20 December 2006 @ 12:59 pm
FIC: Sense and Sensibility - "We Have Lingered"  

Yes, this was a homework assignment. Yes, AP English is over. Yes, I got a 100. No, I don't ever want to hear about Lord of the Rings ever, ever again.

We Have Lingered
Sense and Sensibility | G | Elinor/Edward, Marianne/Brandon | 1,000 words | movieverse
Elinor and Brandon have an unexpected heart-to-heart.

It was on this warm April night that Elinor sat in the drawing room, eyes tracing the faded edges of the wallpaper, a night when she and Marianne should have been sewing, or the three of them playing some sort of whimsical silly game Margaret had contrived in her idle hours; instead she sat with the light of the fire licking softly at the hem of her calico dress.

Their mother was in with Marianne now, possessed of a wash-basin and cool cloths with which to bathe Marianne's brow. When she was not tending to her sick child, patting Marianne's hand with her enfeebled and age-spotted one, she was bustling about Barton Cottage, harping at everyone—the perfectly innocent most of all—for any perceived slack in their duties; Elinor had had to seclude herself in the drawing room to escape her mother's well-meaning but acidic presence.

Still, Elinor desperately wanted her sister to recover. Mr Harris had declared Marianne past the point of danger, but still she remained in bed, covers drawn up about her pale face; though she could eat again, and speak, she was given to the occasional bout of shivering. Elinor frequented her bedside, whispering quiet reassurances and trying to be as comforting as she possibly could while harboring secret thoughts; for what Elinor dared not admit except to herself was that she was jealous and more than a little peeved at Marianne's childish behaviour. The middle Dashwood sister had a pre-disposition toward indiscretion and foolishness that had always annoyed Elinor; in love Marianne shone like a candle on the stormiest of nights, but heartbroken she had the remarkable tendency of bringing everyone's spirits down with her. How Marianne's emotions managed to pervade an entire household—and the servants, for their manner was even yet more cross than usual—Elinor did not care to know, but if only Marianne had been able to put aside these romantic sensibilities for at least a week after arriving home!

Elinor sighed and scrubbed at her face with her hands. If only Willoughby had married Marianne!—if only he had cared more for her sister's heart than for his pocketbook!—if only he would come back to Marianne and beg her forgiveness! Poor Marianne, raised on the verses of love! Of course she had expected Willoughby's hand; he had flattered her, entertained her every whim, done everything expected of a suitor. And yet—here Marianne lay just inches from death's door, and Willoughby enjoyed his fortunes just a few miles away.

Lost in thought, Elinor barely heard the door creak open behind her; she rushed quickly to it and pressed her back against it, keeping the intruder out. She could not stomach the idea of slaving around the cottage one minute longer while her mother wailed and Marianne stared listlessly up at the ceiling. The visitor knocked softly, then said, "I apologize for intruding, Miss Dashwood—for I assume it is you behind this door. I understand if you would like to be left alone, but perhaps you would enjoy some company."

Elinor hesitated for only a second before moving away and allowing the visitor to enter: Colonel Brandon, face lined and weary, eyes shadowed with an unspoken grief; he had changed into clean clothes, but still wore his travel-soiled boots. He and Elinor exchanged courtesies about dinner and accommodations before Colonel Brandon cleared his throat and said, "May I speak with you, Miss Dashwood, about a matter that is quite dear to you, and of utmost importance to myself?"

He wanted to discuss Marianne. No, thought Elinor, she is not yours to talk about; but Colonel Brandon's face was earnest and serious to the point of sadness, and Elinor could not help the pity that crept into her soul. After all, she too knew what rejection felt like: it must have felt all the worse for Colonel Brandon, being within the same house as the object of his affections and yet unable to touch her, to hear her clear voice speaking his name with love.

"I fear do not know how to help you, Colonel Brandon," said Elinor, a touch of feeling in her words. "Marianne has not been herself since the masquerade, as you well know, and nothing we say or do can lift her spirits to their previous level of happiness." She saw Colonel Brandon's eyes flash quickly in comprehension, and continued. She talked about Marianne's childhood—how she had gathered flowers in her dress, showing off her ankles in a very unladylike manner, and explained that these are for my wedding, Elinor, won't I look pretty surrounded by daisies? How Marianne had slipped poetry books inside the covers of her French texts, pretending to study while shaping the words of the Bard on her lips. How Marianne had smiled, once upon a time.

And as Elinor spoke she found her own voice trembling, almost imperceptibly, at the memory of her sweet sister—as if Marianne had already passed away and lay rotting in the dank dead earth!—and she saw Colonel Brandon's face filled with compassion, and she thought for the first moment since Marianne's illness:


"There, there, Miss Dashwood," murmured Colonel Brandon softly as she collapsed against him, thin shoulders quaking with a year's worth of tears. His large hands rested gently on her back; it was a wholly inappropriate gesture for her to be seen in the arms of an older man—a stranger to her, it seemed, in terms of acquaintance—but the warmth of his body was more comforting than any words could ever have been.

Colonel Brandon breathed out slowly, stirring her hair. "What a tragedy," he said, voice faint yet full of a tenderness she knew was born of empathy. "A trio of broken hearts—and yet I believe that there will a happy ending when all this has passed. Do you believe so, Miss Dashwood?"

Elinor could feel his heartbeat on her skin, synchronizing with her own, tapping out the steady rhythm of a waltz. "I do," she said, "I do believe so."

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