She woke with the sunrise, the light streaming through the large windows. She was warm, safe, although she couldn’t remember where. And happier than she had ever been in her life. She became aware of an arm. An arm around her shoulder. And, come to think of it, she definitely wasn’t resting her head on a pillow. The surface was hard, smooth, and, perhaps strangest of all, moving.
Slowly, the events of the night before came back to her. She turned her head so that she could look up at Darcy. He was still fast asleep, and he looked calmer than she had ever seen him. As though sleep released him of the worries and stress that he normally carried with him. Just a hint of stubble shadowed his jaw line.
She lay there for a while, just listening to the smooth, steady rhythm of his heartbeat, reliving the events of the night before. It had been… incredible. The best she’d ever had. Maybe love had something to do with that. She couldn’t imagine how he’d got so good. She’d heard tell from Gigi that he’d hardly had time for socialising in general, let alone becoming intimate with another person. But, she reasoned, maybe Gigi doesn’t know everything.
She carefully disentangled herself from Darcy’s arm, and slid out of bed. She glanced around the room for the dress she had worn last night, and found it crumpled in a pile. She didn’t particularly want to wear the dress again.
She came across the dark blue shirt Darcy had been wearing last night. She held it to her nose, inhaling the smell of him. She pulled it on, buttoning it up, smiling as she was taken back to costume theatre moments from the diaries. Smiling at the sleeping figure on the bed, she left the room.
William was happy. Happier than he’d been in months, years even. In the muddled confusion that was the world between sleeping and waking, he considered that his might be the happiest he’d felt since his parents had died.
Never had he felt so calm, so at ease, so undeniably, entirely, elatedly happy as he did just then. Like the world was finally rewarding him for all those years of suppressed grief, that he had never had time to feel.
He became aware that the source of his happiness wasn’t lying next to him. He sat up in a panic. She couldn’t have left could she? He glanced around the room. Nope, her dress from the night before was still there, crumpled in a heap. Maybe she had just gone to the bathroom. He slipped out of bed, and pulled on a pair of boxer shorts, and some clean pyjama trousers. He considered a shirt, but decided against it. After all, he had nothing to be afraid of any more.
Or did he? Why did he still feel nervous around her? Why did he still feel that at any moment she would say that she’d made a mistake, walk out of his life?
He stalled as best he could. He tidied up the room a little, folding her dress neatly. He couldn’t seem to find his shirt from last night, which bothered him slightly. However, he couldn’t hide in the bedroom forever. He opened the door and entered the living room.
She was the first thing he saw. Her, in all her perfection, all her beauty. The massive glass windows gave him a clear view. She was standing on the balcony that led out from the living room, wearing his blue shirt from the night before. It was big enough, or she was small enough, that it came to halfway down her thigh. Just enough to make him forget how to breathe.
He couldn’t stop the thoughts from swirling around his mind. Lizzie Bennet, the Lizzie Bennet was here, on his balcony. Wearing nothing but his shirt. In his apartment. One thing was for certain. He wasn’t going to leave her standing there alone.
He opened the French windows, and stepped onto the balcony. He made her start a little, and she turned around.
“Hey,” he said, his voice cracking slightly. Why was he still scared? He didn’t have anything to be afraid of.
“Hey,” she said, smiling shyly at him. He stepped closer to her, and wrapped his arms around her waist, kissing her neck. She turned her head, and their lips met. When they finally pulled apart, they both gazed out across the city. It still fairly early in the morning, the city was just beginning to wake up. The day looked to be a fine one, the sky a clear blue, tinged with the yellows and oranges of the sunrise, the air crisp, a slight breeze ruffling Lizzie’s hair. Together they watched the city wake up.
“I always like to have a balcony,” William found himself blurting out. Lizzie turned to look at him, her eyes inviting him to go on.
“When… my parents died… well, it wasn’t a good time. Obviously.” It was difficult for him to remember. But he wanted to share himself with her. “And I was fighting to keep my company, as well as trying to look after a grieving teenager, and cope with my own grief as well. And it just felt like… at the time… the latter was something unnecessary… it was the least important of the three. But…”
“You’re not a robot,” Lizzie finished for him.
He laughed. “No, contrary to popular belief. And so… the flat we were renting at the time had this great balcony… and when it all got too much, I would go out there and… watch the city. It reminded me that… life goes on. And when it all seems to grind to a halt, it’s always there to remind you that… the world won’t stop because you want it to. It reminded me that I had to keep going. For Gigi, for Pemberley, if not for myself. I couldn’t break down, lose control. I had to stay strong, for her.”
Lizzie just looked at him. It wasn’t often that he talked about that time. She understood that he wanted to keep it private. But she liked it when he did. In some way, it helped her understand his behaviour when they first met, why he had been so cold and closed off.
“I like it…” she said. “It makes me feel like… I’m not alone. When I watch them, and know they aren’t watching me. I’ve been watched by so many people, on my videos, and in some ways… it’s nice for the roles to be reversed.”
They stood in silence for a while, just watching.
“Move in with me.” William broke the silence.
Lizzie turned quickly. “What?”
“I want you to move in with me. I want to see you every day. I want to wake up next to you-”
“I said ok. When I start my company, I’ll be moving here anyway. I can’t house-sit forever. And… I want to see you every day too. I want this to be every day.” She turned around, and wrapped her arms around his neck. “I want you,” she whispered, kissing him fiercely. He pulled her tighter to him, until they both had to come up for air.
“Thank you,” William said. They stood together, in each other’s arms, just watching the streets of San Francisco become busier beneath them.
And of everything he had experienced with Lizzie, the conversations, the first kiss, last night… this was the moment where he just wanted to freeze time, and live in it forever. Because there they were, with one another, next to each other, both so happy, perfectly contented, that they could have an entire conversation, without needing to say a word.