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Most Ardently (A Pride & Prejudice Retelling)

Chapter Text

Chapter One: A New Bachelor at Netherfield Park.

 

The cold autumn air kissed Elliot's cheeks as he strolled through the fields, a leather bound novel in his hands and his eyes darting across the pages. He mindlessly wandered through the wildflowers towards his family's manor, Longbourn, a humble stone estate surrounded by countryside. He had spent the afternoon in the fields, finding himself a resting place on the hills where he could read in the comfort of nature and bask in the tepid sunlight of Hertfordshire.

Novel in one hand, the other stretched downwards so that his fingertips grazed the top of the foxgloves in the fields, Elliot felt at home. The only son of the Bennett's, he had grown accustomed to perusing any novel he could get his hands on, whilst his four sisters practised needlework, languages and music. Never the kind of boy that would get into the Regiment- his swordsmanship left much to be desired and he would much rather have learnt poetry than strategy- he had grown content with spending his days reading outdoors, or in the parlour whilst his sister Mary played the piano forte and his eldest sister Jane sat beside him embroidering.

Reaching the small moat that separated the fields from the rear courtyard of Longbourn, he stepped across the the wooden walkway and peeled his eyes away from his book just long enough to smile at the gaggle of geese paddling in the water and honking chaotically. His worn, muddy boots squelched against the damp wood as he ascended into the courtyard, where the family servants, a Gaelic woman named Eilidh and her son Thomas were hanging his sisters' skirts out to dry.

"Good Afternoon Eilidh," He greeted the stout woman kindly, who smiled warmly in return.

"Afternoon Mr. Bennett." She answered in her broken, lilted English. She understood instructions nearly perfectly, but still struggled to communicate in English. Her son Thomas was much better at communicating, but he still spoke in the thick, melodic accent of the Scottish Highlands.

"Thomas." Elliott inclined his head in greeting as he passed the servant, Thomas nodding subtly as a means of reply. He was a quiet lad, of the same age as Elliot at twenty years, who pottered around doing the heavy lifting his mother could not handle and cleaning up the spots Eilidh inevitably missed.

Reaching the back door of the house, Elliott paused only briefly to wipe the mud from his boots before entering through the back door. This was a habit of his his mother did not like, for in her opinion the back door was the servants entrance, made for unnoticed coming and going. Elliott liked, however, the ability this door gave him to come and go as he pleased, without his mother complaining or insisting instead that he run errands to town, where he might meet a lovely girl and decide to marry her.

Hearing the sweet sounds of his younger sister on the piano forte, he wandered into the parlour. Two of his sisters lounged there, swathed in their modest house dresses. Mary was at the piano, where she could be found at any given time of the day, stroking the keys and producing melodies that made one feel as though they walked amongst the angels. Her face rested in it's signature concentrated frown, her chestnut hair falling from its braid unkemptly and the freckles on her cheeks dancing in the shadows.

Her petite frame was almost hidden amongst the the dark walls of the room, her dress a simple garment of charcoal grey and trimmed sparsely in white lace. Despite her mother's attempts to introduce colour into her wardrobe, the middle of the Bennett children was stubborn and focused, and could not be persuaded past a dark shade of violet.

By the window on the far side of the parlour, which looked westward and in this late time in the afternoon cast the setting sun's golden glow upon the room, sat Jane. Known for her beauteous looks and uncharacteristic fair hair amongst the other Bennett children, she was as timid as she was splendid to look at. In her hand she held an embroidery hoop, and her delicate, pretty face was peaceful as she stitched. Elliot crossed the room to sit beside her, noting the way the sun illuminated her pale blonde, fine hair.

"Mother has been looking for you today, brother." Jane smiled demurely, looking up Elliott with her large, silver-blue eyes.

"Whatever for?" He asked casually, closing his book and placing it on his lap. Jane did not remove herself from her sewing, instead she smiled to herself as though he had made a private joke.

"She went to Meryton with Lydia and Kitty to buy ribbons for the ball tomorrow." Jane explained in her gentle, glissando voice. Elliot sighed deeply, having forgotten about the ball, which the Lucas family were throwing at their manor house. Elliott enjoyed balls for their dancing and music, but detested the social détente they often presented. He could not stand all the talking of affairs and marriages and children, for they seemed pointless. He would have much rather spent the words on poetry or politics or art. His mother had made it very clear that serious conversation should not be breeched whilst dancing.

As though by some magical power they had heard their own names, Lydia and Kitty came bursting into the room in a flurry of lace and ringlets. Following them, Mrs Bennett rushed in, her face the colour of a beetroot.

"Oh, the most wonderful news children!" She squawked loudly amongst the unending giggles coming from the two youngest Bennett children.

"Oh, it is great news!" Lydia swooned, her eyes wide and filled with excitement.

Lydia, the second youngest child, was a pretentious and vain young woman who spent most of her life desperately socialising with as many men as she could. She was a pretty, elfish-looking girl with full lips that were constantly twisted into a salacious grin and wide blue eyes that she had no problem using to get what she wanted.

"Netherfield Manor has been taken!" Mrs Bennett announced proudly, sweeping across the room to collapse onto an empty chaise lounge. "By a young bachelor nonetheless!"

"His name is Mr. Bingley!" Lydia squealed. Her and the youngest sister, Kitty, sat in a love seat beside Mrs Bennett.

Wherever Lydia was, Kitty could be found lingering in her shadow. She was a petite, impressionable young girl, barely sixteen and prone to simply affirming whatever Lydia said. Where Lydia was surreptitious, however, Kitty had a compassionate empathy towards people that was easily overshadowed by her sister's vanity. The youngest Bennett girl had dark hair and fair skin, with wide eyes the colour of pennies.

"And better yet, he will be attending the ball tomorrow evening!" Mrs Bennett swooned. Elliott noted the way Jane paused her embroidering to consider this fact.

Lydia and Kitty were already planning which ribbons they would match with their skirts, and rushing across the room to Jane, who being the oldest had the finest clothes they could borrow. Jane simply nodded at their requests politely, looking over at Elliott occasionally with an exhausted expression. Elliott silently thanked the Lord that he was not a girl and did not have to deal with Lydia's excessive requests to borrow attire.

Amongst the calamity, Mary barely flinched, her gloomy melodies permeating the chatter. She, like Elliott, was not a great fan of balls. Always the odd one out amongst the ladies, Elliott new that Mrs Bennett feared that in Mary she had produced a spinster child.

The dinner bell interrupted his sisters' flurry, and the room cleared quickly as the smell of Eilidh's cooking wafted in from the dining room. Elliott took his time, setting his novel down on the windowsill before meandering over to the piano forte, where Mary was still playing. The tune was ethereal and moody, Elliott leant against the side of the instrument and watched his sister play. As he did so, she looked up at him and offered him one of her rare, small, smiles.

"Are you not coming to dinner dear sister?" He asked her. Her tune quietened briefly, making space for her quiet, stern voice.

"I think not." She answered plainly. "I have too much to work on with this tune." Elliott nodded in return, noting the way her eyes drifted back to her music sheets. The way she furrowed her brow in concentration was endearing, and was enough to fill his heart with affection for his peculiar younger sister.

He loved Mary dearly, because she was an eccentric and a loner in a way that he understood quite perfectly. Much like he did not conform to the standard of strapping, athletic young men his age, Mary was not one for the decorum, gossip or dancing that occupied young women. She was paid little attention by men and even less attention by other ladies, and spent most parties at the piano or hiding in the corners of the room.

"I shall tell mother," Elliott agreed with a smile. He noted that she was coming to the end of her page, and so amiably turned it for her, which earned him another grateful smile from his sister.

"Thank you, brother."

"You are most welcome, Mary."

With that, Elliott left for the dining room, where he could already hear his mother updating Mr Bennett on the arrival of the new young Bachelor at Netherfield Manor.

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A/N

So, I'm a huge Pride & Prejudice fan because it's the quintessential romance novel of the regency period, and so I decided that I would write an adaption of it that was LGBT-inclusive. If any of you who are reading this are super familiar with the original version, be prepared for a few changes.

I wanted to add characters, so Thomas is original character, and I also wanted to give all the Bennett children a plot line (So Kitty and Mary will both get more focus than they did in Austen's novel). Also, Mr. Collins, who is the children's cousin in the original, has been changed to be an old family friend.

I hope you enjoy it,

- Alison