not think I can stay here if there are not shelves in the closets."

"Never change," she said, eyes twinkling.

"I promise to always be impertinent," she said. The way Fitz was looking at her now was causing her body to flush, heat pulsing from between her legs. She had always been confused, before they were married, at the way her body grew flustered by these exchanges between them. Now she knew to enjoy the way Fitz confused her sensibilities.

As Fitz swept her up in a kiss, she felt as though the very air must crackle with the energy between them. The last few inns on their journey had been crowded, and despite Fitz's coin the beds had been thin and the walls thinner. Here they were, alone at last, with a very inviting bed behind them.

She nibbled Fitz's ear, eliciting a hiss of pleasure from her.

"How -- how did you like your surprise?"

*You want to talk now?* Lizzie thought with frustration, but pulled back reluctantly to answer her wife. "It's very lovely and cozy," she said. "Especially when I've brought some books in."

"What books?" Fitz said.

Lizzie stared at her wife for a moment in disbelief, the woman who so admired "great readers." A businesswoman who seemed to appreciate a wife that enjoyed getting her hems muddy, and all manner of things not considered properly feminine.

"Why Fitz, I intend to order some from London, but at the moment any I have not read will do. I've read all of the Bronte's books, but surely there is something in the library -- "

"Not the library," Fitz said. Lizzie must be hearing things.

"What?"

"The books in the library must remain in the library," she said. "It's a rule...from before my father's time. There are some very rare folios, and they're too valuable to have roaming the halls."

Elizabeth's heart stopped for a moment when Fitz said "rare folios," and she swore once they resolved this that she would explain to her wife, slowly, that she should have mentioned these folios when first she proposed. "They won't be roaming the halls. They'll be with me."

"You're welcome to read them in the library, as long as I'm not working at my desk -- "

Elizabeth gave a grunt of frustration and walked away from Fitz, the heat in her body suddenly gone. To have those books so near, in a house she was mistress of, and yet forbidden to her by this traitor of a woman was intolerable!

She would have expected it from someone like her father, or even Jane's Mr. Bingley. But Fitz! Lizzie enjoyed a wife in a well-fitted suit, but not if she carried the same assumptions about what was proper for a woman.

"Wife," she said slowly. "Did you or did you not say you admired a woman who was a great reader?"

"Well, yes, I do -- "

"I am a great reader, and to read I require books. At all times, not just when it is convenient to you." She congratulated herself on not throwing her from the room or storming out for a long walk in the rain.

Fitz gave her one of her looks, but she held firm. She tried to appeal to her with kisses, the kind she liked that trailed down the side of her neck, but it just irked her further.

"Fitz, I'm serious!" she said. "Books are important to me. They're -- they're like air. I'm sorry, but if you're not working now, then I need to go read for awhile *while I'm allowed*."

"Elizabeth -- "

She turned on her heel, somewhat breathlessly, and hurried as quickly as she could without running towards the treasure trove of a library.

* * *

Dinner was all awkwardness. Georgiana could tell something had occurred between her sister and her new bride, but was too polite to bring it up. Fitz fidgetted in her chair and glowered at Elizabeth, though she tried valiantly to answer Georgiana's questions when about their honeymoon.

Elizabeth Darcy was still caught in the world of the library and its wonders. It was such a gluttony of books she hadn't been able to choose one to read. She simply went through the room cooing at the books and touching their spines with reverence, occasionally taking one out and touching its pages with wonder. Such riches! Here Georgiana and Fitz sat, seemingly unaware of the sheer luxury that resided in their house.

Elizabeth had read every book in her father's house at least once. Fordyce's sermons she could only stomach once, though she made it through herself an entire time because it was new reading material. She lamented when Charlotte married, in part because they could no longer trade books. Though in truth Sir William Lucas rarely bought new books or allowed Charlotte money to buy them, and Elizabeth had read almost all of his library long before she was Lydia's age.

The written word had been Elizabeth's governess, best friend, confidante, and most trusted companion as soon as she learned to read. Though she would never say it aloud, at times she trusted books more than Jane. When her heart was at its greatest tumult regarding her feelings for Fitz, books had consoled her.

To have them forbidden to her would simply not do. Whatever her debt to Fitz, this was one she would not consider paying. It was not to be borne.

"Do you enjoy reading, Georgiana?" Elizabeth asked, interrupting with a non-sequitur. Fitz paused, wine glass partway to her lips.

"Yes, though I am not as well-read as you, I fear," she answered hesitantly.

"I find that very hard to believe," Mrs. Fitz replied. "When your sister values a well-read woman so, and you have such a large library at your disposal."

"Well I try not to interrupt Fitz when she's working," she said. "As that is where my sister's business papers are."

Mrs. Darcy stared pointedly at her wife, arching a brow. "But how are you to get a proper education without books?"

"Elizabeth, we will speak of this later," Fitz said. "This is between us."

"Surely Georgiana should have some hand in furthering her education, at her age? She has been running the household."

A part of Lizzie's brain knew that it was Fitz's pride that pushed her now, and she should allow her wife time. Yet her own sensibilities were offended by the idea that anyone should be locked away from those precious books, who seemed to her sad and neglected in their gilded home. She had whispered to them that she would visit them often and make sure they were looked after.

Georgiana looked frantically between the two of them, and Elizabeth felt guilty for using her sister-in-law as a weapon against her wife. Her mother and father used their children as weapons against each other, and it was something Elizabeth had privately vowed never to replicate. In that moment, she felt she had never hated herself more.

"I'm sorry I've upset you, Georgiana." She pointedly ignored Fitz, who still glowered at her in a most disconcerting manner. For the rest of the meal Georgiana and Elizabeth spoke of the household, fashions, and redecorating her bedroom.

As she got up to go to bed, she glanced at Fitz. Behind the hostility, she saw hurt in Fitz's eyes. *She's the one who forbade me the library,* she thought. *She's the one who knows I like to read.*

They both slept alone in their rooms that night. Elizabeth was glad of the privacy, though she missed Jane terribly.

* * *

She awoke to the still-unusual sensation of a warm bedroom and a breakfast tray delivered to her bedside. One of the servants had lit a fire in the hearth. It was pouring rain outside. Elizabeth had planned to go for a walk, but even she had second thoughts in this weather. She saw a note atop a stack of books, and ignored the food to examine them.

My dearest Elizabeth,

I would not anything to come between us. I have business I must attend to in the library this morning. I have allowed this selection of books to be removed for your pleasure. I hope this resolves this matter.

Yours always,
Fitz

"Well, I suppose that's a start," Elizabeth muttered, mood softened by the promise of reading. Then she saw with disappointment that she had read all three books Fitzwilliam had selected for her. Still, it was not as though she had never reread a book. At least they were working towards some compromise.

Remembering the worry over the book's condition, Elizabeth ate her breakfast without reading material. After her maid helped her dress, she settled into the room Georgiana had so thoughtfully decorated for her with her books.

She couldn't get comfortable. For one thing, the chair was not designed for a long period of reading. In public, Elizabeth followed the decorum of good posture; in private, she loved to sprawl with her books. For another, it was if anything too quiet. She found she was so used to blocking out the noise of her family when reading that their absence was a distraction.

To be honest, she was still twitchy at the thought of so many books, and of the unresolved dispute between herself and Fitz. Though she appreciated the gesture of goodwill, she did not want to grow to resent her wife as her father did her mother. It would not do to fight, but at the same time she simply could not be barred from a library in her own home.

Maybe Fitz had finished her business early. Perhaps she wouldn't mind some company. Perhaps she should thank her for the books in person.

As an afterthought, she picked up the rather intimate wedding presents Fitz had given her on their wedding night and tucked them in her embrodiery basket along with the books. If things resolved amicably, as Lizzie hoped, then perhaps she and Fitz could pick up where they left off.

She dearly hoped that they could resolve things amicably.

* * *

The walk to the library was both longer and shorter than she remembered. Her heart sang at the thought of the library, yet she feared that despite her precautions she had entered into an unhappy marriage after all.

Had she denied her true feelings because of Pemberley's splendor and the sight of Fitz in a carefully tied cravat? Was she simply overreacting to a minor matter?

No, there was nothing minor about this.

Elizabeth squared her shoulders and entered without knocking, closing the door quickly behind her.

Fitz sat at her desk by the window amidst a pile of letters that must have arrived in their absence. The storm outside perfectly framed her outline as she stood, and today was wreathed in shadows instead of light.

Fitz's broad shoulders were somehow even more appealing with her shirtsleaves rolled up and jacket casually tossed over a chair. Lizzie reminded herself that she was here to talk, not gawk at her wife.

"Thank you for the books," she said.

"I wanted to apologize. I should have realized -- remembered -- how important books are to you."

"It's not just the books."

"Oh."

Elizabeth ran her fingers over the edge of the atlas for comfort. It was open to a map of England, and she traced the route from Longbourne to Pemberley absentmindedly.

"I feel it is very important for married people to respect one another," she began. "My father, I think you realize, does not respect my mother, and it is a hard thing for both of them. Though I think on it now, perhaps, harder for her."

"I see," Fitz said somewhat warily.

"If I have to ask your permission to go into the library...I worry it will drive us apart. Slowly at first, perhaps. But it will mean that you don't trust me around your business, around your folios."

"Elizabeth," Fitz said. "I think you know that I am a private person, and sometimes rather proud. I hope you know that I would never want to hurt you."

She smiled, and dared look at her for the first time since she entered.

"Sometimes...sometimes a person needs privacy," she said. "I don't do well at balls, or asking young women to dance with me. I don't do well with conversation. My library is where I go when I need time to think."

Their eyes met, and Lizzie saw how very vulnerable Fitz looked. She remembered the way she'd hurried Lizzie out of the library the day before, and suddenly felt a rush of embarassed heat to her face as she realized what she'd done.

"I laughed at your books."

"Yes, well -- "

"I'm so sorry," she said, rushing over to her wife. "Miss King once made a joke when I was reading *King Lear*, about how at least he only had *three* daughters. It was *awful*, and I don't even *like* Miss King."

"You didn't know," she said.

"What didn't I know?"

"Mr Rochester is a fool, of course, for hiding his wife from Jane. But the differences of their birth...it gave me hope. Hope that I could do better than him, someday, if I were lucky enough that you would love me back. Then yesterday, I feared I had become Mr. Rochester after all."

"Well, at least I didn't run off to catch my death of cold on the moors," Lizzie laughed shakily.

"There is that," Fitz said. "I did ask you never to change."

"Indeed," she said, and it seemed they both remembered the last conversation. Certainly, Elizabeth felt her breasts grow hard in a way that would have shocked Lady Catherine.

"Am I forgiven?" Fitz asked. "I never wanted to see you hurt, Elizabeth. You must tell me if I displease you."

Her voice was so worried that Lizzie wondered she had not realized how deeply Fitz feared to disappoint her. If only she had not been so mesmermized by the books, she might have handled their disagreement much more delicately.

"Of course you are forgiven, my love. If I am forgiven for laughing at you, that is," she said. "But there is still the matter of the library."

Fitz sighed with relief.

"You know, although I love the bedroom you gave me, I am really not used to sleeping alone."

"No?"

"Would you object to scandalizing your friends and relations further by sharing a bedroom with me?"

"Not at all. No. I believe I would enjoy that," she paused. "But I do not see -- "

"Then you could use my current bedroom however you wish. We can decorate it as you like, add a desk for your business. The library, meanwhile, can be shared."

Fitz looked at her with comprehension dawning in her eyes. "You mean we could be near each other, but also private. Quiet"

"Yes, that is exactly what I mean."

Fitz ran a hand over her eyes, breathing in a sigh of relief. "The solution is so simple, so elegant. I cannot believe I did not see it myself."

"I did not either," Elizabeth said gently. "Not until I listened to you, and realized that you simply wanted someplace quiet. You weren't trying to deprive me of this library, as I had imagined."

"I would never want to deprive you of anything," Fitz said, her voice grown husky. "Truly, Lizzie. I will do better at listening to you next time."

"Yes, well, I shall try to do the same." Lizzie blushed, and turned from Fitz to hide the emotions that threatened to overwhelm her. "I can draw up a catalogue of the books in the library, so that we can keep track of any we remove to read elsewhere -- "

Elizabeth had spent much of the morning daydreaming about cataloging the books in the library, and worried that no one else seemed to have done so. She had a system in mind and would happily have explained it to Fitz then, at length, yet her wife interrupted with more pressing concerns.

"Lizzie, love, will you kiss me?" Fitz asked. Her voice was still shaky, as though she could not quite believe the anger from the night before had passed.

In answer, Lizzie pulled her wife's lips to hers and spent several moments reminding them both of her affections. When she pulled away, they were both flushed. Her body prickled with memories of the previous night's frustration.

"Have you ever made love in a library?"

Lizzie could feel Fitz's pulse quicken through the starched cotton of her shirt.

"What, here?" Fitz asked. Sometimes her darling was so unimaginative.

"Yes, here. If you want to, that is. I'm sure there is a room with a proper bed somewhere around here."

"The library will be more than satisfactory," Fitz said. At one time, Lizzie would have dismissed her comment as uninterested or unfeeling. Now she could hear the catch in her wife's voice that meant Fitz was at the point of feeling almost too much.

"Where do you want me?" Fitz asked.

Elizabeth tugged on Fitz's cravat, leading her wife to an enormous side table that rested upon an ornate rug. It should conceal the sound of any rocking.

Lizzie pulled Fitz's shirt loose from her breaches, admiring the way the tailored fabric clung to her wife's hips. She ran her hands under her wife's shirt, gently trailing her nails along Fitz's back as she attempted to remove Fitz's breastband.

Fitz began to remove her cravat, but Lizzie stopped her. "No," she said. "Leave it on."

"As my lady commands," Fitz murmured. She gasped as Lizzie's nimble fingers found her nipples under her shirt, and answered with fierce kisses.

"I have a surprise for you, my love," Elizabeth said, struggling for composure as Fitz's lips trailed towards her bodice.

"What surprise, my impertinent wife?"

Elizabeth grinned and gestured to her embroidery basket by the door. "I've brought some of your wedding gifts with me."

It was glorious to watch Fitz's face as she realized Lizzie's meaning. There was one brief moment of confusion, followed by furious blushing.

"Thank you," Fitz stammered.

"What for?"

"If you brought them, it means you did not want to stay mad."

"No, I didn't."

For a moment Lizzie was unsure what to say, her gaze caught by the frank emotion in her wife's eyes.

"Which did you bring?" Fitz asked, breaking the heady silence that stretched between them.

"Shall I surprise you, or do you have a preference?"

"Surprise," Fitz grinned. The sight of her smile sent a pang through Lizzie's heart, and she vowed to be more careful when judging Fitz's actions in the future.

"You remember what to say if you don't like the surprise?" Lizzie asked.

"I'm sure I will like it."

"Yes, but just in case you don't. If you wish me to stop. If you wish me change what I'm doing, or how I'm doing it."

"I will call 'halt'," Fitz said. "I promise."

"That is what I needed to hear," Lizzie said. "As we are both trying to listen more."

She turned to the embroidery basket and removed an adjustable leather harness, a dildo made of Italian glass, and a bottle of the finest oil. There were definite advantages to having a rich wife.

As Fitz watched, she removed her petticoats and left them carefully folded on a tea table, moving with exaggerated slowlness. She lifted her skirts and fiddled with the harness until it fit comfortably around her hips and small clothes. Looking Fitz full in the eye, Lizzie took a moment to stroke her own wetness through the slit in her smallclothes.

Lizzie could hear Fitz's breath quicken at the sight of her, and at the sight of the dildo pressing against the folds of her skirt as she dropped it again. She loosened the ties at the top of her gown, letting her neckline slide lower. It caught on the top of her corset, and Fitz sighed at the sight.

The side table was near an ornate iron staircase that reached up to the second level of the library. It was topped with marble, so deliciously cool to the touch, and was slightly lower than the curve of Fitz's hips. Lizzie grinned as she considered the sturdy iron banisters, and removed a pair of soft leather handcuffs from her embroidery basket.

She nudged the table away from the wall and closer to the banisters, estimating the length of Fitz's body.

"If you bend over this table, will you be comfortable, my love?" Lizzie asked. "Will you be comfortable if I strap you to the stairs?"

Fitz paused to consider, fitting her hips over the edge of the table and experimenting with where she put her arms. "I believe so."

"Good." Lizzie reluctantly undid Fitz's cravat so she could remove her shirt, then brightened as another idea struck her. "Could you retie this without your shirt?"

"You wound me," Fitz murmured, taking the cravat from her and tying it expertly. The ends dangled between her breasts and Lizzie took a moment to appreciate the feel of Fitz's breasts cupped in her hands.

Fitz's back arched towards her, and Lizzie inhaled sharply at the sight of her glorious wife. Fitz grinned at her discomposure, and stroked the tip of Lizzie's glass cock through the delicate muslin of her skirts.

"Now who's being impertinent," Elizabeth said gently. "If you want me so badly, you know where to go."

Fitz grinned, and with exaggerated slowness bent over the table. She stretched her arms before her, ready and waiting.

Lizzie took her time attaching the leather cuffs to Fitz's arms, running a teasing finger over her wife's inkstained fingers.

"Are they too tight?" she asked.

"No," Fitz said, but Lizzie sensed hesitation.

"You promised to tell me if anything displeased you, my love," Lizzie chided her.

"I'm worried my arms will grow tired if you don't hurry," Fitz said. "I don't want you to hurry."

"What if you were closer to the banister?"

"I think that would help."

With a series of small adjustments, Lizzie ensured that Fitz was comfortably spread-eagled across the marble tabletop. There was no point in letting Fitz get overly tired, after all. Not until Lizzie had thoroughly tired her out.

"Is that better?" Lizzie asked. "Be honest, now."

"Much," Fitz said with a relieved sigh.

Lizzie took a moment to appreciate her handiwork. Her wife was bound to the iron stairs, and her close-cut trousers clung to hips splayed ready and waiting on the edge of the table. She noted that Fitz's feet were well supported, and double-checked that the straps that bound her wife were not too tight.

An unexpected benefit of the configuration was that here, Fitz's breasts were not pressed to a mattress. They hung loose and full and so very accessible in the space between table and stairs.

Fitz lay still, letting Lizzie drink her in. She was more than happy to put aside her mountain of daily decisions and responsibilities, and simply follow Elizabeth's instructions.

Despite their argument at dinner the night before, Fitz had never stopped trusting Lizzie. She had not realized why her wife was so upset, and had responded instinctively to her harsh tone. Yet Fitz had always known she and Lizzie would argue over matters of pride and simple strong nature. It was inevitable. What mattered was how they responded after the first burst of anger had settled, that they did not entrench themselves in petty attacks and jealousies.

She trusted that she and Lizzie would settle their differences. There was something behind the deceptive twinkle in her wife's fine eyes, something that had always told her that Lizzie would never hurt her on purpose. She sensed even now Lizzie was working to find where Fitz ached, so she could tread softly in the future.

Fitz trusted Lizzie more than anyone she'd tumbled with, more than any of the ill-advised women she'd let tie her to a bedpost. Unlike some of the others, Lizzie only inflicted pain when she knew Fitz would enjoy it. She would stop rather than hurt her, even if it left them both breathless and frustrated.

Lizzie stroked the back of Fitz's neck and tugged playfully at the close-cropped curls, trailing a hand along the curve of her beloved's back. Her touch was light, barely more than a breeze, yet Fitz shivered as she moved. It was glorious to watch; she could watch this woman for the rest of her life and it would still not be enough.

Lizzie lifted the folds of her dress and let them drape over both of them, let the fabric trail against the delicate skin of Fitz's back. She stood behind Fitz, letting her lover feel the press of the glass cock between her trembling legs. Fitz tilted her hips to meet her, letting forth a low moan. Lizzie smiled as she realized Fitz had begun to soak through her breaches.

Leaning forward, Lizzie teased her hands over Fitz's back and down to the curve of her breast. She stifled her own moan at the feel of Fitz's breast in her hands, at the way Fitz leaned into her touch, at the gasp that let her know she had found Fitz's nipple.

"Harder," Fitz moaned. "Please."

Lizzie refused to give Fitz satisfaction. Not yet. She removed her hands, and Fitz sighed in frustration. She ran a finger along the edge of Fitz's cravat, and felt Fitz's eyes follow her as she wandered back to her embroidery basket. She swayed as she walked, taking her time to let Fitz watch her move. She picked up the bottle of oil and was rewarded by a hiss of anticipation from Fitz. Lizzie savored the sound.

She could feel Fitz's need as she returned to her lover's side, almost a physical presence in the room with them.

Lizzie delicately unbuttoned the front of Fitz's breaches. Fitz arched toward her hands, but Lizzie's fingertips danced away. With one swift movement, she pulled Fitz's breaches to the floor to expose the delectable curve of her body. Fitz lay exposed before her, physically and emotionally. Lizzie shivered at the trust that had already grown between them, and at the sight of her lover's pleading eyes.

Fitz remained still, almost trembling at attention. Her hands pulled against their bindings as she willed herself to wait for Lizzie. She could not see behind her, only hear the occasional rustle of fabric. Yet her mind burned with the sight of Lizzie striding across the room to get the oil, all mischief and shining strength.

Lizzie spread her wide, and Fitz gasped at the feel of cool air against her, at the cool marble beneath her hips. She gasped again at the feel of Lizzie's tongue, and realized Lizzie had moved to kneel behind her. Fitz struggled against the urge to turn and look, and then she simply struggled to think.

The taste of Fitz filled her mouth, and Lizzie felt she could linger in the scent of her lover for hours. She caressed and nibbled until she fitted her rhythm to her wife's body, and they began to move as one again.

Fitz did not protest when Lizzie moved again, though her body throbbed in agony at her absence. She heard the gentle uncorking of the oil bottle, and felt Lizzie spread the cool liquid over her. There was the sound of a bottle being put down. Fitz tensed, waiting for Lizzie's touch.

Lizzie considered leaving her dress on when she took Fitz. There were so many ways Lizzie could tease the woman with gently trailing muslin. She was rather fond of the embroidery particular dress, though, and hated the thought of trying to get stains out of the fabric. It would be much better to wear something just for the occasion, perhaps with wider skirts or a slit for movement. It would be something to make in her parlor, a surprise for Fitz's birthday perhaps.

For now, Lizzie stood where Fitz could see her. She tugged at the dress, letting it slip past the curve of her corset, before pulling it over her head. Fitz's breathing became ragged as Lizzie carefully folded her dress and placed it beside her petticoats. She turned to face Fitz, wearing only corset, split small-clothes, and harness.

Her palms were still oily, and Fitz watched as Lizzie rubbed the remaining oil slowly over the glass cock she wore. It had become hard for her to focus, though Fitz could not tear her eyes from her Elizabeth. Fitz whimpered despite herself. The pull between her legs had become a fierce ache.

"Please." It was all she could say.

Lizzie leaned down and kissed her deeply, slowly. She trailed kisses down Fitz's back until she reached the curve of her shoulder, and began to tease her lover's skin with her teeth. She slipped a single finger into Fitz's wetness, and moved it with agonizing slowness. Fitz moaned with wanting, even as she savored the shocks of pleasure from Lizzie's teeth against her skin.

Fitz tightened around Lizzie's finger, and she savored the soft pulsing of her lover's body for a moment before moving behind her.

"Are you ready?" Lizzie asked, teasing Fitz's with the tip of her cock.

Moaning, Fitz nodded. It seemed her normally recalcitrant wife had entirely lost the will to speak; Lizzie found it quite endearing.

Lizzie eased into Fitz, her wife's hips arching up to meet her. She moved slowly and deliberately, appreciating the steady pulse of their movements.

"Please," Fitz moaned. "Faster."

The delicious pleasure dancing delicately through her body was almost too much for Fitz to bear. She was vaguely aware of the pull of the bonds against her wrists, of the cool marble against her belly. Lizzie grasped her hips, and Fitz's consciousness narrowed to the thrumming in her center. She cried out, calling Lizzie's name until she was in a space beyond words.

Fitz's body slowed, and she lay gasping across the table. Her body still burned with desire.

"Are you done, my love? Do you cry halt?" Lizzie's voice called gently from behind her.

"Not done," she said, struggling to catch her breath.

"How are your wrists?"

"Delicious."

Lizzie laughed, but still she reached forward to check that the bonds were not too tight. Fitz shivered as the movement pressed the glass cock further inside of her. It seemed the bonds were to her satisfaction, for Lizzie was doing something with her nipple that sent a shock of pleasure straight to her center. Fitz shuddered as the shocks of pleasure from Lizzie's touch ricocheted through her body once again.

"Done," she murmured languidly as the pulsing faded to heady hum of contentment. "I mean, halt. A temporary one, at least."

Lizzie smiled at her wife's insensibility, as she moved quickly to undo her bonds. She massaged Fitz's wrists gently as she removed the leather cuffs. Fitz flung one arm around Lizzie's waist, burying her head in Lizzie's corseted waist for support. Her bottom half still hung naked and exhausted over the edge table, wet with oil and pleasure.

As Lizzie admired the view, she ran a hand absentmindedly through her wife's curls. Fitz gave a small sigh wrapped her other arm around Lizzie's waist. The sight of her there, so vulnerable and pleasurably fucked, made Lizzie want to find a thousand creative ways to make Fitz moan yet again.

A halt was a halt, however. They had also learned from their first frantic nights together that there was a wide difference between the delicious ache from an afternoon of pleasure, and several days when Lizzie could not satisfy her wife because they had been overzealous with their affections.

Lizzie would have to save her inventiveness for another time.

"Come, let's get you somewhere more comfortable," Lizzie said. She helped ease Fitz off the table, ensuring she had not left her gallant wife too dizzy to stand unsupported.

Fitz leaned forward to kiss Lizzie, but Lizzie pulled away to survey her wife. Her cravat was now quite mussed and wrinkled, hanging limply between Fitz's breasts. The color had returned to her wrists. She sported a small bruise on her hip from the marble of the table, but otherwise it seemed some of her energy had returned.

"You called 'halt', my love," Lizzie said, still holding herself an arm's length away. "Only ask for me again. You know the rules."

"Mrs. Elizabeth Darcy, may I have the pleasure of taking you on this carpet?" Fitz said with mock severity ruined only by her grin and lack of attire.

"You may," Lizzie said. "Though I had some ideas I would be happy to show you."

"Hush, you impertinent woman."

Lizzie giggled as Fitz settled her on the rough wool carpet and kissed her gently.

"How do I get you out of these stays and things?" Fitz muttered. "Perhaps you should wander the halls of Pemberley wearing only a nightgown. Then I would not have to wrestle with these anymore."

"Would you have me be the like first Mrs. Rochester? The servants will think me mad." Elizabeth laughed, then stopped. She was afraid that she had hurt her wife's feelings with the remark, but it seemed Fitz caught the affection behind her jest.

"No," Fitz said. "I would never have anyone but you, my loveliest Elizabeth."

Lizzie sighed at the love in her wife's eyes, the love she had feared was lost over such a little thing. It would take time for her to learn to trust that Fitz was not so proud that she would not apologize, nor retreat to solitude and mockery in place of affection. Yet looking at her wife now, Lizzie felt that she could learn to trust that the love between them was real.

Lizzie kissed her wife gently before turning on her side so Fitz could reach the ties holding her corset. The leather harness still clung to her hips, and she moved to remove it.

"Leave it," Fitz said. Elizabeth raised her eyebrows but said nothing, though she sighed with relief as Fitz loosened the ties of her corset. She extended her arms, expecting Fitz to slip the garment off her body. Instead, her wife kissed her deeply and pulled the corset down, leaving her shoulders and breasts exposed to the cool air.

After so many hours confined by her stays, her breasts were tender to the touch. As Fitz ran her tongue over the edge of her nipple, Lizzie hissed at the agonizing pleasure.

Fitz kissed her way down Lizzie's abdomen until she reached the glass cock, still wet with the musky sweetness of Fitz's pleasure. Fitz winked saucily at Lizzie, and then began to run her mouth along the shaft. One hand teased Lizzie's tender breasts, and another found its way to the slit in her smallclothes.

There was no need for oil. Lizzie had grown slick with desire watching Fitz writhe beneath her, and it only grew now that Fitz touched her. She struggled to prolong her pleasure, but her body had waited long enough.

"Kiss me," Lizzie gasped. "I want to taste you."

Fitz traced her lips over Lizzie's nipples before meeting her eager mouth. They shared the taste of each other as Elizabeth clung to Fitz's hair and her hips bucked against Fitz's fingers. Fitz nibbled her lip, and Elizabeth rode waves of pleasure until they both lay spent and panting on the library carpet.

Lizzie twined her legs over Fitz's and held her wife, savoring the comforting feeling of her body. This was what she loved more than their lovemaking, this feeling of safety and even contentment. She had been so scared when Fitz banned her from the library, that she had misjudged her choice of wife or that the newfound intimacy they shared would fade now that they arrived at Pemberley.

She still sensed the debts that lay between them, but had begun to truly trust that the gifts Fitz gave were freely given. There would be no recriminations later, no jesting at her nerves or intellect. They were partners, truly.

"I am going to have to apologize to Georgiana," Lizzie groaned. "I shouldn't have brought her into this."

"We should both apologize," Fitz said with an apologetic grin. "You were right."

"Oh?"

"I should never have kept her from the library," Fitz sighed. "Sometimes it's hard being her guardian and her sister, both."

Lizzie ran her thumb over her wife's fingers, considering possibilities for Georgiana's education. There was no need for her to run the household, nor to rush into matrimony to save her family from ruin. She had much more freedom than Lizzie used to, and she should know that there were options. Even if Georgiana's desire was to find a home of her own and spend her days embroidering. She should choose with her eyes open.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Fitz, giggling quietly to herself.

"What's so funny?"

"If I had realized the library held so many possibilities for marital bliss, I would have arranged for us to spend our honeymoon here."

"Impertinent knave," Elizabeth said, though she was grinning.

"I am sorry for causing you worry," Fitz said, her voice grown serious now.

"As am I," Lizzie said. "However, I know how you can apologize."

"Oh?" Fitz asked. "I confess I am a bit tired -- "

"Books, wife. You are going to buy me books."