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And Now Your Role Is Mine To Play

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How can something break more than once?

 That was the very question Penelope had been asking herself for years, ever since that rainy day when her hat had blinded Colin and had him falling on his face. She had been so worried, both at the idea of causing someone pain and at the thought of her mother’s scolding should she have heard about it. Instead, the drenched boy had laughed at the puddle he found himself in, looking up with green eyes full of glee as he held out the cap to her


He didn’t know he had picked up her heart at the same time.


Yet over the years, she didn’t know how much she would grow to hate that meeting.
She would never change it should she had the choice; it was because of Colin that she met Eloise, the girl who was more of a sister then the ones who shared her name, and through them the entire Bridgerton family.

 For the first time in her life, she had felt like she finally belonged somewhere.

She couldn’t help but cycle through the endless moments her mind contained

 Violet asking her about her schooling while making snacks for her and Eloise to munch on. Telling her how proud she was whenever Penelope showed her an aced exam or A graded paper.

Daphne asking her to go on a girl’s day with her, needing to talk to someone who she knew would give her the truth without sugar coating it. She was worried about her and Simon, about how scared she was about falling so hard so fast for a man who was known for his distaste to commitment.

She had watched the girl ramble, talking about the upcoming date she was going on, worried because despite dating for a few short months she feared that maybe there was something about her that would change his mind

Instead of saying anything Penelope had handed her a dress she found, a deep blue that shimmered and sparked like stars flying through the night.

“if you think that way, she had said, handing her a pair of heels she thought would pair well with the dress” “then you will be that way, and considering that you have been together four months and he has met your family “she now pushed the girl into the dressing room. “I would say he quite likes you the way you are”.

When she came out, Penelope gently led her to the floor length mirror that was awaiting outside the dressing room. “Besides” she said, smoothing out the wrinkles before meeting her eyes in their reflection. “If he was willing to sit through that joint Bridgerton- Feathertington party where Prudence insisted upon showing her vocal talents then he is absolutely, assuredly in love with you”.

She smiled brightly when the older girl answered her with a loud snort that had a few other customers looking over, and Penelope couldn’t help but snort with her.


She thought about Benedict deciding that it was time for her and Eloise to have “the talk” and Anthony had bludgeoned him with the throw pillows, yelling to not say such vulgar things
who then unfortunately gave the very talk himself after the probing from both girls, who were treated to the much more PG version that Benedict had been elaborating on.


She still laughs when she remembers the pantomiming he did behind Anthony. Her cheeks sore by the time she went home, having had to keep in the laughter to spare Benedict’s life (and Anthony’s sanity)

Yet her fondest memories all revolved around the third eldest brother.

Colin who had taken her and Eloise to their very first concert, beaming when he returned from the vendor with a shirt just for her (I gotta make sure you always remember this day he had said, gently placing the shirt in her shell-shocked hands (thankfully Eloise gave her the time to recoup as she bemoaned about the betrayal by her own kin).

When he threw the shirt at her after coming back the second time, she was well enough to offer him back a shy mile. Cheeks aflame that she swore was a result of the crowd around them.

Colin who had taken her hand and led her to the dancefloor at Daphne’s wedding, swaying lightly as he questioned how much trouble he would be in if he were to swipe some frosting from the cake a few meters away

(quite a bit in fact, as the swipe turned into a piece that he shared with her after the scolding. She watched intently as he swiped at the bit of frosting on his lip excusing herself to the bathroom, hoping that the water would wash away all fantasies that had flashed through her mind.

It was Colin who had taught her to drive when her mother waved of her request to be taught. Tutting as she declared “Where do you need to go? Your only friend is across the street”

When she had made her way over to that very friends’ house, Colin was the one who opened the door, smile dropping when he saw her dower demeanor, asking what was wrong.

After she had calmed him down, insisting while laughing that “No you do not need to go over to give her a piece of your mind” and pleas for him to not in fact, key her mother’s car. He declared that he would teach her

She had gawked at him at first, heart thumping in both joy and dread at the thought of spending all that time with him. Yet her head was shaking yes before she could even weigh the pros and cons.

When she had showed up after her test, grinning widely as she held up the newly acquired ID he had nearly tackled her in excitement. Shouting praise as he picked her up and swung her in a hug that nearly knocked over the approaching Eloise. When he placed her back on the ground at the request (or rather demand) of Eloise who yelled about him hogging her best friend,  his hands were still clasped tightly around her waist, eyes soft and smile gentle.

She wondered what would it be like now had she kissed him in that moment.

Yet for every moment that Colin Bridgerton made her heart soar, there was always one where he shattered it to pieces

Like the time she and Eloise had one of their sleepovers. Colin had been out most of the day, getting drinks with some friends at a nearby club. When he came home, minutes short of the clock striking 12 he walked through the door. Like some drunken Cinderella. grin sly and hair rumpled. She could see the shades of red that danced along his neck, the impressions that had smeared onto the collar of his shirt.

Or the time he left her waiting by the curb, promising her he would pick her up for a movie the two were both excited for She had waited nearly an hour, shivering in the cool autumn weather before making her way back to her house.

She got a call 2 hours later, Colin apologizing profusely as to how he had lost track of time, about how the new barista at the café by his work was gorgeous and flirty and god pen she was bloody amazing. When he told her, he would take her to the late showing she feigned a cough, and that it was okay and they could just see it another day.

She hung up before he even uttered a single vowel of her name.

Time and time again he held her heart in his hands, time and time again he crushed it without even knowing it, and yet with the same unawareness he had of breaking it, he would do something, say something, that began the reconstruction all over again.

Today, on the day of her 18th birthday, was the day where she knew that it was now beyond repair.

Her birthdays were always a day she would rather forget, a day that growing up was treated like any other day by her mother and sisters. After meeting Eloise and becoming an unofficial Bridgerton herself, she finally believed that it was a day worth celebrating.

Every year since the household would throw a party for her. An entirely to elaborate affair that at first, she was vehemently opposed to, telling them she wasn’t worth the effort.

After the resounding sound of 8 (now 9 with Daphne’s marriage to Simon, who developed a surprising close friendship with Penelope) voices yelling that she in fact, was worth it, did she concede to the celebrations.

She now looked forward to the day more than anything.

Except today

The party was the same as it was every year, loud and exciting. Her favorite food sprawled about the table, streamers and balloons in her favorite colors dancing along the walls and doorways. A massive cake that remained hidden until it was time to bring it out (Violet no longer trusted Colin with them out) and a pile of presents rested near the couch.

It was the same as always and it was beautiful, except for one thing

Except for the fact that during that summer, some long distinct cousin of her fathers was sent to spend the days at the Featherington house. The girl, Marina, was an absolute burden in her mother’s eyes.

To Penelope she was wonderful

Which is exactly why she had asked her to come to the party too.

Things had gone so well at first, as she made her way around the house, introducing her forgotten family to her found one. Everyone seemed to like Marina, and Marina liked them

It was perfect

Until it wasn’t

Until she made it to Colin

As she was making introductions, she heard her words start to fade as she looked at the two. Both were staring, mouths slightly agape before jumping into shy grins as Penelope stopped talking.

Her heart didn’t break in that moment, it barely cracked.

Yet the hours went on, games were played, films were watched and food was devoured.

And through each of them Penelope watched as the boy she loved for most of her life mooned over a girl he had just met.

Every laugh, every smile, every playful slap and exclamation of “Colin!” Chipped away at it bit by bit.

It wasn’t until Violet had pulled out the cake and Penelope decided to take a moment outside to get some air that it became nothing but dust

Right there, under the soles of Colin’s shoes as he pressed Marina into the wall, one hand tangled in his hair while the other pulled at his shirt

She couldn’t stop the gasp that was ripped from her as the two jumped apart. She could only stare blankly at the two flushed people before her, eyes glossy and panting.

It looked like nobody was going to say anything, not even the birds in the trees or the crickets in the lawn thought it best to interfere in what was the worst moment of Penelope’s life.

The standoff continued a moment longer, before Penelope, surprising herself, spoke up first.

“If you’re quite finished snogging the life out of each other, we’re about to do the cake” she had said, her voice dull and faded before she turned about to leave.

“Penelope”

“Pen, wait I”

She heard the chorus of her name behind her but she didn’t look back, the tears already threatening to fall lest she turn around. Instead, she marched her way into the room with the others, the candles on the cake now aglow.

“Penelope where have you been? “Eloise asked as she made her way towards her, looping her arm through hers and guiding her to the table.

She took a breath before steeling herself, a smile forced upon her lips that she hoped was concealed by the dim lighting.

Just needed some air, it’s a bit too hot with all of us in it.

“Ah yes, my presence does have that effect” she heard Benedict say, her eyes drawn to his voice, lest so by the words and more to ignore the two figures that now entered the room.

She didn’t turn to look at them, focusing her attention on Benedict, but she could see them a bit from the corner of her eye.

Marina looked frazzled; eyes cast downwards with her hands clamped together. She looked regretful

She wondered if she now realized that Colin was the Bridgerton brother she has mentioned on one of her first days in the house. If she recalled the way Penelope had swooned about the brother of her best friend who was just so wonderful

Her heart was still in pieces outside, but the hollow that was left did ache at the girl’s forlorn expression. She was not a bad person, not in the slightest. She couldn’t fault the girl for being wooed by Colin’s charm, after all, she had been under his spell for years now.

At the thought of his name, her eyes flickered to the boy.

Marina had looked shaken, but Colin, for some reason looked distraught. His eyes lasered in on Penelope, so much so that she swore she could feel the heat of his gaze. For a brief moment, she had hope, hope that the look meant something. But he had given her lots of looks throughout the years, and they amounted to nothing more than broken dreams and trash bins full of tissues

No, he was probably embarrassed, or ashamed that he was caught necking his dear friend’s cousin, A violation of some bro code he had in his mind.

As Violet gently guided her to the cake, as the sounds of “Happy Birthday” began she decided then and there that instead of a wish, she would make a promise.
A promise to move on from Colin Bridgerton, to find a man who would love her like her friends said she deserved to be loved. Someone who looked at her like she hung the very moon and stars, for their eyes only.


Someone who looked at her the way she would no longer look at Colin

For the first time since he entered the room, Penelope looked up at him, Blue Steel meeting Forest Green. As if to let him know exactly what she had resolved herself to do.


And she blew

Chapter Text

She goes slowly 

She knows that with any vice, any addiction, trying to leave it all behind from the get-go will bring about more harm than good 

Besides, she doesn’t think she could ever completely give up loving Colin

And she doesn’t want to

Even though she knew he wouldn’t reciprocate her feelings, she did know the value their friendship still held, for both of them.

Their time together offered a reprieve for both of them, from the utter neglect of her family to the overwhelming chaos of his own. They had met somewhere in this strange middle and forged a bond they were both so unaware that they needed.

She was never going to give that up 

So, she started slowly 

It begins with distance

She doesn’t outright avoid him, doesn’t make excuses to run when he enters the same room, she decided to be more subtle.

She starts small when she’s over the Bridgerton house a few weeks after the promise to herself. She was invited over to watch a movie with Eloise and Collin. Some horror movie that the two were excited for, more so to see the reaction from Penelope who wasn’t much of a fan of the genre.

She’s sitting out the couch, Eloise reclining back in the plush armchair at her side as Colins prepping snacks in the kitchen. Always insistent on making them even when the extent of which is pressing buttons of the microwave and grabbing ice from the freezer

On that day Benedict is over, wanting to spend time with his family as opposed to another night alone in his apartment. He’s seated far away, sitting by Eloise on the floor.

Colin had always claimed the right side while she took the left, a habit they had fallen into that they never felt the need to voice.

She thought about offering her spot to Benedict, maybe sitting on the floor, but in her mind, that felt like a too obvious dismal. 

So when she heard the ding of the microwave she knew she was running out of options.

She looked over again at Benedict, whose gaze seemed a bit unfocused as he watched the menu screen, and then she had an idea

“Benedict” she started as the older boy looked over from his spot on the floor.

“You had your first art showing the other day, right”? She asked. Remembering the excitement he had when telling the rest of his siblings about it a few weeks back, and the disappointment that followed after. Too many of them have already made plans and promising to come to the next one.

As if a switch were flipped, his eyes snapped into focus, and she was temporarily stunned at how blinding the smile he flashed at her was. 

“You remembered”? he asked, seeming to vibrate with joy at the fact she would bring it up

“Of course, I did,” she said, smile small but genuine.  “I would’ve loved to see it”. At that he shot up, nearly throwing himself onto the spot beside her as he began to pull out his phone    

“but I knew since it was the first one, they wanted to limit more to close friends and family”

At that he paused, fingers stilling as the photo’s app opened, before continuing to scroll through the albums 

“You are family Penelope,” he said, looking up to her face. The excitement still plain to see, but smile having softened.

“In fact, right now you are my most favorite of the lot” he proclaimed loud enough for Colin to hear in the kitchen, all the while glaring at Eloise who held her hands up in surrender

Soon she was bent over the phone with Benedict, listening intently as he slid from photo to photo. Talking about each piece, the excitement he had felt that was nearly outweighed by nerves as stranger after stranger appraised his work 

She was quite engaged in his rant about the old man who had complained about “the complete  abstract bullshit these kids are painting nowadays” when a loud cough drew both their attentions 

Before them was Colin. One hand holding onto the large bowl of popcorn, the other pointed accusingly at his brother 

“Excuse me”, he stated” “but that’s my seat”

“Oh sorry” Benedict started. Starting to get up from his spot off the couch.

She could see the smile on Colin's face starting to form. Until it was quickly wiped away when Benedict ripped out the cushion, turning it over and over while humming to himself

“Why would you look at that,” he said, placing the cushion back onto the couch, and himself onto said cushion “your name appears to be missing dear brother” he retorted, before spreading his arms out, one resting over shoulders. “and besides, he declared happily, the smug grin he sent to Colin morphing into a smile as he looked to Penelope. “I’m in the middle of showing Pen a truly insulting portrait one of the other artists painted of their dad’s new girlfriend”. She snorted at that, cheeks flushing at the proud look he wore at making her laugh.

“Yea but” Colin began again, looking more frustrated than the situation really called for, grip tightening at the bowl still in his hands. “I always sit next to Pen”. His gaze moving to hers.

She froze for a second, before giving him her full attention, hoping her face looked as relaxed as possible

“I’m sorry Colin, she began, starting to make her own way up from the couch, “if you want you can sit here”

She was stopped by the resounding no that came from both Bridgerton boys, and she looked to both in confusion.

“No, it’s okay Pen” Colin muttered sliding down to rest against the front of the couch. “That’s always been your spot”, he continued more gently as he turned to look at her, before handing her the bowl in his hands. ‘You like the rest because it helps crack your back when your soar from sitting too long”

Her heart stuttered for a second. She had only mentioned that once, on the first movie night they had when she wrestled Eloise to claim the cushion as her own”. Friends remember things like that she told herself, beaming down at him, gently taking the bowl from his hands. Suddenly, feeling a new bout of confidence, ran her free one gently through his hair as a show of thanks, before settling back. His eyes widened slightly, she could see him swallow, the rise and fall of his Adam's apple before a shy “your welcome” was let out, body now northward to the now playing movie.

“Interesting” she heard Benedict hum next to her, and at her quizzical gaze, he sent back an exaggerated wink that had her giggling.

Soon she became engrossed in the film, juggling between gasps and cringes from the gore to soft laughter at the commentary Benedict was whispering into her ear

Her eyes never strayed down to where the 3rd eldest brother sat, whose back was tensed tighter and tighter at every soft sound she let out

When she asked Colin if the film had lived up to his expectations, he shrugged, eyes fixated on the near-empty bowl in his grasp

“Maybe he’d know if he was watching the bloody thing”, she heard Eloise mummer before a harsh kick met her ankle

She chooses to ignore the comment, continuing to finish her talk with Benedict.

It’s nothing its nothing” her mind whispered

She was sure of it.

Right?

 

Chapter Text

He thinks he might be getting ill

That’s the only conclusion Colin can offer to himself at the sinking feeling that’s been brewing in his gut over the last few days.

Perhaps in his haste to fill himself to near bursting at his mother’s Sunday dinner, something in the bounty he claimed gave him food poisoning.

He chooses to ignore the fact that this feeling has actually been plaguing him much longer than that.

It had started on the evening of Penelope’s birthday party

He cringes at the thought of it. He didn’t know why he had done what he did. So many feelings had overwhelmed him that night, the air of fun with the people he cared for most, the booze that had run through his system, and the light touches here and there by Marina's hands had brought them both such a high that eventually led the two to a heated kiss in the outskirts of his family’s home.

Despite it having been a pleasantly warm summer day, he had never felt colder than hearing Penelope’s soft gasp.

In a half a second he had jumped back, panting heavily as he looked at the shocked gaze of his best friend

He didn’t know what to expect. Would she yell at him with righteous fury, screaming about him defiling her cousin, on her birthday nonetheless?

Would she break down into tears, a guilty voice had questioned in the back of his mind, faintly remembering the offhand comments his brothers would make about Penelope’s clear admiration for him.

Thousands of other thoughts were flying through, each worse than the last as the knot that has started to form within him grew tighter and tighter with each second passed.

Instead, she had looked at him, her soft blue eyes, so normally warm and filled with mirth were hauntingly devoid of anything.

No pain, no fury, no sorrow

Just pure and utter contempt

He could barely hear her remark, his heart stuttering to such a degree that each other word was blocked by the loud thump

He could make out that it was a somewhat joking statement, that he had suddenly hoped would hold a tinge of force, a struggle to appear nonchalant

He didn’t know why he would

He wouldn’t know why that, when she turned around and made her way back through the house, that he felt like he was being left behind in something greater than just approximal distance

Even as he made his way to follow, and found himself right in front of her, nothing more than a table of cake and glowing candles that made the strands of her hair glow brighter than the very flames she was leaning towards, he had never felt further away from her.

 

He heard the others' voices, the not-so-in synch chants of happy birthday surrounding them, but he ignored it all, looking towards her in the hopes that she would meet his eyes.

He didn’t know what he would say, hell he couldn’t say anything, not right here, not at the moment that was supposed to be another happy memory that he knew must have been tarnished by his foolishness.

Despite it not being his party, his wish was still granted as her eyes snapped up to meet his, the last chords of dear Penelope being stretched out as she pulled in a deep breath that he couldn’t help but mimic.

He choked on his as she let hers out, the blue disappearing behind the traces of smoke

At that moment, Colin Bridgerton knew that something had changed

And he was terrified.