Mediums: Doctor Who / Pride and Prejudice
Rating: All ages.
Characters: Captain Jack Harkness, Elizabeth Bennet and the Ninth Doctor. Others mentioned.
Authors Notes: This was originally written to be a shorter part of a 'five things that never happened' style fic (see if you can guess what the 'never happened' thing was going to be), but it kind of got away from me. It's been ages since I've read Pride and Prejudice so I've probably got all manner of stuff wrong. Set not long after "The Doctor Dances" and, well, at some point during Pride and Prejudice.
Disclaimer: I don't think there's anyone out there who seriously believes I own Doctor Who, including myself, but just in case someone does, and that someone happens to be litigious - I don't own Doctor Who. Or Pride and Prejudice, for that matter, but that's public domain now anyway and Jane Austen's in no position to complain so nyah.
Summary: A conversation on a dance floor in Meryton, roughly 1798. (Doctor Who / Pride and Prejudice)
It was an unfortunate consequence, Elizabeth Bennet reflected as she took the hand of her partner on the dance floor, that when a gentlemen of handsome appearance and mysterious provenance should suddenly appear within society, that almost all young women would begin to swoon over him practically over looks alone. A further consequence of such tendencies would be that any young woman who happened to find herself the subject of his attention would soon find herself the subject of hostility from these quarters for reasons that were almost entirely beyond her control or influence.
So it was with Captain Harkness, late of the former colonies and recently arrived in Meryton with two companions, whose charming smile and dashing blues had caused much flutter amongst the young women of Meryton, who with the recent arrival of the militia were already in a state of excitement over the prospect of any handsome man in a uniform. Similarly, Captain Harkness’ obvious (and, Elizabeth was forced to concede, not entirely unwelcome) attentiveness towards Elizabeth herself during his short time in the area had provoked so many icy stares directed towards her from the same young women.
Including, Elizabeth was exasperated to note, two of her sisters. Jane had only eyes for Mr. Bingley of course, and Mary’s pious declarations about the intentions of men and the moral paucity of dances were as constant as they ever were, but where Lydia and Kitty had provided relentless teasing over Mr. Wickham’s interest in her affairs (which they were prone to exaggerate in any case) they now only provided sulky accusations about her obvious efforts to appeal to soldiers.
This made it doubly uncomfortable when, at the most recent social gathering held by Sir William Lucas, Captain Harkness singled her out with his most charming smile and requested none other than the first two dances. The hostility from the other young women had only intensified when it was revealed that Captain Harkness was indeed skilled at dancing, but by the second Elizabeth was forced to concede that the hard feelings directed towards her were among her lesser thoughts, Captain Harkness’ striking eyes and voice being far more interesting to her at this point.
“You dance like an angel, Miss Bennet,” Captain Harkness drawled, “and look like one as well tonight, if I may be so bold.”
“I’m not so sure you should, Captain Harkness,” Elizabeth replied, her smile a contrast to the primness of her words, “as we are perhaps not sufficiently well-acquainted for the comparison to be made. Nevertheless, I thank you for the compliment.”
“Think nothing off it.” Even in this humble statement his voice, with that curious twang of the Americas, had an effect on Elizabeth that she would have found difficulty to accurately express, had the same effect not momentarily robbed her of the power of speech. It was fortunate that Captain Harkness had required no answer of her at that point, else Elizabeth might have found herself the subject of some embarrassment. She managed to distract herself momentarily by examining the crowd, and happened to notice Mr. Darcy, as dull and distant from the celebrations as always and as reluctant to participate as ever. He was looking in her direction, and frowning, prompting Elizabeth to amuse herself for a few moments by wondering what she had managed to do to prompt his ill-humour this time.
“Your sisters don’t look happy,” he noted, nodding towards Lydia and Kitty, whose scowls in their direction were as ill-tempered as any other woman in the room.
“I fear it is the result of a certain degree of jealousy,” she admitted, having managed to recover enough wit to continue a conversation, “as I gather they were rather hoping for the pleasure of your company.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint them.”
“I wouldn’t be; I suspect their feelings will be adequately soothed by the attention of any man in a uniform.”
He laughed, and the effect this had on Elizabeth was again quite pleasing and disconcerting. She found herself examining the crowd again, attempting to stave off fluster, and happened to briefly meet eyes with Captain Harkness’ friend, a doctor of some description whose name she had not yet managed to learn. He grinned at her, an intense and toothy smile. An odd gentlemen, the subject of much gossip and rumour amongst those in Meryton who were interested in such things; he dressed like a common labourer but carried himself like a lord, and apparently disdained to wear formal attire where it was expected. His scruffy, unusual leather coat had earned him much ridicule, but in truth Elizabeth rather found herself liking him. There was something honest about him, a refusal to put on unnecessary and unearned airs that put her in mind of none so much as her own father.
Like Mr. Darcy, the unnamed doctor apparently refused to dance, but there was amusement in his eyes as he watched the couples dance where Mr. Darcy’s held only cold disdain. He seemed particularly intent on observing Captain Harkness' third companion, a young blonde woman who laughed without care as she fumbled the moves of the dance.
“Are you staying long in Meryton, sir?” Elizabeth inquired after a moment, keen to prove as much to herself as Captain Harkness that she was not entirely tongue-tied in his presence.
“I doubt it,” he replied. “Kinda depends on the Doctor, really. I’m… how d’you guys say it again?… at his disposal, I guess. He doesn’t like to stay in one place for very long, and I don’t suppose I do, either.”
Such an odd manner of speaking! But then, Elizabeth supposed it was only second nature in the colonies, and resolved not to judge. She found herself momentarily daydreaming of names she’d only heard in books, of cities like Boston and Charleston and enormous cotton plantations, with Captain Harkness a curious fixture by her side in all of them. She found herself noting that underneath the trim and finery of his uniform, he had a form that seemed most pleasing indeed to her...
“Such a pity, then, that we won’t have the pleasure of your company for long. A fleeting pleasure, then.”
He looked at her, and there was something in his eyes that was transfixing, that promised adventures and experiences and emotions far beyond those she’d imagined, far beyond those that Meryton could offer her. “One thing I’ve learnt with the Doctor,” Captain Harkness murmured, and that murmur sent a ripple up Elizabeth’s spine, “is that ‘short’ and ‘fleeting’ are by no means the same. Even a short experience can be among the most memorable. Especially if it’s in the right company.”
Elizabeth found that her mouth felt quite dry. The smile on Captain Harkness’ face was so mysterious and inviting. She was shocked to find herself imagining what it would be like to kiss him. And possibly other things.
“I imagine,” she somehow found herself saying, “that the experiences you refer to would make for interesting listening.”
“Believe me, Miss Bennet,” he continued, so quiet as no one could hear, and as they moved together with the music she suddenly found him invitingly close to her, and suddenly she and he were the only two people in the Meryton dance hall, no, the world… “the things I’ve seen and done would blow your mind.”
“Captain Harkness…” she managed to stammer out
“Please, Lizzie,” and he smiled confidently, “call me Jack.” He took her hand for the dance, and as he did his thumb brushed the top of her hand, a curious, seductive gesture.
And with that, that particular smile and gesture, suddenly it was as if someone had cut a cord that dropped a curtain from her eyes, causing her head to clear.
One thing Elizabeth Bennet prided herself upon was her ability to understand people, and she suddenly found herself coming to certain conclusions about Captain Jack Harkness. The nature of his smile was no longer pleasant and inviting but slightly smug, almost triumphant, as if he had been playing some manner of game with her and concluded himself the winner. She found herself questioning him -- his charming manner and insistent interest in her, his confession about disliking remaining settled in one place for long, his confident manner, his sudden liberty towards her -- and suddenly his closeness to her as they danced seemed less liberating and more confining.
He suddenly had the manner not of a charmer, but of a seducer. And it suddenly appeared clear to Elizabeth Bennet that he had in mind nothing else so much as her conquest. There was a sudden well of anger that stirred within her; how dare he? How dare he? What manner of woman did he take her for?
“I would rather call you Captain Harkness, if you do not mind,” she replied, surprised by the sudden frostiness of her tone; the way his eyebrows raised, he apparently was as well. “And I will thank you to call me Miss Bennet, if you please.”
The look on his face as she said that -- of sudden defeat snatched from the jaws of victory -- only convinced her that her sudden impulse as to Captain Harkness’ real motives regarding his interest in her was the correct one, and they concluded the rest of the dance in silence, Elizabeth refusing to meet his gaze. Her obvious and sudden hostility towards him garnered some curious looks from the crowd, and she found herself gazing on Harkness’ friend in the crowd. There was a frown on his face that put her in mind of some manner of wild animal provoked to hidden anger. It seemed to be directed at Harkness himself -- so evidently his friend at least disapproved of Captain Harkness’ obvious inclinations.
The music ended, and she permitted Captain Harkness as brief a curtsy as decorum under the circumstances would allow. He at least had the decency to look somewhat embarrassed, and Elizabeth hoped that he would take this spurning as a prompt to question his character and seek God’s guidance in preventing his undeniable charm from being used for such venal and unworthy ends. As the partners dispersed and Elizabeth took leave of Captain Harkness to find one of her sisters, she found herself briefly crossing paths with Harkness’ friend, who walked past her without looking at her, blazing eyes directed straight at Harkness. Over the babble of voices before the next song began, she managed to overhear a snatch of their conversation, which sounded most heated to her ears:
“What you playin’ at, then?”
“Look, I was just… I just thought…”
“Thought what? ‘What the hell’? ‘Might as well try it on’? I didn’t bring you here so you could seduce Lizzie bloody Bennet of all people! History and literature both have plans for that girl, and they don’t involve her getting…”
As their hissed voices disappeared into the distance and the babble of the crowd, Elizabeth wondered what the meaning of the strange conversation she had briefly caught was. But she forgot it altogether when she noticed Mr. Darcy looking at her again, an unfamiliar expression of approval on his face, and she began to wonder what exactly had caused such a curious transformation in his mood.