Contrary to popular belief, Darcy does not fake text.
Gigi’s latest response is a pointed, “Aren’t you at a wedding?”
Darcy sends back, “Bing and Caroline are both occupied and I don’t know anyone else here.”
A moment later his phone buzzes again and Gigi says, “You can charm the pants off of a boardroom full of high powered executives. I’m SURE you are capable of meeting new people at a WEDDING.”
Darcy rolls his eyes. He knows what a boardroom full of high powered executives wants to hear. A room full of happy strangers, on the other hand, is just a loud, humid enigma.
He’s about to curse Gigi for not being more helpful in his hour of need when something hits him in the chest. On instinct, he grabs what turns out to be the garter, and looks around to find Elizabeth Bennet holding the bouquet.
Darcy knows how to dance, if the occasion calls for it. Except that the occasion is sort of calling for it and he can barely put his hands and feet where they need to be because Elizabeth Bennet has eyes like the ocean at midnight and she’s not remotely impressed by his suit. A voice in the back of his head (which sounds an awful lot like Caroline) says that she probably doesn’t even know she ought to be, but it does nothing to dispel his nerves.
When the song finally ends he says, “Thank you,” and retreats as fast as he can. When Bing finds him later and tries to convince him to join in the festivities, Darcy flatly refuses, and when Bing gets a knowing smirk and suggests that Darcy try dancing with Elizabeth Bennet again, Darcy shuts him down as fast as possible.
The last thing he needs is an attraction to a girl who doesn’t know good Armani when she sees it.
* * *
“This little town is so depressing,” says Caroline with a heavy sigh. “At least Bing has something to distract him; I can’t imagine how miserable you must be.”
“It’s not so terrible,” says Darcy, “but I suppose I can see what you mean.”
Caroline’s eyebrows shoot up as she turns to look at him. “Oh really?”
Darcy shrugs. “The people are agreeable.”
“Agreeable,” repeats Caroline with obvious disbelief.
“They have some nice attributes,” says Darcy, feeling a flush creep up the side of his neck. “Some of them have nice -” he struggles for a second and then says, “eyes,” and doesn’t really register the words until after they’ve already come stumbling out of his mouth. He stops talking immediately, opting instead to watch Lizzie fail spectacularly at DDR. She may not recognize good Armani and she may be utterly graceless when it comes to video game dancing, but she’s also funny and sharp and somehow her voice never fails to get his attention, even when he tries desperately to focus on anything else.
Caroline follows his line of sight and lets her mouth fall open as she stares. “Seriously?”
Darcy swallows and turns to check on Bing instead, but Bing’s in the middle of an animated discussion with Charlotte and Jane, and Darcy can’t hear any of what they’re saying because Lydia’s laugh carries. For that matter, Lydia’s entire conversation carries, as does the sound of shattering glass after she knocks into a table too hard.
“Oh look, your little crush is heading this way,” snipes Caroline, and Darcy glances up to see that Lizzie has given up on DDR and is heading back across the bar, her eyes set on her little sister. He pulls out his phone, blush extending farther up his neck, and pulls up Gigi as fast as he can.
“How was the Tennis match?” he sends.
“Are you fake texting?” demands Caroline.
“It’s important,” says Darcy defensively. Nearby he hears Charlotte snort, but he can’t tell if it was at him or if it was directed at Lizzie, whose attempts to drag her sister away aren’t going well.
* * *
In the weeks that Lizzie and Jane spend at Netherfield, Darcy learns that Lizzie likes her coffee strong and uninhibited, and she drinks her first two cups leaning against the kitchen counter in pajama pants and fuzzy socks and t-shirts that are three sizes too big. On her way back to her room she does sock-slides in the hardwood hallways, and Darcy learns to tell what time it is by the sound of her slipping across the floor.
* * *
He tells himself that his conviction about Jane’s (lack of) feelings has nothing to do with his own tangled fury over the fact that George fucking Wickham is apparently still a fabulous liar with phenomenal taste in women, but he only manages it because critical self-reflection is not something he’s particularly good at.
* * *
Darcy almost makes it out of the office without incident, but Gigi catches him in the lobby and follows him toward the parking garage.
“Fitz called me,” she announces.
“Oh?” says Darcy.
“He tells me he’s going with you on this super important business trip that no one knew about until a week ago,” says Gigi. “Even though he’s supposed to be on vacation and he’s had to bribe Brandon with several art museum tours to make up for the fact that they’re both flying out to Collins & Collins instead of their condo in Florida.”
“Aunt Catherine requires our help with something,” says Darcy.
“Really? That’s not what she told me when she called last week. She told me that Collins & Collins is doing marvelously under her astute supervision and that they have recently taken on a young upstart intern whom she likes very much because unlike other interns, this one can always be counted on to provide her opinions and they’re usually ‘darling.’”
“Great,” says Darcy as they reach the parking garage.
“Apparently this young upstart’s name is Elizabeth Bennet. Say, didn’t you meet a Lizzie Bennet when you were staying with Bing at Netherfield?”
“I suppose I did,” says Darcy.
“William Darcy, tell me this trip isn’t about a girl.”
Darcy wishes his car wasn’t so far away.
“It is,” gasps Gigi. “You’re abusing corporate funds and power just so that you can spend time with a girl! I’m so proud of you.”
“There’s no need to make it sound so salacious,” grumbles Darcy.
“It better be salacious,” says Gigi, “if you’re cutting out of the office and taking Fitz and Brandon off to the middle of nowhere just to impress a lady-friend, you had better sex her up on every single desk while you’re there.”
“Gigi!” snaps Darcy.
Gigi just smirks.
* * *
Fitz tries to call Darcy at least ten times after what will later be known between them only as ‘The Incident,’ but Darcy doesn’t answer him. He spends the evening and well into the night watching Lizzie’s videos, which are mortifying and frustrating and then mortifying again, because despite her obvious dislike of him, he finds himself falling more in love with every word. She’s charismatic and entertaining and a little selfish, all of which pales in comparison to the vast love she clearly feels for everyone close to her and Darcy ends up going on a two-hour bike ride to try and clear his head. Once he’s convinced himself that he’s calm and rational and objective again, he writes a long letter that still refuses to apologize for his assessment of Jane’s character and then, with what little time remains to him before daybreak, he tries to sleep.
He stays in town just long enough to give Lizzie the letter and file his report with Catherine. Having seen how much his presence and evaluation flustered Charlotte, he makes sure to mention that she in particular is a valuable asset to the company and that Catherine would do well to recognize her as such.
Fitz and Brandon both tread carefully around him all the way to the airport, as if he’s recently contracted some terrible illness. He can’t exactly blame them, but it’s a relief when they head back to San Francisco and he goes instead to L.A.
He puts off calling Gigi for as long as possible, but once he’s settled in the guest room at Bing’s he can’t make any more excuses. She picks up on the first ring.
“What happened?” she demands.
“She hates me,” says Darcy, letting himself fall backward onto his bed.
“I’m sure she doesn’t hate you,” says Gigi.
“That’s actually a direct quote,” says Darcy. “There were some other direct quotes but I don’t wish to recite them all at the moment.”
Gigi’s quiet for a few minutes before she bursts out with, “What did you say? Not to imply that it’s all you or anything, but Fitz said she was lovely and you - you know - you aren’t the best at…people.”
Darcy throws an arm over his eyes and sighs. “I may have insulted her family and said that I couldn’t believe that my heart could so completely overwhelm my judgement.” He says ‘may have’ like he hasn’t watched the video upwards of twenty times.
Gigi makes a strangled noise. “William! You couldn’t just ask her out to dinner?”
“That wouldn’t have worked either. She was already under the impression that we were engaged in mutual loathing, and she thought I needed to be appeased or else my report to Aunt Catherine would be unfavorable.”
“Still,” says Gigi, “insulting people isn’t generally how you get them to go out with you.”
“Yes, thank you,” says Darcy. “As always, your wise counsel has arrived just in the nick of time.”
“Sorry,” says Gigi, and he can almost hear her wincing. “Hey, we’re still doing Thanksgiving at Bing’s, right?”
“Yes.” Darcy drags his arm back so he can rub his eyes. “I’m staying with him till then; I’ve got some work to do here in L.A.”
“Okay,” says Gigi, “I’ll see you in a few weeks. We can come up with a plan or something to fix this.”
“She doesn’t want to fix it, Gigi,” says Darcy with a sigh. “We need to come up with a plan to help me forget about her.”
* * *
The trouble with forgetting about Lizzie Bennet is that around 10:15 AM on Mondays and Thursdays, when Darcy finds himself between meetings, he loads up her YouTube channel and watches her talk. He doesn’t read anything into her surprise at how quickly he left Collins & Collins, and he doesn’t expect to hear himself mentioned again, he just…misses her. Which is odd, considering that in the end he hadn’t known her at all.
Seeing Caroline there is a surprise - he hadn’t even been aware that she was out of town - and the exchange doesn’t help him figure out how he feels about her. On one hand, he can now keenly appreciate the position she’s in; her feelings for him aren’t a very well-kept secret and neither is his lack of reciprocal interest - especially if she watches Lizzie’s vlog. On the other hand, she pushed Lizzie to revile him when she knew he was trying to make a good impression.
In the end he decides that it’s not worth fighting over and resolves not to be the one to bring it up. The part Caroline played in getting Lizzie to hate him is miniscule next to the part he played himself, and being at odds with her will do nothing to change his current situation.
* * *
When Thanksgiving rolls around he ignores the sounds of Caroline moving around in the kitchen and stays in bed just long enough to watch Lizzie blackmail Ricky Collins into letting her and Charlotte drive home for the holidays. He continues to miss her, and continues to feel as if he has no right to do so.
Caroline refuses to let anyone help her prepare dinner but Darcy’s been subjected to her cooking before, so whenever she stops to update Twitter he slips in and does his best to rescue her dishes until she chases him out again.
He texts Fitz a warning that he better bring enough dessert to make up for the dinner and Fitz texts back, “Don’t worry, Brandon started making pies the moment Caroline said she was taking care of the food.”
Darcy warns Caroline three times about the casserole before he leaves to get Gigi from the airport, but according to Twitter it’s ruined before he ever makes it to the arrivals gate.
When he gets out of the car to help Gigi load her luggage into the trunk, she tackles him and holds him in a hug until someone behind them honks.
Neither of them say anything until they’re on the road again.
“Caroline’s cooking,” says Gigi with a too-bright smile. “That should go well.”
“It’ll be an experience,” he agrees.
“So, have you been letting Bing take you out to meet new people?” she asks.
Darcy gives her a look.
“How do you think plans to get over people work?” asks Gigi. “You have to meet new people.”
“I’ve been busy,” says Darcy.
Gigi gives him a look and he shrinks into himself, unwilling to say that he’d rather be alone than with anyone else, because that sounds petulant. Thankfully Gigi changes the subject, and Lizzie doesn’t come up again until they’re in the middle of Caroline’s dinner, which isn’t as bad as anyone expected it to be - at least, not where the food is concerned.
Caroline makes three vague jabs about eyes and the clarity of hindsight, none of which elicits a response from anyone, though each one wears heavily on Darcy's patience. Finally she decides to take a more direct approach and turns to Fitz to say, “I hear you met one of the infamous Bennet sisters recently.”
“Yeah,” says Fitz, squirming a little and avoiding Darcy’s gaze. “Lizzie B.”
“How was she?” asks Bing.
“Delightful,” says Brandon, with all his usual enthusiasm, “we all went out to lunch a few times and she told us this great story about-” he yelps as Gigi very obviously kicks him under the table and then he glances at Darcy before coughing and saying. “Fine. She was fine.”
“Delightful?” repeats Caroline, affecting a look of sweet surprise. “I thought she had a tendency to judge people rather harshly.”
“I don’t know,” says Darcy, stabbing at his stuffing with more force than necessary, “I found her judgements enlightening. At the very least she’s loyal - I don’t imagine, for instance, that she would encourage someone to mock or misconstrue the words of a friend.”
Fitz and Brandon both look away while Bing and Gigi share a look of confusion and Caroline snaps her mouth shut, becoming thoroughly interested in her food.
“So,” says Gigi, forcing a smile, “Bing! How’s school?”
It takes a while, but they manage to drag the conversation along and eventually it picks up pace and becomes natural again, though they’re all careful to avoid any subject that goes anywhere near the Bennets.
* * *
Gigi lets him have almost of month of sulking in private before she brings him a large glass of wine and takes his laptop away from him. She forces him to sit down in an armchair in the sitting room at their lodge in the Sierras and demands that he tell her everything.
Darcy sighs. “Give me the laptop.”
“No, not unless you tell me the-”
“This is me telling you. It’s easier this way - just give me the laptop.”
Gigi scowls but she retrieves his computer and hands it to him.
He pulls up Lizzie’s channel, sits Gigi on the couch, sets the laptop in front of her and hits ‘play.’ She looks thoroughly confused for about twenty seconds before the realization starts to dawn and then come the words, “My name is Lizzie Bennet, and this is my life.”
“She has a vlog,” says Gigi.
“Yes,” says Darcy.
“She’s really pretty.”
“Yes.” Darcy settles back into the armchair to finish his glass of wine. When the video ends, as the next one is loading, Gigi says, “This was before Stewart’s wedding.”
“Yes,” says Darcy again.
He swallows the last of his wine around the time that Gigi says, “Wait, man-cake? Is that you? Are you the man-cake?”
“I’m going to bed,” Darcy announces, “I’ll see you in the morning.”
Gigi waves at him without looking away from the computer.
Before he falls asleep he hears her shout, “Decent enough?!” and he groans and pulls a pillow over his head.
* * *
“William! How are you?” Gigi sounds a little too excited to find Darcy standing over her desk with a scowl.
“I’m fine,” he says. “How are you?”
“Great,” says Gigi.
“I hear Pemberley’s getting a new intern. Funny how that bit of information never made it across my desk.”
“Weird! I guess Mrs. Reynolds figured you didn’t need to be bothered-”
“And it’s also weird, don’t you think, how Professor Gardiner ended up pointing Lizzie toward Pemberley, of all the digital media companies she has to choose from.”
“Yeah,” says Gigi with a forced laugh, “it’s like the world only has fifty-five people in it, or something. Anyway, I have - um - stuff, which I-”
“Gigi,” says Darcy, “we talked about this.”
“Well, no. You said you wanted to give up and I didn’t say anything at all. Strictly speaking, that’s not-”
“Gigi, she’s made herself clear.”
“Oh come on, William, it’s not all about you. Pemberley Digital is the best place for her to shadow, she’ll get more experience with us than she could at any other company in the country and given her relative success with a small video blog - and while she’s still a student, at that - I think she’d be a valuable asset if we could convince her to join the company after she graduates. Not to mention I think some of our stuffier executives could benefit from her insights while she’s here.”
Darcy sighs because none of that is untrue.
“And,” says Gigi, “this way she can see what you’re really like when you’re not being…”
“A snobby douchebag?”
“Yes. No! It’s - it’s an opportunity. That’s all I’m saying.”
* * *
“I’m going to be in L.A. for the rest of this week.” Darcy has his cell phone pinned between his ear and his shoulder while he shuffles through notes for his various business proposals.
“You can’t avoid the office forever,” says Gigi.
“I’m not avoiding the office,” says Darcy, “I’m working. It’s a thing that some people do.”
“I work,” says Gigi defensively, “I even volunteered for extra duties on Friday.”
“Really. And pray tell, what are these duties?”
“Tour guide,” says Gigi. “I got an extra badge and everything.”
“No - it’s fine, I’m just going to meet her, I won’t even tell her who I am. It’s totally cool.”
“I just feel like I have to at least talk to her because I watched all the videos. Well, most of the videos. I won’t make it awkward, I’ll just show her around and make sure she has everything she needs.”
“Gigi, there’s a school trip coming on Friday,” says Darcy with a heavy sigh.
“School?” repeats Gigi.
“Yes, as in children,” says Darcy.
“Gross,” says Gigi.
“It’s not too late to back out. I’m sure Reynolds would understand.”
“No,” says Gigi, “I can do this. How hard can it be to entertain some kids?”
Darcy chooses not to answer that question. “Try not to alienate her. I don’t want her to be uncomfortable.”
“I think it’s safe to say that I’ll make a better impression than you did.”
“Touché.” Darcy finds the notes he needs and skims them and they spend a few minutes just being quiet together before he glances at his watch and sighs. “I have to go. Meeting. I mean it, Gigi, don’t discomfit her.”
“She’ll be totally comfy,” Gigi promises him. “The comfiest.” Darcy just rolls his eyes.
* * *
When he gets off the plane in San Francisco there’s an urgent email waiting for him from Mrs. Reynolds, telling him that he’s needed at the office immediately. He tries not to read Gigi’s interference between the lines, but when he arrives he barely has time to put his briefcase down at his desk before his sister shows up and drags him out.
“Where are we going?”
“Meeting,” says Gigi, “important.” She’s a terrible liar, and he shouldn’t get on the elevator, or back off it when the doors slide open with a ding and she still hasn’t given him any details. She latches onto his arm again and drags him, and he’s in the middle of asking her what the hurry is when she opens a door and pushes him into a room that contains Elizabeth Bennet and a video camera and not much else.
Later, when he and Gigi go to dinner, he’ll say things like, “That’s exactly what I told you not to do,” and, “This is just a sexual harassment lawsuit waiting to happen.” But after all that, when he’s back home by himself, he’ll admit that Lizzie started to smile for a second when she saw him and goddamn if that second wasn’t the best he’d felt all day.
* * *
He’s walking out of a meeting when he hears Gigi’s voice at her absolute smuggest say, “Lizzie wants you!”
It takes a lot of effort not to choke. “Excuse me?”
Gigi looks well pleased with his reaction. “She needs to interview the CEO for her project, in front of God and the Internet and everybody. You know where to find her.”
“I - now?”
Gigi shrugs and smirks at him. “If you’ve got time,” she says, as if there was any chance he’d miss the opportunity to do the interview in person.
Darcy glances down at himself and Gigi actually laughs out loud.
“You look fantastic, William. Now hurry, before she finds something else to talk about.” She smiles at him as he turns and heads toward the elevators, and just before the doors slide shut she calls out, “Make me proud!”
An hour later, Lizzie falls off her seat laughing. Darcy’s not sure if that’s enough to make Gigi proud but it sure feels like success.