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Daniellas Bureau; A Fanfic & Desktop Site

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Volume Two.

Chapter 6: The Element, The Fire.

It is the passion flowing right on through your veins.
And its the feeling that you're oh so glad you came.
It is the moment you remember you are alive.
It is the air you breathe, the element, the fire......
It is the beautiful game that you choose to play.

For ca, by Nelly Furtado.
From the album Folklore.

Thursday, 24th June 2004. Second day of the Second Round.

Unlike William, Elizabeth enjoyed the evening at Lucas Lodge, as it enabled her to catch up with her friend Charlotte, because their matches had fallen on the same day, and often at the same time. Twin sister of Denton, she was enjoying a resurgence in her game, having usurped Caroline Bingley in many of their matches recently. Their conversation had started on personal reviews of their matches so far, then drifted on to the subject of Jane's relationship with Charles Bingley, which had more or less become public knowledge.

Elizabeth had enjoyed the debate with her friend about the relationship, Charlotte often being a practical counterbalance to her own ideas about love and sex. For the moment, she was content to revel and relish her sister's relationship rather than seek out for one of her own once more. The saga of Denton Lucas had convinced her to rethink much of what she wanted from a man, and avoid dating tennis players for awhile.

So she sat in the front stall of Court number six, in the part which was reserved for family members and coaches, waiting for her sister and opponent to finish warming up, flicking through the sports section of The Times for that day. Kitty was playing Missy Osborne,1 and Elizabeth was watching her while Jane watched their brother's, who was playing John Thorpe.2

Beside her was her father's currently empty seat, for he was in conversation with Miss Osborne's coach and father, having played a few doubles matches with him back in the day. As usual the back headline was concerned with the current British hopefuls and favourites to win; her elder sister and William Darcy. Elizabeth had read the article concerning the former, while completely passing the article of the latter by, having no desire to read or hear anything about the British number one right now.

Toby had been defending the character of his friend all through the return journey from Lucas Lodge, until Kitty had told him to shut up and let her get some beauty sleep. Elizabeth had half surrendered by then anyway, telling Toby that she accepted Darcy was his good friend, and that she would be polite to him, but she would not yield on her previous personal assessment on whether or not she liked the man.

Elizabeth turned to the next set of back pages, her eyes settling on an article about Caroline Bingley's current form. The reporter did not think much of Miss Bingley's chances for the title this year. Her first match against Anne Steele3 had been a three set struggle, a circumstance which Elizabeth did not think surprising, considering what had happened just before it, but this sports writer obviously had another opinion.

Today she would be facing Sophia Grey,4 a match that Elizabeth thought would be the real test of her current level in the sport. Miss Grey had gone to the quarter finals last year, up against some stiff competition. The writer of the article considered Miss Bingley a hopeless bet already. As for Caroline herself, for the reporter had managed to ask her a few questions, she was still optimistic about winning this year. In fact, her only concern was about her ex-boyfriend, whom, she still believed, loved her. Elizabeth chuckled on reading the comments.

While she had yet to meet Caroline Bingley herself, a quite accurate impression could be gained from the articles written about her. Eldest daughter of an American tycoon and tennis champion, she had been on the hunt for any rich British guy in trousers from the moment she had won her first title. She had been heralded as a child prodigy, having won her debut Wimbledon at the age of fifteen. The early successes however, were now far in the past, thanks to the emergence of the latest American number one; Dakota Morgan-Debourgh. But Caroline still believed she could win every match, and still believed she could catch her current prey in men.

In all honesty, Elizabeth wished William Darcy all the joy of being free of Caroline Bingley. Despite her dislike of both of them, she had thought that the match would never work from the start. Both were them were hounded constantly by the paparazzi, but whereas Darcy was famed for avoiding them whenever he could, Caroline encouraged their presence and interest in her, and lapped it up as a cat would with milk.

She had called in to them every date she had spent with Darcy, implying their supposed future engagement from the start. Elizabeth had been united with Toby for once when the news of that had broke, not believing for one moment that it was true. Women like Caroline Bingley gave the rest of her sex a bad name, and she was glad to see a retraction posted a week later from the Darcy camp.

"Miss Kitty Bennet verses Miss Melissa Osborne," intoned the umpire then, bringing Elizabeth out of her thoughts. She folded the paper away while he announced the rest of the opening speech which signalled the start of the match. "First set, Miss Bennet to serve."

Elizabeth leaned back into her chair, paid her father a silent acknowledgement as he returned to his seat beside her, then turned her attention on her sister's game. She watched Kitty serve, noticing how young she looked against the twenty-two years of her opponent. She did not look her eighteen years.

Unlike Elizabeth and Jane, who had both begun their careers at the age of fourteen, she had turned professional only last year. Tennis had been something of a fall back career for Kitty until now. She had wanted to be a languages specialist, but a combination of a E in one exam and a sudden passion for the profession from their sister Lydia however, had put an end to that ambition for now.

"Game, Miss Bennet. Miss Osborne to serve."

Elizabeth let the first set wash over her alittle, as her mind contemplated the sister which had just entered her thoughts. Lydia was fast becoming a problem. At fifteen she was the youngest of the Bennet family, and had been Kitty's best friend until recently. Since turning eighteen, Kitty had found Lydia's competitive streak annoying, and an all out fight had erupted between them over the languages career.

Now they were constantly at loggerheads whenever Lydia was home from boarding school. Kitty dealt with it maturely as far as Jane and Elizabeth were concerned, but all Lydia seemed to want to do, was wind her sister up and up until her temper was aroused, along that of the rest of the family. They were all hoping now that the clash of school terms verses tennis schedules would put an end to the constant quarrelling of the past year.

"Game, Miss Osborne. One game all. Miss Bennet to serve."

Elizabeth pushed her thoughts concerning Lydia to the back of her mind, although it was difficult to do so. Lydia and their other sister Mary were due to break up for the summer at the end of the week, which meant that all this stuff might soon be brought to the forefront once more. Nevertheless, now was not the time to worry about it. They still had a couple of days before it became a reality. Now it was only a possibility.

"Game, set, match Miss Bennet. 6-4, 6-4."

Elizabeth remained in her seat while her father left to meet Kitty in the changing rooms. She looked at the scoreboard, waiting for the results or current scores of the rest of the matches which were occurring today. Toby had just finished his match, wining in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-1. Caroline Bingley was struggling through her match, one set all. She caught Georgia Darcy's scores just before she left her chair. The young woman was playing Harriet Smith5 and wining one set to love. Despite the character of her brother, Elizabeth had liked Georgia very much. She had not seen her since signing her autograph book however.

"What did you think, Liz?" Kitty asked now as Elizabeth entered the changing rooms.

"You did very well Kitty," she answered with a smile. "Do you know who your next opponent is to be?"

"Frances Price6 I believe," Kitty said. "Dad thinks I should do okay against her. How is Georgia Darcy doing?"

"Up one set to love at the moment," Elizabeth replied. "I was just about to go and watch the rest of it. Want to come?"

"Yeah. I saw her in an interview with her brother yesterday. She sounded like a nice girl. You signed her autograph book, didn't you?"

"Yes, how did you know?"

"She mentioned that she was a fan of yours in the interview."

"Well, you two better get going if you want to watch what's left of her match," Michael Bennet commented then. "I'm going to meet Jane and Toby. See you both later, okay girls?"

Elizabeth and Kitty kissed their father goodbye and made their way to Court number eight. They arrived just in time for the start of the second set, sinking down into some empty seats at the top of the stalls.

"You've gotta admit, Liz," Kitty began soon after the first game began, "that despite whatever you may think about her brother, he is quite hot."

Elizabeth uttered a mock groan, and followed the direction of her sister's gaze. William Darcy sat opposite and below them, in the seats reserved for family members and coaches. His eyes seemed to be on his sister, watching her performance carefully. "All right, I guess," she answered Kitty. "If you like that tall, dark and handsome look."

"Which you tend to go for," Kitty pointed out.

"Denton was blond," Elizabeth countered in reply.

"Which was why it didn't work out," Kitty said, with all the confidence of one who had taken psychology as an A level. "Whose your favourite actor?"

"George Clooney."

"I rest my case."

Elizabeth laughed and shook her head, but still her eyes drifted back to William Darcy. From where she and Kitty were, she imagined that she could look at him unobserved, due to the size of the court. His eyes were still on his sister's performance. Kitty was right, she conceded silently; he was hot. Tall, dark and handsome, the classic understated British star. His profession was reflected in his physique, which was slim without being muscular, the former of which Elizabeth preferred.

If it weren't for his deplorable character, she could quite fancy him.

The afternoon drifted into the evening, with some matches still being played out, an event which, thanks to the long daylight hours of the summer, could continue late into the night. Wimbledon retained most of its tourists and fans, as some stayed to watch the late matches, and others began the queue for tickets to those of the third round on the morrow.

Elizabeth met up with Jane while the rest of their family returned to their London home. Charles Bingley had invited them both to his own town house, Netherfield, which unlike the Lucases he had wealth enough to own, as well as other property in his native America.

Jane had drifted into silence when they arrived at the house, causing Elizabeth to reach out and clasp her hand in comfort. She suspected that this was the first time Jane had properly realised how wealthy the Bingleys were compared to their family. True, the Bennets were more than comfortable, but theirs was a wealth born out of prize money, not the inherited pedigree which the Bingleys possessed. Charles' father had been one of many tycoons, who had all married equally successful women.

"You're fine Jane," Elizabeth told her as they climbed out of the taxi, having decided not to take their cars so short a distance. "Charles is interested in you because you're you. Not because of the money and prestige of the Bennet name."

Jane laughed as Elizabeth had intended, and had gained enough of her confidence back to smile at Charles when he came out into the hallway to greet them. He shook Elizabeth's hand, then swept his girlfriend into his arms for a kiss, leaving Jane completely composed and ready to enjoy the evening when he had done.

"Here they are," he announced to the rest of the room's occupants when they had entered the front living room. "You've met Darcy of course, but not the rest I believe. This is Georgia, his sister," he indicated the young girl, who smiled at both of them, "and this is my eldest sister, Caroline. My other sister lives in California and is working at present."

Elizabeth shook Caroline's hand after Jane, and then was glad to escape her attention in favour of sitting down with Georgia for the evening. Caroline's mission to have William Darcy was obviously firing on all cylinders, judging by the way she was currently fawning over him. She would have him it seemed, whether he liked it or not. As for the man himself, she had only paid him a cursory greeting and an equally cursory glance.

"I watched the last set of your match today," she said to Georgia now, turning her full attention on the young woman. "You played very well."

"Thank you," Georgia replied with a blush. "I wasn't able to watch your second match," she added, "I had to train, but my brother kept a note of the scores for me. He is so very good."

"Yes, so I hear from Toby."

"William practically raised me," Georgia continued, her confidence rising in seeing Elizabeth genuinely interested in her. "I was only eight when our mother died. Father did not take it so well, and Will kept a careful eye on me."

"It must have been very hard for you," Elizabeth sympathised. "I only lost my mother last year, and it difficult for all of us. I can only imagine that it must have been even harder for you two."

"It was harder on Will, than me, I think," Georgia replied. "I was too young to really remember her. But he was seventeen, and three years into his professional tenure in the sport. I remember him taking a year off rather than trying to play through it."

"And you have no other siblings?"

"No, I think that was because of the tennis tours. I've would have liked a sister though," Georgia finished wistfully. "You have four, don't you?"

"Indeed I do," Elizabeth replied. "There are Mary, Kitty and Lydia after me. Jane is the one I am closest to, however."

"What do Mary and Lydia do?"

"Mary's nineteen and at Music school. Lydia's fifteen and studying for her GCSE's at boarding school. They both break up tomorrow."

The conversation came to end at that moment, as dinner was served. The party rose from their chairs and entered the dining room. Here, the topics and talking was limited, not only by food, but also by the size of the room and the dining table, and Caroline's evident desire to find out everything she could about the Bennet family.

She had been content enough it seemed to fawn over Darcy until the meal was served, and now it was the turn of Jane and Elizabeth to endure her inquiries. Or, as Elizabeth referred to it later, her version of the Spanish Inquisition. Nothing about their family could escape her notice, particularly the fact that their fortune had been acquired out of prize money rather than inherited wealth.

"So tennis is almost your family business," she remarked after learning that the Gardiners were related to them. Both Madeline and Edward had been very good players before taking up the representing of future stars and the profession of coaching. "Mr Gardiner is your coach, isn't he, William?"

"Yes," William managed to get out, before she continued.

"And Mrs Gardiner, who does she coach?"

"She doesn't, she is a sports agent. She handles our family's and others sponsorship deals," Elizabeth replied, rescuing her sister a little, who was beginning to focus on her concerns about her status in comparison to that of her boyfriend's family once more.

Caroline seemed to grimace at that, as if the idea of being related to the commercial side of tennis was disgusting to her sensibilities. "Oh yes, of course," she uttered, before moving on to another round of questioning.

This line of inquiry continued after dinner, until the evidence of a decline in weather could no longer escape their notice. Bingley rose up from his seat and crouched before the entertainment system, switching on the widescreen television and putting up teletext to find a report and a prediction as to the rest of the night.

"Looks like a severe frost has set in," he remarked after reading the given information. "No evidence of it shifting until tomorrow."

Jane began remarking about the ordering of a taxi, a notion which Caroline seemed happy to encourage, Elizabeth noticed. Obviously she did not approve of her brother's current choice in women. She also observed, and to his credit, Darcy voice his concern over that motion.

"I don't advise it, Jane. There's a alert to all drivers, even for short journeys. I'm quite happy to take everyone to their homes however, if you wish."

Just as Jane was about to accept his kind offer, his friend spoke up. "No, Darce, I won't have you risking your car. You can all stay here. There's plenty of room."

Elizabeth and Jane assented with the Darcys to Charles' proposal, and she could not help but notice the lack of enthusiasm from Caroline. For once, she pitied William Darcy.

1. Miss Osborne is from The Watsons, one of Jane Austen's unfinished novels.
2. John Thorpe is from Northanger Abbey.
3. & 4. Anne Steele and Miss Grey are from Sense & Sensibility.
5. Harriet Smith is from Emma.
6. Frances Price is the main character of Mansfield Park.

Chapter 7: I Can't Break The Spell. (Rated: NC17)

You look into my eyes, I go out of my mind
I can't see anything, 'coz this love got me blind
I can't help myself, I can't break the spell.

Too Lost In You, by the Sugababes.
From the album Three.

Friday, 25th June 2004. Third Round.

Jane Bennet woke early that morning, her mind on the events of last night rather than the match she was due to play this afternoon. Her blue eyes cast a glance around her current surroundings, sighing as she encountered yet more evidence of the Bingley wealth. Even in the guest rooms, the rich pedigree of the family showed. Jane felt extremely unworthy of the man who had caught her heart at this precise moment. His sister Caroline had made it clear last night that the vast difference between them could not be ignored, and now Jane was beginning to slowly accept that.

She rose out of the bed, advancing to the sports bag which she had brought with her, a rueful smile settling on to her features. She had planned to wake up beside Charles this morning, and arrive at her training for her match straight from Netherfield. Now the bag just looked presumptuous. Unzipping it, Jane rooted out the jeans and t-shirt she needed, along with a set for her sister. Consulting her wristwatch, Jane opened the connecting door which Caroline had told her about last night, and forced a happy smile of greeting to her sister, before throwing her the clothes. The smile was gone by the time Jane had closed the door once more. Slowly she slipped on her clothes, her mind trying to reconcile her heart to what she was about to do.

Later, if she had felt cause to ponder, Jane would have to admit that she did not know what would have happened if she had not met Charles at the bottom of the stairs. The beaming smile on his face had disappeared the moment he saw the concern on hers, and he had taken her hands, leading her to one of the rooms on the ground floor. He locked the door of the study behind them, and then taken hold of her hands again, as he spoke. He only had to say five words, and everything changed.

"Don't pay attention to her," he uttered, before catching her lips in his. Surprised, all noble motives went from Jane's mind as she just focused on what Charles was doing to her with his lips. His hands left hers to wrap themselves in her blond strands, and she let her own drift to his neck to twirl the ends of his curls. Jane leaned her head back against the wall, closing her eyes as she lost herself to the moment. Charles' lips left hers to slide down her neck, and Jane felt herself utter a quiet, blissful sigh. This was what she had missed last night, and what she realised, she had obviously needed to regain her confidence. Caroline had no power over her, she must remember that. She had not been there when they had met in France, she did not understand the relationship between them.

A second later, and all thoughts or concerns about Caroline Bingley flew out of Jane's head, as she relished in the sensations Charles was producing within her. She lifted up her arms and he pulled her t-shirt away, tossing it over his head and across the room. His hands unzipped her fly as her own went to his, and Jane lifted her butt from the wall to let him slide her jeans and underwear off her legs. Their lips found each other again as Charles pushed her back against the wall. She slid her hands under his t-shirt to trace the smooth skin of his back as he entered her.

They had made love before, but Jane had never thought the experience to be as heated and as passionate as it was that morning against the wall of his study in his London home. Behind her boyfriend's jovial features, as she had discovered frequently since they met, lay a very powerful and passionate man. She felt energised and assured all at once. She also felt that she could be certain now of Caroline's failure. For there was no way she was letting go of this wonderful man who was inside her now. She stretched and squeezed her inner muscles, smiling through their kiss as Charles screamed out her name and came. Her own release followed a moment later.

Charles slowly drew back from her lips, breathing deeply, his face flushed by their activity. Gently he slipped out from her and pulled her pants and jeans back up, as he struggled to regain his ability to breathe. "If you haven't already gathered," he began, still breathing heavily, "I don't give a damn what Caroline thinks about us. I'm in love with you, Jane. You. I couldn't care less if you were a billionairess or living on the streets. I neither want or need anything but what you can give me yourself. I want only you." He leant forward, catching her lips for another kiss. He kept it short, drawing back to add some final words. "I love you, Jane Bennet. I only want the same from you in return."

"You have it," Jane replied honestly. "I do love you Charles. Caroline just got to me, that's all. I'm not as strong as people think."

"I know," he said, his eyes staring straight into hers. "That's why I knew I needed to find you and reassure you this morning. Have I succeeded?"

"Definitely," Jane's voice sounded full of promises.

Charles groaned regretfully. "I wish we could stay here all day, but we both have a match this afternoon." He stepped back from her, turning to search for her t-shirt. Jane blushed as he handed it to her. Charles merely smiled in return. "I love that look on you," he remarked huskily, as his blue eyes took in her long blond hair, free from any ties, resting around her pale skin and the bikini top which had been underneath her t-shirt, and the tight blue jeans with a stitch design on the slightly flared ends.

"You don't look too bad yourself," Jane mused, her white plain top now back on. She glanced at her watch and sighed. "Dad will be here soon."

"I'll come up and help you pack," Charles said, wrapping and arm around her waist and leading her out of the room. Jane rested her head on her shoulders, her mind at peace about their relationship once more.

An early riser by nature, her body possessing an internal alarm clock, Elizabeth Bennet was up and out of her guest bedroom at Netherfield at six am. Ten minutes later and she was dressed, and making her way downstairs.

She had not expected anyone to be about, but as she reached the living room where they had spent most of the evening before the decline in weather was noticed, Elizabeth was forced to greet the awake and alert figure of William Darcy. He too seemed surprised at her appearance, turning round from the window he was standing by, blinking and then settling his eyes into a stare. "Good morning, Miss Bennet," he said.

"Good morning," Elizabeth replied, taking her own stock of him. He was dressed in dark blue jeans and matching t-shirt. His hair was a mass of unbrushed curls which some of her fingers itched to smooth out. She turned, rigorously shaking the notion away.

Little did she realise how much of an effect she was having on him. William could not stop staring. He had not seen her with her hair long before. It settled around her in thick, slightly curly waves, some strands falling in front of her shoulders, resting gently over black tight top. Her blue jeans were also tight, causing William to breathe deeply as she turned round, unknowingly showing off the assets of her backside.

He flushed and turned back to the window. "The frost has cleared up quite well," he remarked, feeling an idiot for talking about the weather, but felt it to be the best distraction to his heated mind. "It promises to be another perfect day." Finally feeling in control of his body, he turned round. "Who are you playing today?"

"Jane Fairfax,1 first match on Court number four," Elizabeth replied, sitting down in one of the leather armchairs. "Who are you playing?"

"James Rushworth,2" William said, moving from the window to sit opposite her. "Third match on Court number one." He paused, clasping his hands together. "I apologise for Caroline's behaviour last night."

"What effect did you have on how she behaved?"

"Less distraction than your sister needed, I feel," William said. "If its any help, I think Jane and Charles are perfect together."

"Thanks," Elizabeth replied, hiding her astonishment at the event of them having a friendly conversation together. Last night they had barely spoken, confirming her opinion of him as an arrogant man. This morning however, that opinion was coming under some revision, for he seemed almost eager to talk.

The door opened, admitting Jane and Charles. Elizabeth and William turned their faces to greet them, but their efforts went unnoticed, for the couple seemed oblivious to everything except each other. Elizabeth smiled at the sight of them, pleased that Charles had assured her expectations of him, and Jane's sensibilities. Unlike his sister, it was evident this morning that he did not care for differences in background.

Caroline arrived down a few minutes later, her face scowling when she caught sight of her brother and Jane still wrapped up in each other. Charles seemed to almost revel in her displeasure, as he asked his girlfriend first what she wanted for breakfast, before turning to the rest of the living room's occupants.

The rest of the morning passed as normal. Michael Bennet arrived soon after breakfast to collect his daughters, causing Caroline to scowl even more, at the sight of her brother's long farewell kiss to the eldest. They went back home first to collect their tennis equipment and the rest of their family, entering the Wimbledon complex just after Big Ben had sounded out eleven o'clock.

Elizabeth walked with her sister to the changing rooms, then followed her out to the training ground, where she indulged in a short match with her brother. She and Toby were almost as close as her and Jane, having only fourteen months separating them. Like her, he favoured their father's dark hair and brown eyes, along with a career that looked set to equalise his.

When he had won Roland Garros, the first thing Toby had done was to present the trophy to Elizabeth, posing with her for one of the official pictures. Elizabeth had promised to do him the same honour when she won a title of her own. But she was under no illusion that the promise would soon be fulfilled. She knew Jane to be a favourite for Wimbledon, and did not believe herself ready to win that title this year. She was not in the sport for the glory, only for the passion.

Nevertheless, she slaughtered her brother in their mock game and entered Court number four just before one in the afternoon in an upbeat mood. Changing her racket and refastening her hair, she practised a few serves before taking up her position ready.

"Game. Miss Bennet leads by five games to love."

William leant forward in his seat, the strategy of his own game today far away from his mind as he watched Elizabeth play her third round match. This morning at Netherfield he had been unable to take his eyes off her. Their first full conversation had convinced him all the more that he was too far gone to draw himself back now.

Yet he had stopped short of asking her out. This morning he had put it down to their surroundings, but now he was not sure what had stopped him. It certainly had not been Caroline's presence. She had been far too occupied in scowling at the closeness of Jane and Charles to worry about bothering him until after Michael Bennet had picked up his daughters. He had left himself shortly afterwards with Georgia, barely giving her a chance.

"Game, first set. Miss Bennet leads six games to love, and by one set to love. Second set, Miss Bennet to serve."

William consulted his watch, relaxing at the time. His own match was destined to be quite late in the day, having two men's matches before it, meaning he had plenty of time to indulge in watching Elizabeth. His thoughts returned to the reason of why he had not asked her out. He had had two perfect opportunities; before Jane and Charles had entered the room, and just after breakfast, when Caroline had left to get dressed- having arrived downstairs in a orange kimono and short matching silk night-gown, making Will grateful once more that he had never slept with her -and the happy couple had returned to the living room. Why had he not asked her? Morosely he stared through the crowds to her distant figure on the grass, searching his mind for a explanation. It could not have been nerves, for they had got on quite well. The only reason which seemed to be left did not satisfy him.

It had not felt right. William had no idea why, but the situation had not felt right for asking her out. So he had held back, and now it looked like he had might have missed his chance. He had dinner with his Uncle Matlock Fitzwilliam and family this evening, and had not planned to meet up with Charles until next week. Ditto with Toby.

Which left him only one alternative; seeking her out by himself.

"Game, set and match, Miss Bennet. 6-0, 6-0."

Elizabeth shook hands with her opponent and the umpire, and walked back to her bag feeling quite pleased with herself. She put her tennis racket away and slung the bag on her shoulder, before walking up to the barriers to sign some magazines and autograph books. Reaching the end, she glanced up to the scoreboard, her smile growing wider as she read her sister's scores so far.

Jane was winning one set to love against Charlotte Heywood,3 and had won that first set by the same score as she had against Jane Fairfax. She hung on the grass a little, and managed to taken note of Charles Bingley's match, which was also still in progress, against Robert Martin.4

Like her sister he was also winning comfortably, two sets up and leading the third set two games to love. Elizabeth thought back to their entrance into the living room this morning. She had breathed a sigh of relief at seeing her sister so happy and oblivious. Charles had clearly managed to wipe away all her concerns about Caroline and the comparison of money acquisition.

Kitty was waiting for her in the changing rooms, and Elizabeth lost her trail of thoughts in their conversation while she changed. They left then for Court number three, arriving just at the end of their sister's victory. Joining Jane in her changing room, they talked about their matches, reviewing their opponents attempts- or lack of them -to snatch the match back from them.

They met their father and brother exiting the changing rooms. A third man was with them, and at the sight of him, all three Bennet sisters groaned.

"You remember my cousin Mr Collins, don't you?" Michael Bennet remarked after he had congratulated his two eldest on their victory. The man simpered over them, while Elizabeth recalled her family's past history with this particular relation.

He was an average tennis player, but thought himself equal of their father. His father had been famed for throwing temper tantrums whenever his son had lost a match, which was more often than not was the case. He and their father had never got on, and it was only after Alan Collins death that his son decided to try and heal the breach. He had visited them last year before their mother had died, simpering over all of them and trying to ask each of them out. They all had refused and spent most of his stay avoiding him as much as possible.

"Wilheim has retired from professional playing," Michael continued, his eyebrows raised on the word 'professional,' making Elizabeth hide a smile of amusement. "And now he is involved in the sponsorship business."

"And I would be honoured if any one of you would accept my guidance," said Collins, still in the same simpering fashion.

Elizabeth refused immediately, followed by Toby and Kitty, Jane adding hers at the end with slightly more compassion. Practically speaking, tennis players made far more money from sponsorship deals than from winning matches and championships, and the more they had of the former, the better they could look after themselves and afford to play less matches. But then Bennet offspring had long since decided to let their Aunt Madeline Gardiner represent them. And she was doing a far better job than Wilhiem Collins would ever have done.

Now all they needed to focus on, was avoiding the man as much possible through the championship.

1. Jane Fairfax is from Emma.
2. James Rushworth is from Mansfield Park.
3. Charlotte Heywood is from Sandition.
4. Robert Martin is from Emma.

Chapter 8: Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

Why does it always rain on me,
Is because I lied when I was seventeen
Why does it always rain on me
Even when the sun is shining,
I can't avoid the lightning

Why Does It Always Rain On Me? by Travis.
From the album The Man Who.

Saturday, 26th June 2004. Second day of the Third Round.

Saturday dawned, its arrival signalling additions to the Bennet family, namely the return of the two sisters who had not taken up the sporting inheritance of their parents. Their summer term had ended the day before, and early morning saw Mary and Lydia arrive at the Bennet's London house.

Lydia, the youngest at fifteen, whirled into the breakfast kitchen first, her bubbly mood obviously paramount this morning. Her died blond hair, with its original brown roots still showing because she thought them distinctive, Lydia was and always had been the wild child of the Bennet family. Her mother's favourite, she had spent most of her young life so far moving from one phase to another.

Lately, most of those passions had been taken up because her sister Kitty had professed a liking for them. Other than that, Lydia seemed determined to be as different as she could be from her other sisters. At the moment she wore the uniform of her school, but with a short skirt and mostly undone shirt. She plonked herself down at the table, grabbing a spare bit of toast and ploughing into it despite all her sister's protestations that she act her age.

Mary followed her sibling inside at a more sedate pace. Unlike Lydia, she had the natural blond of Jane and their mother, along with the quite dignity and grace. These already natural attributes had been further ingrained by her education as a classical performer. Mary had been at a piano since she was three, and had added in a violin when she was accepted into one of London's best music schools. Unlike Lydia's, it had no uniform, yet Mary still looked smarter than her other academic sibling.

"Hi all," Mary said now, sitting down at the table after hugging her father, brother and sisters. "Congrats on all your matches so far. Kit, you and Toby are up today, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I've got Frances Price1 and Toby has James Benwick,2" Kitty replied, studiously ignoring Lydia. Since that fiasco with languages last year, she had been unable to forgive her sister as she usually tended to do whenever Lydia got competitive with her. Not that the fight had cost her a dream career. She was glad once she had gone professional with tennis. It had just been one of the possibilities.

No, it had not been the fiasco itself. It had been the fact that this had been the latest in a series of trials with a sibling she had once considered a best friend. And this last argument had seemed to Kitty to be a bit more premeditated than the others. Yet, it had not been as difficult as she had expected it to be. Spending the time in the tours with her sisters had done a lot restore her confidence and security in being herself. And the moment she had played her first serve at her first match, Kitty had known it was right.

"I managed to reserve some tickets online so I could come and see you all," Mary continued. "How's it going so far? Although I don't really need to ask you, Liz, judging by the match I heard on the radio yesterday."

"I did slaughter her a bit, didn't I?" Elizabeth said, though not ashamed of doing so. "Still, its a long way to go."

"Well, you're all going to be pleased with me," Lydia butted in, having finished the remains of the toast. "I've taken up tennis lessons."

The reaction was hardly the one Lydia was expecting. Kit groaned, while everyone else looked at her with polite smiles. Her father was the first to reply.

"That's good, Lydia," he said. "Who's your coach?"

"George Wickham," Lydia practically swooned, and at once all of her siblings realised what her motive was for suddenly showing an interest in the family inheritance.

"Never heard of him," their father replied mildly, although the tone of his youngest daughter had not escaped him either. He had learnt however that it was best not to show his real feelings about boys around Lydia. By showing as little interest as possible, she would undoubtedly out grow the craze. Or at least, he hoped she would.

"Oh, he trained in the sport, he just never went pro," Lydia continued, as if the reaction from everyone had not appeared. "He told me that he had learned with William Darcy."

That at last got some attention. Elizabeth and Toby both looked up. "Really? George Wickham?" Toby sought to confirm. "Darce has never mentioned him."

"I'm not surprised," Lydia said, leaning back in her chair in what she thought was a stylish manner. "Geor- Mr Wickham said that they haven't spoken to each other since graduating from Cambridge."

"How come?" Elizabeth asked.

"Apparently Mr Wickham was a godson of Darcy's Dad, and they were raised together as children. He left him some things in his Will and Darcy refused to give them to him."

"I'm sure there is an explanation," Toby remarked confidently. "Darce is an extremely loyal guy to any friends and family."

"Well I don't like the man," Lydia decided vehemently.

"He's a godfather himself," Toby added, folding the sports section of the Times away. "To his cousin Jolian's eldest son."

Elizabeth kept silent. She had no desire to verbally disagree with her brother. Lydia did not need encouragement right now. But at the moment, she felt inclined to side with her sister on the matter.

As for William himself, he had long since left his home for Wimbledon. Meeting up with his cousins in the training courts, he had fallen into conversation regarding the dinner evening the night before.

His maternal Uncle, Matlock Fitzwilliam, had moved to America shortly after marrying another famous tennis player. That first marriage had produced William's eldest cousin, Jolian. Matlock had then divorced and married again, this time a Canadian. This had also ended in divorce, albeit amicable, Delta Fitzwilliam moving to England with their son Richard. As a result, Richard had the difficulty of facing swaying loyalties from fans. When he lost, he was Canadian, when he won, he was British.3

Not long after they had arrived, they were joined by their coaches, Georgia and her coach, and Leo Gardiner. Son of Edward and Madeline Gardiner, he had known all three of them since they were children.

William was trying to be not as distracted as he had been lately. After realising why he had hesitated on asking Elizabeth out, he had resolved to relax and be patient about the matter. Love had been a fickle thing to him when he had actively searched for it. Now he had decided to let love come to him. If it was meant to be, then it would happen.

So he chatted agreeably to his cousins, friend and coach, and praised Georgia for her skill in preparation for her match this afternoon.

Toby Bennet arrived close on eleven with Kitty and Charles Bingley in tow. He saw his sister set up with her training court, then wondered over to Darcy and company before choosing his own court to train on.

"Mornin' all," he said upon arrival. "Darce, have you heard of a George Wickham?"

William was glad that his sister was some distance away from him as he heard the two words which were liable to break his control on himself. As it was, he stilled abruptly and paled, looking at his friend with guarded eyes. "Why do you ask, Toby?"

"Lydia informed us that she was taking coaching lessons with him apparently," Toby replied. "She said some things about him, but by the look on your face I can see they're not true. Is there a need for me to be concerned?"

William almost did not catch his friend's query. He was staring at the distant figure of his sister, training with her coach. "How old is Lydia?" He asked in a stilted tone.

"Fifteen," Toby replied.

"Then I'd suggest you take a close interest in the lessons," William replied.

"What happened, Will?" Toby asked, dropping the nickname in concern.

"Nothing that I couldn't cure," William answered after awhile. "But I was this far from being unable to." He emphasised the short distance between his finger and thumb, then abruptly bent down to lift his racket out of his sport bag, unzipping the protective casing. "Come on," he said to Toby, "haven't you got a match this afternoon?"

"Indeed I have," Toby agreed, understanding the message immediately.

"Do you think he will come to Wimbledon?" Richard Fitzwilliam asked his cousin later that day.

"I'm not sure," William answered dubiously. They sat down in the seats reserved for family, and he returned his sister's eager wave. He sighed as he looked at her, watching her as she warned up for her match with Anne Elliot.4 "I don't want to have to tell her about this. She's only just started to recover."

"You're worried that it might affect her playing?" Richard asked.

"Partly," William admitted. "But I couldn't give a damn about her tennis just as long as she's all right within herself."

"Miss Anne Elliot verses Miss Georgia Darcy. First set, Miss Elliot to serve," the umpire announced.

William's eyes followed his sister as she got up from her chair and prepared herself to receive her opponent's serve. Today's match would be her greatest test. Anne Elliot was a well established player. He tried to push the reminder of George Wickham to the back of his mind. All the same, he wished that he could have done something more to prevent the s.o.b from continuing with the sport.

"Thirty, forty, break point," the umpire announced, indicating that the first game was already in Georgia's favour. William continued to watch her, his eyes glowing in quiet admiration at how far she had come in the family career. Georgia was the darling of the Darcy and Fitzwilliam families alike, being the youngest child of the offspring from each branch of the family.

When their father had passed away Richard had become her guardian along with William. It was a circumstance which William had been glad of, having always been friends with his elder cousin of two years. Richard was his closest friend from childhood, and William respected his opinion. Which was why he had confided in him about George Wickham.

"Game, Miss Elliot. Miss Darcy to serve."

"At the moment," Richard began quietly, his voice lowered so as not to disturb his cousin's concentration, "I suggest you leave it alone. Don't forget about it completely, but don't tell Georgie either. It might never happen."

"Thirty, love."

"You're right," William agreed, his eyes still on his sister. Resolutely he obeyed his cousin's advice and put the possibility to the back of his mind. After all, there were far better things to think about.

Like if he was ever going to ask Elizabeth Bennet out.

A few courts away, Elizabeth and Mary sat in the same area of seating, watching their sister play her match. Jane and their father were at Toby's, while Lydia was at home doing the assignments which had been set over the holidays.

"Game, Miss Bennet. One game all."

Elizabeth leant back in her seat and turned to her sister, lowering her voice as she asked a question. "Did Lydia talk about Mr Wickham on the way home?"

"From the moment I picked her up to the moment we walked inside," Mary replied. "I knew from the first moment she mentioned him that she hadn't taken up the sport for sheer hell of it. Or a sudden love for the game."

"She's not his only student, is she?"

"No, as far as I can gather, he teaches her entire year. He's no stranger to the families connected to the sport though, from what I could gather from Lydia. The minute he heard who her father was he offered to give her extra tuition."

"And Lydia being at the age she is, leapt at the chance?" Elizabeth guessed, a grim smile on her face. She might not like William Darcy because of what George Wickham said about him, but that did not mean she was completely blind to what her sister saw in the guy either.

"Game, Miss Price. Miss Bennet to serve."

"Yep. Though she wasn't the only one," Mary added. "All her class were rapidly searching for a connection to the sport the moment he made the offer, as far as I could gather from her."

"Did she say anything else about him and William Darcy?" Elizabeth tried to ask as casually as possible.

"Thirty, love."

"Yeah. She got the whole sob story from what it sounds like. Although half of it, I suspect, could be a product of her imagination. Here's the gist of it: George Wickham was George Darcy's godson, and he and William Darcy were raised together on the family estate in Derbyshire. The Wickhams were part of the household apparently, and a bit hard up, according to Lydia.

!George Darcy paid for George Wickham's education, and arranged for him to be trained with William in the sport. But he and George grew apart during the transition from Grammar school to university, as William turned pro and George had to work in order to help his family. When George Darcy died, he left in his Will an inheritance which his son, as master of the estates and fortune, refused to give."

"Game, Miss Bennet. Two games all. Miss Bennet to serve."

"That doesn't sound too romanticised to me," Elizabeth remarked after watching her sister serve her first ace of the match.

"I've just provided the summary. Lydia made it sound the equivalent of a poor boy makes his fortune movie." Mary sounded disgusted at her sister's crush. "I only hope that I'm wrong in thinking that Wickham has encouraged her to think that."

"Surely they wouldn't have hired him if he had that reputation?" Elizabeth argued.

"Maybe he doesn't. Yet. But Lydia is..."

"Lydia," Elizabeth finished grimly.

"Game. Miss Price to serve."

Elizabeth let the conversation end, her thoughts paramount. She ran the story through her mind once more, pushing all her impressions about William Darcy to the back of her mind, in order that she could examine it objectively. Based on just the story itself, it did sound a bit Hollywood. But she could not dismiss it totally.

All she had seen of William Darcy so far had served to confirm the possibility. Her better sense was telling her to take all that her sister had said with a grain of salt, but Elizabeth could not help but remember all of her meetings with William Darcy, and how each one had confirmed her first impression of him. She had thought him arrogant, proud, and too sure of himself and his ability.

She had never thought him to be this bad. She tried to think of what Toby had said of him, having known him the longest. Reserved, but lively among friends and family. Loyal to everyone included in those groups. A godfather himself. Based on that alone, Elizabeth could see a fault with the story. But then he could have been jealous of the close relationship between his father and George Wickham.

No, the more and more she thought about it, the more and more she hated William Darcy, and believed George Wickham.

1. Frances Price is the main character of Mansfield Park.
2. & 4. James Benwick and Anne Elliot are from Persuasion.
3. Like Richard, the tennis player whom I based his background on a little, Greg Rusedski often gets handed this dual country origin by the press.

Volume three