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Worth A Thousand Words

Chapter Text

I love him.

The words flashed across Lizzie’s mind in the blink of an eye, startling her, and then once more, slowly, in case she had missed it the first time. As if she could.

I love him.

Her first reaction at the thought was surprise, because it was quite sudden and generally uncalled for, considering…considering she had dropped William off at the airport that morning. The words would have made a more convenient appearance during their farewell four hours earlier.

Her second reaction, after realizing the reality of the first, was dread.

Dread, because of course, of course Lizzie Bennet would have this revelation four hours after he was already gone. Of course these three tiny words would pop into her mind when they could guarantee to plague her for the next forty-two days.

Saying I love you for the first time wasn’t something you did over text, or the phone, or Skype. Or maybe it could be, but not for Lizzie Bennet and William Darcy. Not when he had already made the admission to her twice in very obvious, personal ways. He deserved more than a text, or the slightly distorted sound of her voice over a phone, or her lips forming the words under shoddy lighting and behind a computer screen. Too much of their relationship had played out like that already—from behind a monitor—and this, now, was supposed to be them, together, starting fresh.

So, obviously, she would find the words on the tip of her tongue now, sipping her tea while she played Monopoly with Lydia. Agreeing to spend the time with her younger sister had been part of her last-ditch efforts to assign this day as the last day of relaxation before she dove headfirst into the ocean that was her thesis project.

She froze, groaned, and buried her face in her hands, plopping her tea down with a ceramic clank against the coffee table.

“It’s Monopoly, dork,” Lydia remarked, amused. “You’ll get out of jail eventually.”

Lizzie slid her hand to cover her mouth and looked up, shaking her head. “Not that, it’s—I just—I love him,” she whispered, and somehow saying the words out loud when he wasn’t there to hear them was physically painful, like a punch in the gut.

Lydia furrowed her eyebrows twisted her expression into that “um, duh” face of hers. “Well, yeah, didn’t you—oh.” Her blue eyes widened. “Oh. You’re…you’re just realizing this, like, right now.” Her younger sister let out a snort of laughter and then quickly clapped a hand over her mouth. “I’m sorry, it’s not funny…except it sorta is, because you so cuh-learly didn’t know when everyone else did, as per Lizzie Bennet’s glaringly annoying tendency to catch on about five bajillion years after the rest of the human population.”

Lizzie shot a look at her sister. “You’re not making this better.”

Lydia picked up the dice and shook them in her hand expertly. “I have no sympathy,” she said haughtily, tossing down the little white cubes. “It’s hardly the end of the world. You know he feels the same way. It would be another story if you, like, publicly declared your love for him and then got rejected in front of thousands of viewers on the internet.”

Lydia,” Lizzie exclaimed, picking up a pillow from the couch behind her and throwing it at her sister. Lydia fell backwards in her attempt to block the attack and burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry!” Lydia responded through her laughter, showing that she was in no way apologetic. She sat back up. “It’s just that this is so typical. I’m surprised it only took you this long to figure it out. I’m sure we all would have given you some leeway for at least a few more years.”

“I have no qualms with throwing my hot tea on you,” Lizzie warned seriously, picking up her mug again and finding that it was entirely too hot against the burning temperature of her skin.

Lydia calmed her giggles down for long enough to move the appropriate amount of spaces around the board. “It’s okay, sis, you would need six weeks anyway to buck up your courage enough to actually say it to him. No lost time, there.”

Lizzie rolled her eyes and snatched up the dice indignantly before flinging them down, much to Lydia’s continued delight. The older sister huffed out a sigh once the dice stopped tumbling, frustrated. It seemed that she would be stuck in jail a while longer.

She glanced up at her younger sister, who was still wearing a genuine—if a bit mocking—smile, and couldn’t help the way the corners of her own mouth tugged upwards a little as the thought ran through her mind for the third time.

I love William Darcy.

It was overwhelming, and nerve-wracking and entirely consuming, twisting her stomach into a knot of unmanageable tangles, but it was also okay. Because Lizzie Bennet loved William Darcy, and he loved her back, and as achingly torturous as that would make these next forty-two days of agonizing distance, the truth of this newfound knowledge comforted her.

Lydia bought another piece of property with a calculated expression. She was creaming Lizzie to the point where the youngest Bennet could—and would—be rightfully smug about this game for the rest of her life, but Lizzie didn’t care. Not really, anyway.

I love him.

And even though that made her circumstances infinitely harder, it made them a little bit easier, too.

Chapter Text

The uncomfortable leather pressing into the backs of her knees makes Lizzie’s skin itch with what is sure to be some kind of allergic reaction. Regardless, the sensation hardly registers in her mind. Her rapidly bouncing knee and blank stare are two indications that she is lost in her own world, the only thing that pulls her out being the need to incessantly check her watch.

She’s already waited six weeks, forty-two never-ending days, and now some lagging old lady or a mom with kids or a college student with an uncooperative carry-on is probably the only thing separating her from the one person who has been on her mind ever since the weight of her thesis paper left her hands.

The luggage carousel in baggage claims travels around and around, and Lizzie vaguely notices the little kid who is trying to climb onto it and the self-important businessman who grows more and more frustrated with each revolution of the black conveyor. But neither of them matter, because her watch reads 11:38 and 57…58…59 seconds, and he is officially nine minutes late.

Irrationally, she blames him for these nine minutes, because every unnecessary, unplanned minute that passes is another minute that seems to consist of the air being slowly sucked from her lungs.

It’s in these moments when she stops herself, wondering when she became this type of girlfriend. It isn’t her fault, really, because the past weeks have been stressful and crazy and she thinks that maybe her mind has been permanently addled from working and working and missing him. Somehow, Lizzie hadn’t figured that her physical reactions when she was around William would transfer into physical reactions when she was without him, as well.

Not to mention that those words, those three words that she had discovered lurking in her mind forty-two days ago, have been bursting to release themselves with increasing urgency each day. She had almost said them countless times, the words nearly rolling off of her tongue at the end of so many phone calls or Skype sessions. Sometimes, she physically forced herself to swallow them down when she and William were saying goodbye and she had nothing to look forward to but the surrounding silence of the night.

She wants to be with him when she says them. She wants to see his face and feel his hands on her cheeks or her waist or intertwined with her own fingers. She wants him, plain and simple, but more than anything she needs to tell him how she feels.

Ten minutes late, and she’s practically in agony.

And then, a tap on her shoulder.

Soft words with an unquestionable smirk hidden behind them.

“Excuse me, Lizzie.”

Following the missing script without meaning to, she whirls around, on her feet before the phrase fully leaves his lips.

She’s not sure if she launches herself into his arms or if he snatches her up but either way her feet have left the ground along with her soul and her spirit, which are soaring way beyond the point of her body. He spins her around and she’s laughing freely with her head buried in the crook between his neck and his shoulder, eyes shut tight and hands gripping him even tighter. She inhales deeply before he sets her down because the air that was vacating her lungs every minute that she missed him is suddenly available to her in abundance, and breathing has never been more enjoyable.  

Once she’s back on her feet, she gets her first glimpse at his eyes, and they’re shining with the something that’s been occupying her thoughts for countless days and nights. But she wants it to be more than just something reflected in his eyes and her own. It needs to be said; Lizzie feels this with a building desperation from past months that far precede the recent couple of weeks. Because, sure, she only realized six weeks ago that she loves him, but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been feeling it for much longer. Hasn’t been suppressing something akin to it from the moment Gigi shoved him through that door at Pemberley Digital.

So before he can lean down and capture her lips in a kiss, which he is about to do, she cups her hands around his jawline and stops him. If this is going to be any more of a cliché airport reunion, she is going to make it a spectacular one.

Everything about him stills, from his hands spanning her waist to his smile. The only change is the slight furrow of his brow, wondering why she’s pausing. Lizzie takes a deep breath, looking directly into his eyes, and as she exhales she releases the words slowly, tasting each one with a careful delicacy.

“I love you.”

Instantly, unexpectedly, she’s frustrated, because she’s uncertain of whether he can understand the meaning she’s trying to put behind the phrase—whether he knows just how much she does love him, will always love him. It’s scary and insane and her threshold for this kind of emotion is absolutely shattered, allowing an abyss to open up through which she will forever be falling.

The air between them is still, and Lizzie cannot, for the life of her, read his expression, if only because she is so caught up in the buzzing energy that is flowing through her veins. She feels the need to repeat herself, but differently, in a way that will resonate with both of them.

“William Darcy, I’m in love with you.”

And then he’s kissing her and her feet might have left the ground again but that might just be the feeling accompanying her heart’s complete ascension through her body. It’s not a kiss to fill an awkward silence or remedy an uncomfortable miscommunication, and she knows that immediately. This is a kiss that conveys everything that can’t be put into words, even the words that he has already said and she has finally, finally returned.

Still, it’s an immense comfort to her fluttering stomach and shaking hands when he breaks away and rests her face in his hands, thumb sweeping across her cheek as if she is the most precious thing in the world, and repeats the sentiment back to her.

“I love you, Elizabeth Bennet.”

A shiver runs down her spine at the way he says her full name; it’s like nothing she’s ever heard before in her life. Her mind vaguely wishes, for once, that there actually was camera present, because surely if she had to pick a moment in her life to film, this would be it. But then he’s kissing her again—slow and sweet, like a taste of forever—and every single speck of distance between them melts away. Lizzie supposes that, sans camera, the unfading memory of this feeling, this indescribable feeling, will have to do.

Chapter Text

“Oh, my God, are you proposing?” Georgiana Darcy shrieked, half out of her chair, palms pressed into the little café table. Inevitably, heads turned. Color rose in Gigi’s cheeks. “Oh, no,” She said, her voice carrying to the onlookers. “Not to me. I’m his sister.”

The other customers went back to their own business with amused expressions on their faces. Gigi looked back at William to see him leaning back in his chair, calm as ever, his eyebrows raised.

“Are you?” she pressed, still perched above him.

“Should I?” he countered, taking a sip of his coffee like this wasn’t the hugest deal on the planet.

"Sh—“ Gigi started at a shout and then collected herself, plopping back down in her chair and shifting into a harsh and frantic whisper. “Should you? Should you? Should you propose to your girlfriend of two years with whom you’re madly in love? God, William, I thought you had—I mean, at least changed enough to know that—are you seriously asking me if you should propose to Elizabeth Bennet? Because if you are seriously asking me that, you better run for the hills before I hit you with something big and heavy, and let me tell you—“

She stopped and took a moment to look at him, really look at him. She saw the way his lips tugged up at the corners in a frustrating, smug way. The way he was utterly amused with her reaction. Gigi hit his arm and tried (and failed) to keep the laughter out of her voice.

“William Darcy! You’re messing with me about something like this?” She accused. “I’d never thought I’d see the day that my socially inept brother jokes about matrimony. You really have changed.”

He took a sip of his coffee, giving a non-committal shrug that screams of attempted modesty. She saw the change in him, and she knows that he did, too.

“Do you have the ring yet?” she threw out, if only to tip him a little off balance. Keep him on his toes. It worked.

“I—well, that’s actually, you see…” he stammered, clearly not knowing how to start a speech that Gigi would bet money he planned in his head weeks ago. Months, maybe.

“Sorry,” she amended, coming to his rescue with a sly smile, “What I should have asked is if you’ve gotten Mom’s ring out of the lock box yet.”

His eyes widened perceptibly, shocked. Then, he cleared his throat, straightening up, back in control. “No, I haven’t retrieved it. I did not want to disregard your feelings on the matter.” He looked at her with a serious expression. “Gigi, our mother’s engagement ring belongs to you just as much as it does to me. I will admit that it is the one I had in mind, but if you would prefer that I use a different ring, buy a different ring, then I will, no questions asked.” He looked at her, searching her face before continuing. “Do I have your permission to use our mother’s engagement ring when I propose to Lizzie? The decision is entirely yours.”

Gigi paused, really paused, and not just for dramatic effect or suspense. She thought about the ring in question, the one that had sat on her mother’s finger during every moment of every day for as long as Gigi could remember. The image of it was fuzzy in Gigi’s mind, because it had been so completely attached to her mother—such a part of who she was—that it was like trying to remember the exact shape of her ears or curve of her lips: impossible, after all these years. And yet the memory that it had been there, on the ring finger of her left hand, was crystal clear.

Despite the thoughts flashing through her mind, Gigi knew what her decision was, had known what it would be long ago, when it came to Lizzie Bennet. What William was asking of his little sister wasn’t easy, but the answer was simple.

“Of course you have my permission, William,” Gigi responded softly, reaching across the table and laying her hand over his. “I couldn’t imagine someone more fitting to wear it than Lizzie.”

William smiled softly at his sister, his eyes conveying everything that neither of them could put into words when it concerned their parents.

Gigi leaned back and extracted her hand, placing it around her coffee. “Does she know you’re going to propose?” she asked, because from the way that her brother and Lizzie practically melded into one unit, she wouldn’t be surprised if his girlfriend could read his thoughts.

“We’ve talked about it,” William admitted. “Briefly and obscurely. However, as per Lizzie’s usual behavior, I think she’s in denial so that her hopes are not raised. She hasn’t changed in that respect,” he told his younger sister with a small smile.

“I think she’s changed more than you give her credit for,” Gigi remarked, taking a sip of her drink.

“Oh?” he inquired curiously. “Is that so?”

She smirked at him, but her eyes mirrored his unadulterated happiness. “Of course. She’s going to say yes, isn’t she?”

Chapter Text

Her toes scamper over the slats of the floorboards and Lizzie crosses her arms, wrapping the baggy sleeves of William’s old Harvard shirt over her clenched fists. It’s well past midnight, and silence has completely befallen the apartment.

It was strange, how Lizzie could tell immediately upon entering through the front door that he was asleep, despite the light left on in their room, like it always was when he stayed up (or tried to) for her. But asleep William was, so Lizzie had quickly slipped into one of the shirts he kept in his drawers, rather than opening the exponentially louder mechanism of her closet door. Then, as per her late-night protocol, she had snatched her toothbrush and proceeded down towards the bathroom that branched off from the kitchen, where she could run the water without fear of waking him up.

Now she was on her way back, the balls of her feet skittering across the wood panels and racing to slide under the thick, feathery duvet that seems to cling to her just as ardently as she does to it.

She slithers her bare legs between the sheet and the comforter, easing herself down as cautiously as possible, all for the sake of preserving William’s peaceful state.

As soon as he shifts, she knows her efforts have amounted to nothing. She feels a strong, warm arm wrap around her waist and pull her backwards until her form is slotted perfectly against his. His nose buries itself in her loose hair and a deep breath is released against her ear.

“I didn’t hear you come in.” The words are groggy and muttered in a way that makes her question whether he will recall this in the morning.

“Bathroom by the kitchen,” she explains softly, and his long, even breaths stutter.

“Lizzie, you don’t have to—“

She turns over in his arms, cutting off whatever suggestion he is about to offer. “Shhh,” she quiets him gently, reaching up to press a kiss to his jaw. “Tell me in the morning.”

He pulls her closer against his body, tangling her feet between his own. Her toes press against warm cotton of his lounge pants; unlike him, she’s never been able to fall asleep with any type of pajama bottoms on.

She thinks that will be the end of the hushed, sleepy conversation, but as she rests her head against his chest, he mumbles something against the crown of her head.

“I missed you.”

A little bubble of guilt wells up in her chest. Normally, she’s able to call or text him when working late becomes unavoidable, but tonight she had been stuck in an international phone conference.

“I’m sorry,” she apologizes. “I’ll be home earlier tomorrow. We can have dinner.”

She feels his shoulder shrug, jostling the position of her head slightly. It’s a jerky, unnatural movement for him, laced with sleep and disorientation, and she smiles faintly into his white cotton t-shirt. “No,” he says, his voice a little clearer than before. This small difference tells her that whatever comes next is something he’s adamant about. “I always miss you.”

Her heart swells with emotion at this half-conscious admission, and it’s all she can do to restrain herself to just one soft, lingering kiss. “I always miss you, too,” she whispers against his lips, before ducking back into the space he’s made for her, somewhere between his open arms and his heart.

He nestles her closer still, remedying the distance that has accumulated amidst their conversation. She’s pressed against him contentedly, warmth spreading through her with such totality that it makes her realize she never knew she was cold in the first place. 

Chapter Text

 

She’s been in San Francisco for two months when William tosses the magazine in front of her during breakfast. It’s one of the most revered media business journals in the bay area, and the front cover is overwhelmed with a blown-up image of the Bennet Studios logo.

 

Bennet Studios: Rational or Reckless?

 

A little pocket of doubt prevents her from speaking for a moment, but she swallows it down. “And?” she questions, taking a bite of her toast without looking up at him. “What’s the verdict?”

He gives a little disapproving snort. “Recklessly rational, the classic indecision. A very insubstantial ruling on something that has a very clear answer, in my opinion.”

Lizzie gives him a little smile. “I don’t think we’ll find out if this was rational for a while.”

“Oh, I was going to say reckless,” he says, and she raises her eyebrows at him. He folds his newspaper and stands up, walking over to where she sits. “But reckless isn’t synonymous with idiotic. Reckless is necessary when running a business.” Bending down, he puts his mouth right near her ear. Lizzie breath catches. “Now, skipping breakfast and arriving to work twenty minutes late?”

“Mmm?” Lizzie hums, not trusting herself to form words when his fingertips are ghosting down her neck and over her collarbone.

“Rational.”


This was the big reveal?” Lizzie demands two months later from her cross-legged position on her couch, turning the magazine out to face him as he walks through her apartment door. She peeks over the edge of it to see that he’s smiling when he drops his keys on her kitchen counter and struts—actually struts, and for the first time she can put an image to the word—over to her. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me!”

His smirk seems to be permanent, and she’s hard pressed to decide whether to feed his ego or not.

“As I recall, it was you who decided that we should strictly separate business from pleasure,” he replies, sitting down next to her and hooking an arm around her shoulder until she’s pressed right against his side. Lizzie gives him a look, but his smile doesn’t disappear—if anything, it widens.

“Do you need help carrying that ego?” she teases with a flat expression. “It looks a little enormous for just one man.”

He just leans in for a kiss, quick and hard and happy, and backs away so that his forehead is nearly touching hers.

“Good day?” she asks softly, her volume immediately tempered by his proximity.

“Getting better,” he tells her, leaning in again for something much more thorough.

Five minutes later finds the small family room unoccupied and the bedroom rather not. The magazine is left lying on the couch, the headline reading: Pemberley Reigns as the #1 Digital Media Company for Eight Years Running.




“Ms. Bennet?” comes a voice from Lizzie’s doorway on a Tuesday morning.

Lizzie looks up to see Allison, an employee from Advertising, standing in her doorway. “Allison, hey. You can call me Lizzie,” she responds, flipping the folder she’s been reviewing closed.

Allison steps into her office and Lizzie notices that she’s pressing her lips together as if to suppress a smile. “I just…was wondering if you’ve seen…this.” The petite brunette unfurls the magazine that was curled in her fist and sets it gently on Lizzie’s desk.

On the front is a logo, a very old logo that, frankly, Lizzie thought she’d never have to look at again. Unwillingly, a familiar little intro tune plays its way into her head. She picks up the magazine gingerly and glances over the headline.

 

What Part does Dramatic Content Plays in the Success of a Media Business?

 

Lizzie’s fingers are already dialing a very familiar number, not even processing that it would be quicker (speed dial) on her cell phone. He picks up halfway through the first ring.

“I was just about to call you,” he tells her by means of a greeting.

“You’ve seen it?”

“I have. Have you read the article?”

“Do I want to?”

There’s a slight pause on the other end. “They do attempt to avoid straying from professionalism,” he informs her. “’Attempt’ being the operative word. But I know that the editors were criticized for pursuing shallow topics in their headline articles last month. This must be a venture to remedy that.”

“Well, if anyone at our respective companies didn’t know about the videos, they will now,” she concedes, leaning back in her chair. “Everybody reads this.”

A lot of people at Bennet Studios already know, of course, as some of her former viewers inevitably permeated every level of the company: from employees to board members to investors. But Lizzie had harbored the hope that it didn’t run viral in the rest of the digital media field (stupid, maybe, but hadn’t Gigi said all those months ago that she was the only one at Pemberley Digital who even knew of the diaries?).

“I think we’ll survive,” William comforts her. “Unless this magazine decides to run rampant in their apparent pursuit to become a tabloid.”

“Then we’ll be in the prime spotlight,” Lizzie mused. “I can’t think of a dramatic scandal any other media companies in the bay area could have to offer.”

“We are certainly one of a kind.”

They say their short goodbyes, and Lizzie realizes that Allison is still in her office, looking at her boss with a very conspicuous smile. Lizzie rolls her eyes good-naturedly, and extends the magazine back to Allison.

“I don’t need to read the article,” Lizzie says. “I already know the answer.”


“Did you see the new issue?”

“I was about to look, but now I’m not so sure. Whenever we start a sentence with that, something bad happens, William.”

“You want to see this.”

She leans forward to grab the copy sitting in the corner of her desk. “What page holds my doom?”

“Thirty-four.”

She quickly thumbs through the glossy pages until she reaches the desired one. “Top Ten Work Environments in San Francisco…Bennet Studios comes out on top?” She gasps incredulously, staring down blankly at the page.

“It would appear so,” he says, and she knows that he’s smiling. “Looks like that media company on the other side of town is shaping up to be some pretty menacing competition.”

“It’s…I—number two is still really fantastic, William,” she tell him, trying to find some balance between ecstasy and fairness.

“Not as fantastic as number one,” he reminds her. “You’re phenomenal, Lizzie Bennet. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.”


The journal, of course, has a plethora of other topics on which to report, so William and Lizzie always seem to forget that appearing in it is a possibility until it happens.

The next time, it’s eight months later, and a multitude of events have transpired.

Lizzie stands at the kitchen island earlier than usual, whisking pancake mix with her extra time. She’s hoping to finish them before William wakes, but her back is to the door and she senses failure when her hair is swept back from her neck and a pair of soft lips kisses the curve leading up from her shoulder. Lizzie leans back into him and stops stirring, angling her head so that he has more access. 

He chuckles against her bare skin, but doesn’t continue. Instead, the cover of a magazine compromises her vision.

Her eyes widen dramatically and she snatches the cover out of his hands. She absolutely cannot believe her eyes.

The Place for Proposals in the Business World: Two Star-Crossed Lovers Beat the Odds?” She exclaims, whirling around to face him. William is standing with a mix between a grimace and an amused smile on his face (because, dammit, whenever anyone mentions their engagement he’s smiling like an idiot). “Star crossed lovers?” she repeats indignantly.

“Once again, the journalists endeavor to keep their article strictly appropriate—“

“They’re writing about our partnership on my next project?” she speculates.

“Essentially, yes,” he nods, stepping closer to her. “’Two media empires joining together unexpectedly to create an inevitable sensation,’” he quotes. “The whole works.”

She’s sensing that there’s a catch here. “But…”

“There is a quick mention of a ring.”

What?” Lizzie demands, and he puts his hands on her hips, hoping to placate her. She scans the article (“Continued on page 10? Exactly how much do they have to say about this?”) quickly, before her eyes lock onto the imminent phrase.

“’Of course, the business world might be inclined to wonder if William Darcy is pushing his business proposal beyond the realms of professionalism, as rumors permeate the air that Elizabeth Bennet may be adopting a different last name along with an engagement ring,’” Lizzie reads aloud, her voice taking on an increasingly incredulous tone until she’s looking up at William with wide eyes and a flushed face. “Is it possible to succumb to consumerism more than they already have?”

William leans down to press a kiss to her forehead. “They’re just having fun gathering whatever antics they can,” he assures her. “It must be boring writing about economics and marketing results all month. Besides, they don’t even have the correct information.”

She raises a questioning eyebrow.

“Well, you’re keeping your last name, aren’t you?” he points out. “And…” she feels his hand run down her left arm until it comes to cradle her hand. His thumb runs over the band of metal and diamonds that loops around her ring finger. “You’ve already adopted the engagement ring; that’s no rumor.” There’s that smile again.

“You’re entirely too smug, you know that?” she asks him, but she’s smiling and there are shivers running down her spine and to hell with it if he’s not the only one grinning like an idiot any time the engagement is mentioned.

“Lucky,” he corrects, the word mumbled against her lips. “Entirely too lucky.”

Chapter Text

The knowledge doesn’t come in a neon memo (she wishes), or because she’s responsible and pays attention to these sort of things (ideal), or even when she’s bending over the toilet, puking her guts out while William holds her hair (okay, it’s a glaring hint, she knows—so sue her).

“You’re not going to work today.”

He has to say it; it’s necessary, because it’s a Herculean task keeping Lizzie home from work, even the one time--a year ago--when she had a 103-degree fever and severe abdominal pain.

(“I still need to stop by the office.”

“You’re undergoing an appendectomy, Elizabeth.”)

Now, she turns her head enough to give him a look. Even though her hands are trembling and there’s a disgusting sheen of sweat coating her forehead, she’s indignant. Feeling absolutely awful, but indignant.

“But I need to—“

“Lizzie.” His voice is no-nonsense. His fingers, which have been trailing up and down her spine comfortingly this entire time, halt. “You’re not going to work today.”

She wants to argue merely founded on the fact that he’s ordering her to do something, but she feels so empty and shaky and nauseous that she’s sure she wouldn’t even be able to stand up straight enough to get a convincing sentence out of her.

“Fine,” she surrenders bitterly. The cold tiles are pressing into her bare knees and she wants to spread her whole body across the cool surface to ease some of the discomfort.

“Bed?” he asks, and she pauses for a moment while she gauges whether her stomach will cooperate. It turns over, and she shakes her head, but feels steady enough to swivel so that she’s sitting and leaning up against the wall next to the toilet.

William is squatting in his work clothes, contemplating her closely. His eyebrows are furrowed together adorably as he thinks. “I don’t want to leave you sitting on the bathroom floor all alone.”

“I’ll be fine,” she says weakly, waving a hand blithely in front of her. “You have that meeting. Go.”

He gives her a doubtful look.

Go.”

“You need to tell Charlotte you can’t go to dinner tonight.”

“I will, I promise.”

“I’m telling Ms. Parker to alert security that if you should show up at work today, they are to contact me immediately.”

She rolls her eyes. Her secretary would get way too much pleasure out of that call, as she already makes sure that Lizzie has enough time to eat a solid lunch each day. Knowing someone else is doctoring Lizzie would satisfy Ms. Parker immensely.

“Fine. You do that. I, in the meantime, will be here in the bathroom. So you’ll know right where to find me if any of your spies report sketchy business going on and you need someone to threaten.”

He gives her that straight-faced look that tells her he doesn’t appreciate her jokes.

She softens her look. “Please don’t worry about me. Twenty-four hour bug, it will pass.”

“I suppose,” he says, and leans forward to kiss her forehead before standing up. “You’ll call me if you need anything?”

“Yes,” she responds exasperatedly. “You’re going to be late.”

“I love you.”

 

 

 

“Love you, too.”


Once Lizzie gains enough strength (read: once Lizzie tosses her cookies twice more and lies on the bathroom floor for twenty minutes) she manages to retrieve her cell phone from her bedside table.

After a few moments of debating whether or not to actually call Charlotte (“What are the chances this won’t pass in ten hours?” she asks herself, and promptly throws up again) she presses the assigned speed dial button.

“Lizzie, hey!”

“Hey Char.”

“What’s up?” Charlotte asks. “Did you choose a restaurant for tonight?”

“Uh, actually, I was just calling to cancel. I’m really sorry, but I’m feeling pretty awful.”

“Are you home from work?”

“Yeah, I’ve been sick all morning.”    

There’s a pause on the other end. “Really?”

“Yeah,” Lizzie confirms, pressing her fingers lightly into her stomach when it growls menacingly. “I would have had to practically push William out the door, if only my own legs would support my body.”

“Oh, really, that bad?” Her tone is suspicious, but Lizzie, exhausted as she is, doesn’t catch on.

“I don’t think it’s been this bad since we had the flu in second grade.”

Lizzie expects some sort of laugh or at least a “God, don’t remind me,” but instead all she receives is silence.

“Charlotte?”

“Is this the first morning this is happening?”

Lizzie furrows her eyebrows in confusion. “Yeah…why? Should this be a recurring thing?”

Another pause.

“Charlotte?”

“I’m debating whether to tell you or let you discover it for yourself.”

And, really, it almost makes sense that Charlotte figures it out before she does.

“Discover what? Charlotte, you know I hate it when you do this. It makes me feel like I’m late catching up to everyth—“

Late.

Late.

Late.

The word reverberates in her head like a never-ending echo, and Lizzie feels her legs go weak and start to quiver for a whole new reason.

“Oh, my God.”

“There it is.”  

“Oh, my God.”          

“I’m not going to say anything because I know that you’ve already launched yourself into Lizzie-thinks-she’s-in-a-crisis mode,” Charlotte says, and she’s entirely too pleased with herself, “but if I were the type of bestie to say something, I would say that I make you feel like you’re late catching onto everything because you are late catching onto everything.”

“Will you please just come over?”

 

 

 

“I just checked out of work.”


One gallon of liquid, three heaves into the toilet, and two pregnancy tests later, Lizzie has discovered two things: One, she is pregnant. Two, morning sickness has no limits, because it’s one o’clock in the afternoon and she can’t keep down so much as a saltine cracker. Lizzie’s curled up in the bathtub, her go-to spot whenever she’s sick or upset—or, evidently, pregnant.

“I’m pregnant.”

“You are.”

“I’m pregnant.”

“Essentially.”

“I’m pregnant.”

Charlotte heaves a sigh. “We can stare at the plus signs for twenty minutes again, if you’d like.”  

Charlotte.

“What?” Charlotte asks innocently. “Yes, Lizzie, you’re pregnant. We’ve screamed, we’ve hugged, I’ve said congratulations probably about a million times, and held your head back while you puked your guts out like a pro. You are, indeed, pregnant.”

“It’s just hitting me now, though.”

“You’re a little late, then.”

Charlotte.”

“I’m sorry, it was too easy.”

“What are you doing so intently on your phone, anyway?”

“Nothing. Work stuff.”

The bestie mind reading goes both ways, though.

“You better not have told William.”

“I would never.”

“Charlotte Lu.”

“I didn’t!”

There’s the distinct sound of the front door to the house opening.

“I’m going to murder you.”

“And…that’s my cue to leave. Just so you know, though, he doesn’t know,” Charlotte informs her, before taking a pointed look around the bathroom. Lizzie is curled up in the bathtub with her hair pulled back in a limp ponytail and there are empty glasses and pregnancy test packaging strewn everywhere.           

“I hate you.”

“Congratulations again, bestie. Good luck!”

She sidles out of the bathroom quickly and after a few moments Lizzie can swear she hears her best friend mutter a quick “check the bathroom” to her husband.

It’s all Lizzie can do to close her eyes and brace for impact.

“Lizzie, what’s wrong? Charlotte’s text said it was an emergency.”

Lizzie’s eyes are still closed, and she senses his pause to silently take in the state of their master bathroom. The drained glasses of water and mugs of tea sitting beside her. The pregnancy test boxes scattered on the floor. His wife tucked into a fetal position in the bathtub. And finally, finally, the two plastic sticks laying in between the sinks on the double vanity.

“Lizzie.”        

Her eyes open slowly to look at him. She finds a look of mingled disbelief and some kind of building emotion staring back at her.

“What did—is this—are you…?”

Lizzie crooks her mouth into something between a grimace and a smile. She’s excited—excited enough for the both of them and Charlotte combined—but she’s also drained of energy and her stomach is still queasy and if this sets any sort of precedent for motherhood, she’s not sure she’s ready.

She watches as he walks over to the sinks and gazes down at the two tests, both lying face up. He swivels back to face her.

“Lizzie, are you pregnant?”

When he says the words, she remembers that they’ve been trying for months now, and something better than happiness coils up tight within her belly. She smiles softly and bites on her lower lip. This is it.

“Yeah,” she breathes, softer than a whisper, and with that one word, the joyous feeling gushes throughout her whole body, spreading to the very tips of her fingers and toes.

William is crouched by her side faster than she can blink, crossing the vast bathroom in two strides. He wants to pick her up, to crush her to him and try to convey these overwhelming emotions that are running uncontrolled through his body, but, as if she’s expecting this, she winces. If there’s anything she’s discovered about her body in the past four hours, it’s that it’s not stable, and drastic movements are never appreciated.

He sees this in her face and instead cups her face between his large hands, craning her neck up to kiss her long and slow. Lizzie is beyond glad that she brushed her teeth each and every time after she was sick. He pulls back and rests his forehead against hers, sweeping his thumbs across her cheeks. He exhales a long breath before standing up and toeing off his shoes and shedding his suit jacket.

Lizzie looks up at him curiously before she realizes that he’s clamoring into the bathtub after her, jostling her body as little as possible, and she doesn’t think she’s ever loved him more. William sits behind her and tugs her back against his chest, wrapping his arms loosely around waist until his hands come to rest on her lower abdomen. She rests her head back and feels him press a kiss against her shoulder, then her neck, before propping his head against hers, his mouth near her ear.

There’s going to be time for celebration, and telling the family, and worrying about cribs and paint colors and names and clothes and which school to go to and which extracurricular activities to—Lizzie takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Reminds herself that, for now, it's just the two of them (three of them) wrapped in their own little world with their own little family. Besides, anxiety can’t be good for the baby…the baby. She’s having a baby.

“How are you feeling?” he asks softly, and amidst the unbelievable rapture in his voice, there is worry—always for her. She knows he’s beyond the point of ecstasy, but he reins it in for her benefit.

“Better,” she tells him honestly, still trying to wrap her mind around what’s happening. She thinks she’s figured out that at this point, there’s no absorbing it. She will always feel this mixture of fear and contentedness, like this is simultaneously the scariest and best thing that’s ever happened to her.

“Better?” he asks, and she nods her head sleepily.

“Also, happy. Really happy.” Her eyes drift shut with contented ease. William’s home, and he knows, and everything’s okay. “You?”

He chuckles lightly into her hair. “Happy, too. Definitely happy.”

Chapter Text

Some days (everyday), William Darcy was very happy (extremely ecstatic) that Lizzie had moved in with him.

Even mornings like this—especially mornings like this—were enjoyable, when Lizzie was rushing around the kitchen in nothing but a slip and tights, the towel from her hair strewn over one of the bar stools. He knew that she was worried about that kind of thing when they first decided to live together: his immaculate tidiness contrasted starkly against her messy tendencies; but it was something that he loved about her. Lizzie spread herself out everywhere, making no differentiation between a towel rack and a piece of kitchen furniture. Sometimes, he would find a book in the pantry, set on one of the shelves as she was searching for a dinner ingredient and then forgotten amidst other responsibilities. Other times, the remote to the television in the family room would make an appearance in their bedroom, when she was too groggy to realize that she had carried it with her to bed. And the bobby pins—lord, the bobby pins were everywhere.

But it was how he loved her, dispersing evidence of her presence nearly everywhere she went. And besides, she always remembered to pick up after herself eventually.

On this particular morning, she was late (“Late, late, late, late, late,” she chanted disapprovingly under her breath as she paced back and forth between the toaster and the teakettle and the toaster again), trying to do about a dozen things at once.

“Do you need help with anything?” he offered courteously from his perch at the kitchen table, a mug of coffee held with one hand and the newspaper with the other.

“No, thanks. It’s just one of those mornings,” Lizzie said breathlessly, trying to poke an earring into her right ear.

Those mornings,William had learned, was Lizzie’s way of describing the days when her tardiness had no satisfactory explanation. Some days she had an outfit planned and it ended up looking “completely unflattering, oh, my God, I need to change.” (“How can anything look unflattering on you?” he would reply honestly, and in response receive a look of adoration and a quick kiss.) Other times, she had lingered in the shower for two minutes too long and now her whole routine was askew.

And he really tried to respect the fact that she valued punctuality because, after all, so did he. But she was pacing in nothing but a slip and tights and eventually she would pass right by him to get to the butter dish and when she did he knew that resistance was futile.

“No—William…” But it was a not-quite-frustrated-enough sigh instead of a reprimand and now she was dragged across his lap and damn that she had already put on her tights because there was no efficient way of getting them off once they were on for the day. He didn’t want her to be that late.

“I’m going to be late,” she mumbled against his lips, the reminder more like a comment on the weather than anything else. Not even close to urgent enough for him to release her.

He wanted to remind her with a snarky comment that she was already late (he’d been working on it, and it wasn’t too hard around Lizzie to loosen up…a little), but he knew to stop while he was ahead. Instead, William just kissed her and kissed her and kissed her until she’d made that soft noise at the back of her throat that almost guaranteed he was never going to let her go. Her fingers, grasping at his shoulders, curled into his shirt. The delicious pressure of having her pressed against him caused him to fist the silky fabric gathered around her hips.

Too soon—much too soon—she broke away breathlessly. Her hair was mussed and her lips were red and swollen from the pressure. Her eyes lingered on a fiery border between passion and frustration, but her mouth was quirked into that perpetual smile that she adopted when she was around him, so William figured he was safe for the moment.

“I need to go,” she insisted unconvincingly.

“No one is making you stay,” he commented innocently, his thumbs tracing circles around her hipbones tauntingly.

She threw him a glare (the smile was still there, though) and hopped off of his lap, as if to prove a point. William looked up at her, amused, as she indignantly yanked down her slip and smoothed the material. She looked at him expectantly, challengingly, but he just quirked an eyebrow and picked his coffee mug back up, flicking the newspaper out in front of him with his other hand.

She huffed and stalked out of the kitchen, a soft mutter of  “damn it” escaping her lips. He chuckled low and gentle, so that she couldn’t hear, and didn’t bother to pretend that he wasn’t watching her walk away.

Chapter Text

It happens in the blink of an eye.

Lizzie’s not really thinking—that much is obvious—but she’s in Jane’s kitchen, in Jane’s house, holding Jane’s adorable little daughter, and everything about Jane right then seems to be perfect (everything about Jane always seems to be perfect). So she says it.

“I want one.”

Jane freezes. Lizzie freezes.

Lizzie blames the jetlag.

Lizzie also thanks her lucky stars that William isn’t present.

Because baby Laura’s round blue eyes are staring up at her and her smile is gummy and adorable and her tiny, ineffectual little fists are waving blindly and trying to catch Lizzie’s hair between her fingers and oh, God, if it isn’t the most enticing thing Lizzie’s ever witnessed in her entire life.

“Excuse me?”

Lizzie shakes her head frantically in that way that Jane recognizes from when they were little and Lizzie was trying too hard to snake her way out of something.

“Nothing,” the younger sister says. “I’m tired. It’s the jetlag. And your baby’s eyes are possessing my soul.”

“You just said you want one,” Jane presses.

“No I didn’t.”

Jane ignores her. “Lizzie Bennet, Miss I-Will-Never-Turn-Into-Mom-So-Lets-Stay-Away-From-Motherhood, wants a baby!”

“Jane.”

Jane squeals. “This is fantastic!” She scuttles over to hug Lizzie (from the side—Laura is still in Lizzie’s arms) as if the stick is already blue. “Our children are going to be cousins, and only nineteen months apart! They’re going to look so sweet playing together.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes. “Jane, I’m not pregnant.”

“Maybe not, but you’re already halfway there!” Jane’s smile is blinding. “This is fantastic!” she repeats.

“What is fantastic?” comes a voice from the doorway, and Lizzie swears she nearly drops the child.

Clearly not mother material.

Her voice catches in her throat. “Nothing! Nothing. It’s just…”

Jane smiles conspicuously and pauses for just long enough to lead Lizzie to believe that Jane’s going to leave her little sister to climb out of this pit on her own.

“Fantastic that Lizzie is doing me this huge favor by looking after Laura tomorrow while you and Bing are out and I’m at my meeting,” Jane provides innocently, and if Lizzie thought William would miss the exchange she would throw her older sister the most menacing of glares.

“That’s…awfully kind of you, Lizzie,” William says, and walks over to stand beside her, hovering his index finger in front of Laura until she faithfully reaches out and curls her own tiny appendages around it.

Lizzie seriously cannot handle what this visit has been doing to her stomach; seeing William in any vicinity of Laura makes her entire body burn with something akin to inconsolable hormonal desire. Quite frankly, she rather wishes it would go away. Life was so much easier when her mind was clear of baby names and bassinets.

“Yes, well,” Lizzie starts carefully. “I’m not sure that’s the best idea. Laura’s really…little. I feel like I’m going to break her.”

Apparently, it’s the wrong thing to say—too maternal, too something—because both Jane and William are giving her that look, that aren’t-you-too-perfect look that she’s learning to resent when it comes to talking about motherhood.

“She’s a lot more resilient than you might think,” Jane tells her, turning back to finish up the dishes she’s been washing. “Bing said just the other day that she reminds him a little of you.”

Lizzie wants to scoff, but Laura’s smiling at her again and maybe she can kind of see where Bing could get that, in the most ambiguous of ways. Lizzie finds herself smiling back involuntarily and presses her lips tightly together.

Damn it.

“Well, if it will help you out,” Lizzie says with a pointed tone and a look, but Jane just throws a pleasant smile over her shoulder.

“It will. And I’m sure it’ll help you out, too…with finding something to do while we’re all away, I mean.”

Yeah, Lizzie knows exactly what she means.


They play. They laugh. They battle by pushing cheerios all around the tray attached to Laura’s booster seat. Lizzie discovers that her niece is ticklish right above her little hips. Laura discovers that Lizzie is falling in love with the way the baby’s pudgy legs squirm and wiggle when Lizzie’s fingers run up her sides.

Or at least, she would, if babies could recognize that stuff.

Stuff that Lizzie can’t help but recognize. Because as much as she sort-of-not-really begrudges Jane for leaving her there in the house with this tiny little life that she’s suddenly responsible for (if only for the day) Lizzie can’t help but appreciate this test run.

It’s exhausting, and overwhelming, and Lizzie definitely understands why Jane has dark circles under her eyes. But she also understands why there’s this new glow—this indescribable spark—that Jane’s never had before. Yes, motherhood is taxing—really taxing—but being around Laura is the most simplistically happy Lizzie’s ever been.

And, the kicker: it’s not ever her own child.

Nevertheless, she’s a bit relieved when Laura’s eyes start to flutter closed as they waltz around the kitchen together under the enchantment of Lizzie’s quiet humming. Lizzie smiles softly as she watches the baby’s thin red lips open wide with a yawn before the little girl rests her head contentedly against Lizzie’s shoulder. This is probably the most agreeable child she’s ever encountered, although she’s not surprised. Laura is a Jing baby, after all. Lizzie tries to convince herself that her own daughter would be much more unpleasant.

It doesn’t work. Like, at all.

Eventually (“Stop staring at the sleeping infant, Lizzie,” she mutters to herself critically), she drags herself over to the couch in the family room before sitting herself down and propping up her feet on the coffee table. Laura is resting peacefully against her chest, one little thumb tucked into her mouth. Her soft red hair contrasts her milky skin and Lizzie can’t help but wonder if every female in her family’s line will have red hair.

“Do you think that would be confusing?” Lizzie asks her sleeping niece quietly, her fingers gently sifting through the fine, silky strands. “A family full of red-headed girls? I think we’d lose track after a while. Better limit the progeny department to Jane and Bing, then, right?”

Laura nestles in closer against Lizzie’s body with a small squirm that makes Lizzie’s heart squeeze as if to say, “No, not right.” Lizzie takes a deep breath, trying to control this new urge that’s telling her to go make a baby—adopt a baby, find a baby—as soon as possible. It’s absurd and frightening and completely out of the question (right?), but the temptation is present nonetheless.

The heat radiates off of Laura’s furnace of a body, and Lizzie feels herself getting sleepy from the comfortable warmth. Her last waking thought is that if her own children have this kind of effect on her, she’s totally a goner.


 

“Lizzie…” a soft voice filters through her dreams. “Lizzie, love, you’re going to hurt your back if you stay like that.”

“Hmm?” Lizzie hums as she felt one familiar arm wrap around her back and the other cradle underneath her knees. “Where’re we going?”

She feels a chuckle rumble through his chest and soft lips press to her forehead. “You’re going back to sleep until dinner.”

She shakes her head in protest and the absence of the little heater against her chest is strikingly alarming, even in her half-asleep state. “Laura…”

“…Is with Bing. They went to go pick up Jane from work.”

She breathes out a contented sigh and burrows back into his chest. After a few more moments and a flight of stairs, she feels herself being lowered onto a feathery soft surface. Lizzie nearly moans at the feel of relief spreading through her tired body, and William slides the covers up until she’s pleasantly burrowed in.

She feels his thumb trace from her temple to her chin and she smiles without meaning to.

“You can sleep until dinner. You look exhausted.” The thumb has moved to trace her bottom lip.

Her head bobs up and down in agreement. “I shouldn’t have said I wanted one.”

The tracing stops.

Lizzie wonders if this will go away if she keeps her eyes shut tight.

He clears his throat. He waits ten seconds. Lizzie loves him for it.

“What?”

She kind of winces before slowly opening her eyes. He’s looking straight at her with a smoldering stare she hasn’t ever been able to avoid.

“You said you wanted a baby?”

“May…be?” she replies tentatively, trying to read his expression.

“Lizzie.”

“I’m very tired. Jetlag,” she tries feebly.

There’s something about his expression that tells her he’s amused, but she can’t determine why until she registers his next words: “Lizzie Bennet, Miss I-Will-Never-Turn-Into-Mom-So-Lets-Stay-Away-From-Motherhood, wants a baby?”

She sits up quickly in surprise, recognizing the words from when they had come from Jane’s mouth the day before. She ignores the rush of blood to her head because she’s pretty sure that William Darcy justmade a joke about something as serious as having children.

“You heard us.”

His smile is answer enough. “I never believed you would ever admit it out loud.”

She was too groggy to handle this. “And you’re not…I mean, you don’t seem…you…?”

“Also want to have a child with the woman with whom I’m irrevocably in love? Yes, I think that’s safe to assume.”

“Should I get used to this new, sarcastic William Darcy or am I still dreaming?” Lizzie asks, wondering if he feels this same frustration when she teases him. Maybe it’s just the sensitive topic.

He smiles and leans down to kiss her softly on the lips, pulling away only slightly to whisper. “Of course I want a baby with you, Elizabeth.”

She’s simultaneously exhilarated and fearful. “You’re not pulling from the best gene pool,” she warns him. “Inclination for dramatics is an inheritable Bennet trait.”

“I don’t care.”

“It will probably have my feet.”

“Your feet are perfect.”

“You really want a baby?”

He nods. “But only with you.”

The restrained feeling of overwhelming desire that she’s been experiencing at an exponential rate for the past twenty-four hours practically explodes in her chest and she drags herself up to kiss him again. His hands tangle involuntarily in her hair and hers loop around his neck, pulling him forward.

The sound of the front door opening echoes down the hallway.

Damn it,” Lizzie whines, pulling away from her husband regrettably.

He just laughs and runs a thumb over her cheekbone. “We’re really going to try and have a baby?”

“One who has hysterical panics and deformed feet,” she reminds him.

“So a perfect baby, in other words,” he deduces.

She rolls her eyes, but she can’t help the smile from dawning over her face. “You say that now.”

Chapter Text

William hasn’t seen Lizzie in nearly fifteen minutes, and he’s trying his best not to panic. But as the seconds tick by he becomes increasingly concerned, trying to shove the thoughts of her climbing through a bathroom window from his mind. He reminds himself that she is perfectly independent and certainly busy, capturing the attention of everyone in the room so ardently that he’s uncertain as to whether he’ll encounter her for hours more.  

Contrary to his worries, though, he doesn’t have to wait long before the familiar redhead is sidling towards him, weaving through elegantly decorated tables and chairs before coming to rest at his side. Her shoulder nudges into his arm, as if she hasn’t already caught his attention. She looks absolutely radiant.

“So get this,” she says with a sparkle in her eyes. He raises a questioning eyebrow, and she takes it as her signal to continue. “There’s this total douchebag who’s been standing by the wall for fifteen minutes while I’ve been utterly devoid of a dance partner.”

William turns to face her fully, finding it so difficult to play along when the woman he loves is standing right in front of him, looking more spectacular than he’s ever seen her. “Really?” he says, struggling to remain serious. “What kind of idiotic reprobate would refrain from dancing with a woman as beautiful as you?”

Lizzie puts on her best annoyed face (it can’t quite overpower her glowing smile, though) and indicates towards her dress. “I don’t know, I think all this white is giving him the wrong impression.”

“I can’t imagine why.”

“And I’ve tried flirting with at least half the men here—“

“That many?”

Lizzie nods her head in dejected confirmation. “But they all seem to have the idea that I’m already spoken for.”

William cocks his head at her and furrows his brows in mock-confusion. “Maybe it’s the ring on your finger.”

She’s not even trying to keep the teasing smile off of her face, now. “That’s what I was thinking, so I went to the bathroom to flush it before deciding that I rather appreciate how it looks.”

“What a bold decision—and at the expense of sacrificing a potential suitor?”

Lizzie lets out a dramatic sigh. “Perhaps I’ll come across someone decent enough to take the place of a rich, handsome man whom my mother would want me to marry.”

He can’t help it anymore; William chuckles and picks up her left hand, running his thumb quickly over the stunning ring on her the fourth finger. “Would you mind terribly settling for a dance with an unsatisfactory man such as myself in the mean time?”

She looks up at him, positively beaming. “Maybe just this once.”

He makes to lead her to the dance floor, but Lizzie tugs on his hand to pull him back. She’s much closer than she was a few seconds ago, tugging on the lapels of his tuxedo gently and craning up so that their noses are nearly touching. “But only if you tell me where we’re going for the honeymoon.”

William laughs, a deep rumble that vibrates against her torso, and slides a hand around her waist to settle on the small of her back. “Not a chance.” 

Chapter Text

William is a fool, he realizes, to think that he could ever stop being surprised by Lizzie Bennet—and after merely one year of calling her his girlfriend, no less. (She’s something more than that, actually, but there aren’t words for it; as someone who has trouble finding words around her in the first place, this frustrates him to no end.)

It happens on a normal Thursday—rather, almost normal, because his afternoon meetings have been miraculously cancelled, and he’s off of work three hours early. He knows that she’ll be home, having just flown in that morning from a business meeting, and he’s eager to see her after four days apart.

When he walks into the apartment, though, what he isn’t expecting to see is Lizzie Bennet dancing with reckless abandon around the furniture in the lounge, some song (it’s top-forty radio—he’s certain that it is, and he loves her all the more for it) thumping out energetic beats from the stereo. Her hair is glistening and loose and wet from the shower she took when she got home, and he knows that it smells tauntingly of vanilla and lavender. Her hips are swaying enticingly to the rhythm and her head is bopping in a ridiculous way that simultaneously makes him want to laugh out loud and rush over to her, catching her up in his arms and hearing her own laughter echoing in his ears.

But both options would disturb this moment—this moment that is so entirely Lizzie that William cannot help his heart from beating faster and his palms from itching to touch her. He restrains himself, though, happy that her eyes are closed and that she’s so entirely lost in her own world that she doesn’t even notice his presence. Instead, he turns around, retracing his steps and carefully picking up his briefcase until he quietly slips out the door again, shooting a quick text to Gigi for an impromptu coffee date.

When he gets back an hour and a half later, she’s still in the same room, wearing the same leggings, pink fuzzy socks, and gray v-neck t-shirt. But now she’s curled up in their oversized leather recliner, leaning sideways against one of the arms with her feet curled under her, focusing intently on the book in front of her. She looks up as he leans against the doorway and throws him a dazzling, breathtaking smile.

This time, he doesn’t hesitate to approach her, pressing his palms into the leather on either side of her and drawing her in for a kiss. He moves one of his hands to skim his fingers up her neck and feels the strain of the muscles there as she cranes up to meet him halfway.

When she hums contentedly into his mouth he pulls back, kissing her forehead and lifting her feet so that he can sit down beneath them, her legs bridging over his lap.

“Your home early,” she notes, gazing at him just as he’s looking at her. Four days seemed like forever, and now it feels as if she never left.

“My meetings were cancelled. I grabbed coffee with Gigi instead. How was the trip?”

“Boring,” she says, sighing and turning her attention back to her book. She leans sideways until her head falls into his chest. “Exhausting.”

 

He kisses her hair, inhaling the scent of vanilla and lavender and wondering briefly, like he always does, why his breathing comes easier when the air is infused with her scent. “I’m glad you’re home.”


 

He doesn’t catch her at it again for months, and it saddens him to think that perhaps her private dance party was a one-time occurrence—that maybe it isn’t a fun, adorable habit that he can find solace in when he’s stuck in meetings and she’s at home.

The rarity of it, though, makes it all the more breathtaking when he finally does witness the event again, under the most delightful of circumstances.

He’s coming home from grocery shopping, this time, because new houses have new refrigerators that require new food. He walks in through the front door—their front door—wondering where to put the keys when the console table still hasn’t been assembled yet, when he sees her.

She’s clad in nothing but one of his large Harvard shirts and her underwear, and this time there is no audible music playing. Twirling and bobbing amongst the mountains of cardboard boxes that are scattered throughout what will eventually resemble a family room, Lizzie dances to some imaginary music that can only be playing inside her head. He can’t help but watch her, looking utterly radiant with her hair piled on top of her head and her flushed cheeks and closed eyes that would certainly be gleaming if they were open.

He can’t help but feel irrevocably drawn to her, and he’s just starting to ponder whether he’ll be able to pull himself away this time (he won’t), when her eyes open and she spots him, standing with four grocery bags laced between his fingers right in the doorway. Relief courses through him when she doesn’t stop dancing—the last thing he wants is for her to be self-conscious about this—but instead flits over to him, still moving her hips and her arms to whatever beat is resounding in her head.

Reaching him, she grabs for his hands blindly, her eyes never leaving his face, and threads her fingers through his, forcing him to drop the groceries and the keys. His thoughts don’t even flick to the carton of eggs that just hit the hardwood floor.

 

She pulls him out into the maze of boxes and dismantled furniture and even though their house is entirely empty, she fills it with her easy grace and overwhelming presence. Lizzie draws him in slowly, looping her arms up around her shoulders as the tune playing in her mind shifts to something unhurried and relaxing and romantic. His arms automatically fall around her waist and the two of them stay there like that for endless minutes, her head tucked against his chest, heart beating against his, dancing leisurely to music only she can hear.


 

In all honestly, he mostly forgets about those two moments as the months and years rush by, the memories lost amidst the more important happenings, like little sisters’ weddings and starting a family.

It isn’t until one morning—a rare occasion when he finds himself rising after Lizzie—that he remembers all those years ago: her spark and flare, which have since been directed towards her job and their children and simply loving everything she does.

He’s rubbing sleep from his eyes when he enters the kitchen, nudging the frames of his glasses askew. The room is bright and sunny below the skylights that span across the ceiling, illuminating everything in a creamy glow.  

Lizzie’s already there, as he knew she would be from their empty bed, but she has a companion, as well, and the sight of them brings an unbridled smile to his face.

The two redheads—one much, much smaller than Lizzie, but bearing a striking resemblance to her nonetheless—are laughing, the tones echoing off each other as Lizzie grasps her daughter’s hand and spins her around once, twice, three times. The little girl giggles uncontrollably as Lizzie pulls her back in, catching the other small hand in her larger one and tugging them interchangeably until the two girls are twisting and hopping from side to side.

He can’t help from chuckling along with them as he steps into the kitchen, and Lizzie’s sparkling blue eyes catch his own. She relinquishes their daughter’s hand and spins the little girl off to her father, who catches her mid-twirl with a firm hand on her elbow. The girl gasps happily and laughs again as William nudges his socked feet underneath hers so that her feet are dancing in time with his.

Lizzie returns her attention to the blueberry pancakes on the stove and he waltzes the little one over to a bar stool on the opposite side of the island, where he picks her up and plops her down on the cushioned surface, much to her delight. He leans down and kisses her cheek, reveling in the continued giggles as his stubble scrapes along her jaw.

“Good morning, Grace,” he rumbles into her ear. She shrugs her shoulder against his hot breath, but the smile doesn’t leave her face.

“Morning, Daddy,” she says. “Mommy’s making pancakes for me and James and Alice.”

“I don’t think Alice can eat pancakes quite yet,” Lizzie reminds Grace, pouring more batter onto the hot surface of the pancake skillet. “But you can go ask James if he wants chocolate chips along with his blueberries, too.”

Grace nods eagerly and hops down from the stool, darting from the room, her little toes pattering along the wooden panels of the floor.

William comes around the island and wraps his arms around Lizzie’s waist from behind, pressing a gentle kiss into her shoulder. In return, she leans back against his chest and leans up to turn her head and press a kiss to the underside of his jaw.

He hums contentedly into her hair before reaching forward and grabbing a blueberry for himself. “Dancing again, I see.”

“They need the practice,” Lizzie tells him, flipping a pancake. “Can’t have them learning from their father, now, can I?”

“God forbid,” he says, and she smiles before turning around in his arms and craning up on her tiptoes to kiss him properly.

“Morning,” she says softly, looping her hands around his neck and nuzzling into his chest like she did years ago between the boxes of their not-yet-build home.

“Good morning,” he replies lowly. His arms settle heavily across the small of her back and the two of them begin to sway almost unconsciously. The moment is simple and happy—a spell soon to be broken by the sound of two pairs of feet racing down the hallway like the light rumble of a lazy thunderstorm. And still they dance, caught up in the silent music forever echoing within their minds and hearts and souls.

 

Chapter Text

As a rule, Charlotte tends to refrain from hyperbole.  The drama, the hysterics—she gets her fill of that from finding a best friend in Lizzie and a second home at the Bennet household.

She tries to be fair, tempered—the voice of reason in an environment that very clearly needs it at times; but sometimes…well, sometimes, Charlotte finds herself itching to maim William Darcy. No exaggeration, no overstatement. She literally, physically wants to harm him.

The first time is when he calls Lizzie decent enough.

She and Lizzie are wandering outside, eager to get away from the overweight uncles who are slightly too tipsy and the general elated atmosphere that weddings seem to press upon guests until their cheeks hurt from involuntarily smiling too much.

The words drift over to them before they’re entirely sure who is speaking them, and then it becomes exceedingly clear.

“Sure, Lizzie’s…decent enough, but why should I continue to dance with her when no one else does?”

Charlotte’s gaze snaps over to her best friend’s face, and they both stop walking. Lizzie’s expression had a flicker of something, but it was too fast for Charlotte to catch.

This is the moment, Charlotte knows, that sets her and Lizzie apart. If their roles were switched, Lizzie would have sped up instead of stopping, catching up to the pair of men and tapping Darcy on the shoulder with the façade of politeness before asking just who the hell he thought he was, saying something like that about her best friend.

It’s just something Lizzie would do, without question. And against her better judgment, Charlotte’s about to march over to the two men and do that exact thing; no one calls Lizzie Bennet decent enough—no one.

But then Lizzie places her hand lightly on Charlotte’s forearm (Charlotte’s not sure if it’s meant to ground herself or if Lizzie has some foresight into what is flashing through Charlotte’s mind—she thinks the former) and takes a short breath.

“Let’s go back inside,” the redhead says. “My heels are sinking into the grass.”

“Lizzie—“ Charlotte starts, but Lizzie just shakes her head and smiles.

“It’s fine, Char. I’m twenty-four, not twelve. Arrogant assholes can say whatever they’d like about me; I don’t care."

When it takes three videos of Lizzie dancing around the specific dialogue before finally relaying the horrible encounter, Charlotte begs to differ.


 

The second time Charlotte wants to strangle William Darcy, the emotions are overwhelming, and she’s frightened that she is actually going to take action.

Because, really, who has the phenomenal audacity to waltz into Lizzie’s office and declare his love for her in the same breath as he insults her family? Especially seeing as it's one of the only things she ardently cares about. On top of the fact that he royally screwed Jane over with barely any second thought.

And this time, when she’s sitting with Lizzie and his familiar voice comes from behind them, she really almost does it. Walking through the doorway, she comes this close to shoving his shoulder or yelling at him or just something to snap him out of whatever high-and-mighty haze he’s apparently living in.

But as things go, that’s not how Charlotte accomplishes anything, and hell if she’s going to be one more person whose life has been ruined by William Darcy when they fire her for disorderly conduct.

 

So instead, she walks by him, throwing out the most scathing words she can with the knowledge that even if he doesn’t know her well enough to acknowledge that this is Charlotte Lu: Angry and Vindictive, Lizzie will at least appreciate the gesture.


 

The third time doesn’t manifest in a moment as much as it does in a blur of days.

The third time is when Lizzie opens the door, too-perky and too-made-up and too-smiley.

It’s when Charlotte stays over when they fall asleep watching a period film and wakes up in the middle of the night, only to find Lizzie sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of tea, staring out at the inky darkness of night. It’s when the redhead lies through her teeth and says she just woke up, like she was ever able to fall asleep in the first place. Like she’s gotten more than four hours of sleep in the past five days.

The third time is when Charlotte finds herself shifting into automatic consolation mode without even realizing, bringing over a different movie and a different comfort food every day while uncharacteristically not intruding too much into Lizzie’s emotions because the girl just looks so damn sad and exhausted.

It’s when she sneaks onto Lizzie’s browser history and finds everything from news articles about Pemberley Digital to Ep. 80: Hyper Mediation in New Media to Episode 60, Episode 60, Episode 60, and listens in frustration as Lizzie tries to sputter out an excuse for it.

The third time is a series of minutes and moments and days and weeks, and it’s when Charlotte realizes that somehow, somehow, amidst the decent enough and the egotistical comments and the breaking-up-of-Jing and insulting commentary on the Bennet family, falling in love with Lizzie—the real Lizzie—and making her love him back is the worst thing that Darcy has ever done to her best friend.

And she hates him for it.

But Charlotte Lu has never been one for hyperbole, the dramatics and hysterics and the like. And unfortunately, violence falls under that category for her.

Which is why, when she opens the front door of the Bennet household expecting a delicious birthday dinner and some quality time with Lizzie (who, she thinks, will eventually heal, with enough help from her faithful bestie and enough romance films), and finds William Darcy instead, a war wages within her.

What half of her wants to do—desires so desperately to do—is to kick his shins and hit his solid shoulders and ask him why, why, why he would do this to someone so caring and compassionate and unique before slamming the door in his face.

But the other half is urging her to grab his arm and haul him to the den, because just the fact that he’s here says something—says that, yeah, he bought the company for her; says that he knows that Lizzie’s caring and compassionate and unique and he never meant to do anything to hurt her, will never do anything to hurt her ever again.

She knows that somewhere Lizzie is either babbling incoherently at the camera to try and stifle her feelings or staring off into space, knowing that the flat frames of vacant expressions can be edited out later. And Charlotte is caught in this paradox of simultaneously wanting to maim him for being the one to hurt Lizzie and letting him pass because he’s the one who can fix her.

She’s caught in the middle, like she always seems to be. Being the voice of reason comes at an emotional cost. So she opts for something appropriate, something that somehow manages to cover all the bases when it concerns her acquaintance with William Darcy.

“You were supposed to be our Chinese food,” is her first comment. The underlying meaning of her words doesn’t get past either of them, and somewhere behind her accusation is the glaring “you were supposed to be here a hell of a lot earlier,” or “you were supposed to call her back.”

He squirms uncomfortably under her pointed stare, and his mouth opens before closing again. He doesn’t have anything to say, really—not to anybody but Lizzie, not yet—but he manages a strangled, “I-I apologize,” that is just as full of subtext as Charlotte’s assertion.

It appeases her a little, so she steps aside and open the door wider, but not without offering a resigned sigh. “Down the hallway, second door on your right.”

Darcy dips his head in appreciation, and Charlotte at least has consolation in the fact that he looks just as exhausted as Lizzie, just as much at a loss for words. But she hopes that he can find them, Charlotte discovers as he steps past her and into the hallway, even if the syllables are bumbling and awkward and rushed.

She figures that whatever feelings Lizzie is harboring for the CEO will make up for his stilted language, and fate can handle the rest from there. 

Chapter Text

She should have known that going incommunicado for more than eight hours would prompt him to send out a search party (read: himself), but she couldn’t quite bring herself to move her body the slightest inch, even to get her phone.

“Lizzie?” His voice accompanies a vague jangle of keys, the sound echoing down the pathetically short hallway of her cozy one-bedroom apartment.

She cracks one eye open (finally, somewhere around two hours ago, she had passed into a state of unconsciousness—whether it was from exhaustion or blinding pain, she didn’t care to know) and makes some sort of unintelligible noise from the back of her throat. There’s a rush of heavy footsteps across the hardwood floors and then her door is swinging open with a slight squeak.

“Lizzie.”

“Go away,” Lizzie moans, curling her knees tighter to her chest. She senses the pause as William takes in his surroundings. Namely, her blob of a form curled into a ball underneath her comforter. Not even her head is visible.

“Elizabeth…” he says sympathetically, ignoring her request and approaching the bed.

“I don’t want you to see me like this,” she protests. “You don’t want to see me like this.”

“Only because I prefer when my girlfriend is not experiencing debilitating pain.”

“I think I’m dying.”

Lizzie can practically feel him roll his eyes. She suspects that perhaps he would be more worried if he hadn’t raised a teenage Georgiana Darcy. He seems to know all too well what’s going on, after all.

“I feel as if the Bennet dramatics might be permeating the situation.”

“Until you feel this kind of pain, I don’t think you have a right to talk,” Lizzie argues.

“My anatomy makes that impossible.” She feels his weight sink down into the mattress near her shoulder.

“I hate you for that a little bit.”

He chuckles softly and places a hand on the solid plane of blanket that can only be her curved back. He runs his fingers soothingly up and down her spine a few times before retracting it, as if he is aware that any form of contact makes her body flinch away. Every nerve is sore and sensitive, protesting at the slightest of touches. 

“Have you taken pain killers?” he asks.

“Couldn’t get to the kitchen.”

“Why didn’t you call me?”

“Phone’s in the kitchen.”

“Lizzie…” he admonishes, his voice laced with concern. She feels his hand skim over the covers to the edge, ready to draw them back, but she clenches her fist into the fabric, tugging it closer to her body.

“Seriously,” she warns through the white cotton, “you’re not allowed to see me in this state. Not after merely two months. Maybe after a year. Or ten.”

“I don’t care what you look like, Lizzie.”

“I have a feeling that will change if you observe me in my moment of weakness. I don’t want to send you running for the hills quite yet.”

He puffs out a frustrated sigh, and she imagines him shaking his head. “You’re impossible.”

“Well, I’m afraid that you’re stuck with me. As long as we stay on separate sides of this blanket. Or better yet, the front door.”

“You would honestly rather I leave?” he asks seriously, trying to overcome the absurdity that is talking to his girlfriend through a duvet.

“I’m not coming out,” she tells him. “You have better things to do. I promise I’ll call you first thing in the morning.”

There’s a long pause while he mulls this over. Then another sigh. “Okay,” he says. “But only because we promised to give each other space, if needed.”

She exhales in relief, thankful that he’s being so understanding. Maybe it was petty, but Lizzie was all too well acquainted with her appearance at the moment—had met this form of herself when she was fourteen years old. Her mother had been bringing her another cold washcloth for her forehead after pushing a sullen Lydia out the door (“Why does Lizzie get to stay home?”) and had cheerily welcomed her to womanhood with an encouraging: “And you can bet your buttons that nothing helps, Lizzie, dear, not even birth control. Bennet women just weren’t made for birth control.”

Once fourteen-year-old Lizzie had managed to clamor her way out of bed to the bathroom, she had gained full awareness that she better get used to this pale, sallow, clammy reflection of herself in the mirror, the one with the permanent sheen of sweat covering her face and damp, limp hair. This Lizzie would be visiting her once a month, after all.

And her mother was right, nothing helped.

“Thank you,” she says now, content that she’ll go at least another month before she has to fend off his attempts again.

He presses a quick kiss to whatever comforter-clad curve is most prominent (her shoulder) and slides his hand down her back once more before standing and taking his leave.

The door closes and she’s left alone, grateful for his absence for the first time.


 

Right.

If only it were that simple.

Because, yeah, they had agreed to give each other space, if needed. But she had also agreed to date William Darcy, and that was a whole different battle in and of itself.

She lets out a strangled groan when she hears the door to her bedroom softly swing open again, not half an hour later. His heavy footsteps are unmistakable.

“Quiet, Elizabeth,” he orders, coming over to the bed and sitting down again. She hears the rustle of a plastic bag settling onto the mattress. Without preamble, the covers are slowly retracted from her body. She tries to burrow tighter into herself, but she’s officially lost the protection that hides her baggy sweatshirt and pale legs that are bare save for her gray cotton underwear (even the waistband of sweatpants was too tight for her tender abdomen). Her hair is pulled back into a sloppy ponytail and she’s certain she looks disgusting.

“Told you,” she tells him from behind closed eyes, her defiant voice weak with fatigue.

The breath that he lets out is equal parts sympathetic to her pain and annoyed that she hadn’t contacted him sooner. Without another word, he wraps his arm around the ball of her limbs and drags her gently across the sheets until she’s resting against him. He props himself back against the headboard, Lizzie’s head tucked against his chest and her folded knees pressing into his side. She whimpers pitifully at the movement and presses her eyelids together tighter as he reaches into the bag on the other side of his torso and locates the bottled water and capsule of Midol.

“Drink,” he commands, holding out the water and the pills. She obeys wordlessly through squinted eyes, unable to even send him a half-menacing glare.

“Should’ve escaped when you had the chance,” she tells him wearily, handing him back the water and snuggling in closer to his body as he wraps an arm loosely around her back, his hand coming to rest on her hip.

“There is chocolate and a movie for later,” he tells her, pressing a kiss into her matted hair. She tries not to cringe. “You are welcome.”

Lizzie sighs. She knows defeat when she sees it, and in this case her losing battle comes in the form of William Darcy, Ghirardelli, and, undoubtedly, Colin Firth.

“Thank you,” she says softly, turning her head to kiss whatever she can reach (his shoulder) as he slides the blanket up to cover them both.

“Anytime,” he responds, and the promise strikes a thought with her.

“You better not have put this into your calendar.” She doesn’t even crack open an eye to gauge his reaction. He tenses almost imperceptibly, and she’s pressed too close to him for it to go unnoticed.

William.”

“I cannot help what is already done,” he argues.

“I can break into your phone and delete the event.”

“A possibility, if you knew the passcode.”

She snorts. “Zero-three-one-seven. Our anniversary. You really are too easy, Darcy.”

He lets out a sigh, a sound with which she’s beyond familiar by now, and it makes her smile. Instead of retaliating, though, he just leans down until his mouth is right near her ear. “Go to sleep, Elizabeth. I’ll be here when you wake.”

“Against the patient’s orders, might I add.”

“I believe it is the doctor’s orders that are important.”

“There really is no winning with you.”

“Not today. Goodnight.”

“’Night, and…thank you,” Lizzie mumbles belatedly into his shirt.

In response, he merely brushes his lips against her hair again. His thumb traces her hipbone lightly, soothingly, and she thinks that maybe her discomfort is starting to fade away.

It’s probably the painkillers, though.

Chapter Text

"That was an interesting meeting,” she says breathlessly, because he may not have been able to get out of the parking garage without pulling into a vacant spot and tugging her onto his lap, but they’re still going to talk about this.

He hums in agreement and cranes up to capture her lips again in a kiss that is utterly paralyzing and robs her mind of every thought. There are feelings thrumming through her of which she’ll never, ever tire, so sue her if she can’t help but get lost in the heat and the throbbing desire for just a few more seconds. His hands grip at her hips and her fingers are pressed against his chest before they start to work at his buttons but then—

“Will.” When she breaks away again he makes a noise of resentment, but he can’t really do anything to protest when she’s on top of him in the driver’s seat. She thinks that maybe she can try to start the conversation again, but he is finding ways around her unwillingness (not the right word—she’s always willing—but she has no time to think of proper vocabulary at a time like this) and goes right for the expanse of skin between her neck and her collarbone.

She moans. “Will.”

“Yes?” he mumbles lightly, and the warm breath comes in puffs on her flushed skin. Her chest is heaving and his hands are grasping her thighs that have been devoid of fabric ever since he pushed her dress to her hips minutes ago.

“I said…” What did she say, again? “…That was an interesting meeting.”

“I would have to agree with you, Ms. Bennet.”

She very nearly ends the entire conversation right there, right when he says her name, because he’s been playing with her mind for the past three hours and trying to maintain a professional relationship with him across an entire conference room and in front of both of their boards was possibly the hardest thing she’s ever done. Regardless of the fact that he was dropping the subtlest of innuendos the entire time and…right. That’s the reason they need to talk. Because of the innuendos.

She takes a deep breath to try and cool off the burning temperature of her body while he’s still kissing her skin with a delicious pressure. Her legs are straddling his and the confined space is causing them to press closer together. Restraining herself is coming at a painful cost.

“Your subtext was extremely obvious.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“You can’t just come to my company without telling me and drop the words ‘proposal’ and ‘promise of the future’ fifty times in the span of three hours.”

“You are delusional,” he insists. She gasps as he sucks on her pulse point, closing her eyes and curling her fingers tighter into the curve of his shoulders.

It’s taking all she has to even ramble out a few words, the desire blazing through every vein like a wildfire. The past few weeks, Lizzie’s nearly grown accustomed to falling asleep alone in their bedroom after his insistences that he has to work late again and many, many apologies. Not to mention the refusals to tell her anything about this ‘new project.’ Now, trying to maintain her composure when he’s trying so hard to break it—and after she’s learned that the new project was quite literally centered around her—is almost impossible. But she soldiers on.

“No, delusional would be a string quartet and an engagement ring right then and there, which I had half a mind to expect.”

His face appears in front of hers at the word ‘ring’ and maybe if she weren’t as flustered she would roll her eyes.

“Would you have said yes?”

She raises her eyebrows and is all too aware of his fingertips skimming up and down her bare legs. “In a conference room, at my company, in front of our top advisors while our two enterprises are trying to strike up a partnership? No.”

“What about…” he pauses briefly, not wanting to travel too far in depth. “Not under those circumstances.”

She smirks at him and vaguely recognizes that the tables have turned. Maybe he’s been working her up for the past three hours until she’s about to explode from want, but now she’s hovering above him with her bra straps shoved down and her gorgeous hair curtaining around both of them and he can’t focus. And if there’s a time he needs to focus it’s now, when she’s actually talking about an engagement. (They’ve been talking about an engagement for the past three hours, but until now their ideas of what that means haven’t exactly matched up.) His vulnerability has skyrocketed, and no matter what his proximity is doing to her body, she’s in total control.

There’s a mischievous twinkle in her eye that, any other time, would prompt him to absolutely ravish her, no matter her protests. Now, though, it doesn’t bode well, considering he has offered up a marriage proposal and she’s certainly goading him.

“I don’t think it would be very virtuous of me to answer that question in this compromising position,” she admits with a smile, squirming slightly on top of him. His eyes flutter close and his jaw clenches. His fingertips bite into the skin of her hips as he tries to secure her in place. “You might just think I’m accepting because of the imminent sex.”

His eyes snap open. “You’re accepting?”

“Was it a proposal?”

“Ye—no,” he amends, reigning in his eagerness. “This isn’t how I’m proposing to you,” he says, clearly indicating to the car and, beyond that, the drab, cement parking garage.

“Well then, I suppose you’ll have to wait for my answer.”

He’s looking up at her with the adoration that always makes her feel exposed and open, and when he reaches up to skim her cheek with his thumb and push her hair behind her ear, she shivers involuntarily.

“Aren’t we supposed to be getting drinks right now? As a strictly professional epilogue to our meeting?” she asks teasingly.

She’s never going to stop ribbing him, because she didn’t accept his proposal and yet he’s still looking like the happiest fool in the world. On top of the fact that if he thought he could waltz in to her offices and lay out five and ten and fifteen-year partnership plans without at least some cheeky repercussions—well, he was wrong.

“There’s wine in the fridge at home,” he reminds her softly.

She kisses him then—slowly, teasingly, playing with the pressure of her soft lips against his until he’s reaching up out of the seat with desperation. She has no plan to stop until something else pops into her head that she’s been wondering ever since he had unexpectedly walked into the meeting and actually introduced himself to her as Mr. Darcy.

“Did you request Conference Room B on purpose?”

He meets her gaze seriously, and even before he answers she realizes that he’s had everything planned out for months. Realizes that he has more planned for the future, she’s sure, beyond a five and ten and fifteen-year business partnership. Realizes that with him, she’s never in complete control, not really.

“I know you love the view,” he says simply, his words carrying much more weight than their explicit worth.

Her last ounce of self-restraint dissolves, and it’s the last (coherent) thing either of them says for a long time.     

Chapter Text

One.

The first thing Lizzie Bennet ever finds herself regretting when it comes to William Darcy is rejecting his offer to drive her to dinner. It’s not just the hills that are unforgiving—it’s the wind, too, and the temperature, which has definitely dropped at least fifteen degrees since that morning. Lizzie tries to bundle up as much as possible, but there is only so much coat to pull tighter around herself, only so much hat to cover her head.

She’s just about to find a place to sit down for a moment—God, her calves—or maybe even hail a taxi, but then a car pulls up about five feet ahead of her and stops next to the curb.

The first thought that crosses her mind is kidnapping was not on the agenda. She peers through the passenger side window and sees none other than William Darcy, leaning over slightly so that he can speak with her. She takes another step and hunches down to look at him.

“Are you stalking me?” she asks, only half-joking.

“I—uh,” he swallows, and it gives Lizzie some strange satisfaction to know that she trips him up. “No, I’m not stalking you. I live in this direction.”

“Right,” Lizzie deadpans, and a few awkward seconds of silence pass.

“You seem—it is unusually cold outside,” he says next, and Lizzie doesn’t respond because, well, it is cold. “May I offer you a ride?”

Lizzie is about to say no again—she really is. She said she was going to walk, and she’s perfectly capable of it, too. But then a fresh gust of torturous wind hits her and her hair is flying around her face and her teeth start to audibly chatter. It’s an embarrassing family trait that Lizzie thinks is humiliating but Lydia thinks is hilarious, of course.

“Please?” Darcy presses, and that just about pushes her over. Manners.

“Sure,” Lizzie says, tugging on the door handle and sliding into the seat. The word comes off a bit harshly, conforming to the instinctual tone she’s assigned to him. So once she fastens her seatbelt she lets out a “thank you” that comes out softer, if still a bit stiff.

Darcy just nods and turns up the heat. Slowly, Lizzie feels her nose and cheeks thaw, and vaguely thinks about the fact that her hair is no doubt a downright mess right now. She also takes this chance to inspect the interior of the car. Somewhere in the back of her mind she always assumed Darcy had a driver, but this car fits him better than that assumption. The dashboard is sleek and the upholstery leather—the expensive kind you can smell—but everything is also weirdly…Darcy, in that it has some kind of strange antiquity to it. Strangely, it reminds her of the way he talks: eloquent and sophisticated, yet…distinctive at the same time.

NPR rambles very softly in the background, just enough to fill an otherwise uncomfortable silence. Lizzie thinks about how she touched his wrist twenty minutes ago and wanted to throw herself out a window afterwards. She had been intent on avoiding him at all costs after that encounter—had been intent on avoiding him since arriving at Pemberley, actually, but that plan had been promptly sabotaged by Gigi and seemed to be deteriorating exponentially ever since.

During the drive they speak once, when Darcy asks at which restaurant she will be dining. She answers with the name of the establishment, and they’re silent until he pulls up at their destination two minutes later. Lizzie pushes down on the buckle a touch too forcefully and is about to make a quick escape, shooting a “thanks” over her shoulder, when she hesitates.

“Really, though,” she says, not looking at him, “thank you.”

Darcy doesn’t reply immediately. He hasn’t quite been breathing for the last ten minutes (spending eight of those forming the exact words to ask her for the name of the restaurant), and certainly wasn’t expecting her to speak again. Her eyes are bright and her hair is wild around her face and the flush from the cold air still hasn’t left her cheeks; he knows that if there was any question of whether he still loves her after Collins and Collins—well, there’s not. Nevertheless, he manages to choke out a “you’re quite welcome” as she slips out of his car and shuts it softly behind her.

He doesn’t drive away for several minutes, even after she’s disappeared.


Two.  

The party is…extravagant, to say the least. In fact, it’s pretty overwhelming. Lizzie tried to prepare herself, of course—thought she had done a good job, actually. Until she arrives, that is. Then she realizes that the tablecloths are legitimately silk and the centerpiece vases are crystal—real crystal, all fifty-some of them. And for a moment (or twelve) Lizzie is convinced she’s in over her head.

Needless to say, she only makes it an hour and a half before she has to step out onto the balcony for some air. The beautiful ice sculptures and lavish outdoor furniture don’t make things much better, but at least she’s free from the designer dresses and Caroline and, most importantly, Catherine.

Lizzie leans her hands against the cool metal of the railing and breathes deeply, trying to force the stress from her body. She reminds herself that she absolutely signed up for this—that it’s more than worth it, if it means that she’s with Will. More than worth it, if it means that she’s going to be attending these at the request of personal invitations, once her company gets off the ground.

She tries to convince herself of it, but it doesn’t work too well with Catherine’s snide comments budging the positive encouragement out of her head. She shivers at the thought of those brief conversations.

“Cold?” comes a voice from behind her, and Lizzie starts before looking over her shoulder.

“Will,” she breathes, and watches as he removes his suit jacket and puts it around her shoulders. His hand slides down her back to curl around her waist, his hip resting against hers.

“I apologize for startling you.”

“It’s okay,” she says. “Thank you for the jacket. Although, it’s a lot colder in there than out here.”

Will tightens his grip on her waist and dips his head a little bit. “Catherine is…testing my patience as well, to put it mildly. I will say something to her—“

“No, please don’t,” Lizzie requests, turning towards him. “I can handle it.”

“You shouldn’t have to,” Will sighs, and then places a kiss at her temple. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t apologize,” she tells him softly, resting a hand against his chest. “I’m just happy to be here with you.”

“I am…exceedingly glad you’re here as well.” This time he leans down to press a light kiss to her lips. It’s comforting and sweet and makes Lizzie’s stress melt in a way that no number of deep breaths can. She shivers again, but not from the cold.


Three.           

“I’m f-f-f-freezing,” Lizzie chatters out, fisting her hands in the covers and pulling them up to her chin.

“That is because you’re ill,” Will says, frustrated, as he walks around her side of the bed with a thermometer.

“You’re m-mad because I went to work,” Lizzie guesses, barely reaching out of the covers to take the thermometer from him and stick it under her tongue.

Will grips her hips with his hands to move her over, making room for him to sit on the edge of the mattress. “I’m not mad,” he tells her with a sigh. She raises a skeptical eyebrow, but remains mute. He reaches forward to brush a matted lock of hair away from her forehead. “I’m not angry with you, Lizzie. I merely don’t enjoy seeing you suffer.”

Her eyes soften and she uses the hand smashed between them nudge him a little bit. Will tries to refrain from rolling his eyes, but fails to keep his mouth from angling up at the corners.

“You’re ridiculous,” he comments on her inability to speak. “I don’t see why you couldn’t use the electronic thermometer.”

Lizzie rolls her eyes, and even though she always makes some ludicrous excuse, he knows that she uses a normal, “old-school” thermometer just to get under his skin.

A minute later she extracts the instrument and he snatches it before she can read it and lie again, like she did this morning (“It’s 99.1, Will; I’m going to work today.”).

“102.3,” he says, huffing out a breath.

“That explains things,” she responds, burrowing deeper into the covers.

“You’re as pale as a ghost,” Will observes, trailing his thumb from her temple to her chin.

“W-w-well, that’s abnormal.” It’s meant to come off as sarcastic, but her weakened, tired voice just comes off as…well, weakened and tired.

“I believe your sense of humor has met its demise,” Will says with a smirk, still gently tracing her jawline.

“It’ll be back in full force tomorrow,” Lizzie says, shivering again and tucking her shoulders before rolling onto her side.

Will lets out something that’s more eloquent than a snort of disbelief and stands up, but not before pressing a kiss to her forehead. Her eyelids close at the contact before opening slowly again.

“I’ll make soup,” he tells her, scooping something off of her nightstand before walking away. “Get some rest.”

It doesn’t occur to her until he reaches the doorway that he’s stolen her phone. She tries to sit up in bed, but only succeeds in lifting her head up a few inches. “Hey! What’re you d-doing with my phone?”

“You’re officially cut off from work, Lizzie Bennet. As soon as your questionable sense of humor returns, we can renegotiate.”

Lizzie groans and tips her head back against the pillows.

“I love you,” he says. A chill runs through Lizzie’s body again and she flips the covers up over her head.

“Sometimes too much,” she responds, her voice muffled from beneath the blanket. He chuckles as he walks away.


Four.

Lizzie flops her hands down against the mattress and puffs out an angry stream of air, tossing herself over onto her stomach. She’s tried sleeping on her back, and her side, and her stomach, and her other side. But nothing’s working, nothing at all. She can’t sleep, and it’s frustrating her to no end.

She tries shutting her eyes and counting to one thousand. She tries meditating. She tries pretty much every stupid method in the book, but nothing, nothing will keep her mind from racing and it’s all his stupid fault.

It’s not, actually—it’s hers. It’s completely and totally hers and Lizzie is trying to do everything to get to sleep except for thinking about why she can’t sleep.

(Denial has worked in the past, though, hasn’t it?)

(No, she hears fake-Charlotte state firmly in her head, and shuts that image down pretty damn fast.)

But if there is one thing she’s learned since…well, pretty much since birth, it’s that Charlotte is the very present, very resilient, very annoying voice of reason in Lizzie’s life, and she refuses to be ignored.

Lizzie groans and then throws off the covers, all too aware of the vacant spot next to her. She pulls the hem of her (his) oversized t-shirt down and slips her feet into the waiting bootie slippers that Will says look phenomenally adolescent but she knows he secretly loves. Then, pulling a spare throw-blanket around her shoulder, she pads out of the room silently, taking a deep breath as she goes.

She somehow maneuvers through the dark hallways completely by memory—it’s pitch black in the apartment—and her flawless muscle memory is only a testament to how deeply she’s gotten herself into this mess she calls a relationship.

(“Mess”because it’s so much more than that. “Mess” because she was too blind to admit that to herself, even though she thought she already had. “Mess” because that’s certainly what she’s made of it, after today.)

When she finally reaches the lounge, she sees his dark form splayed out on the couch, hair tousled adorably and mouth open just the tiniest bit. Her heart melts and then mends and then melts again, and she can’t move for a second because she’s too overwhelmed. Then comes the intense, overpowering guilt; she’s the one that instigated the fight, and he was still considerate enough to exile himself.

It started because he’s always been better at dealing with the intense emotions than she has. It sounds weird and perhaps uncharacteristic, but he’s learned how to hold them inside even when he thinks he can’t. She needs to express everything even when she doesn’t want to, and the internal deluge of feelings tends to build up until it freaks her out and, apparently, causes her to royally screw things up.

“Will?” she whispers, tiptoeing closer to him. She crouches down near his head and uses her fingers to swipe his hair away from his forehead. “Will?”

His eyelids flutter open slowly. “Lizzie?” His voice is hoarse and scratchy with sleep and it makes her heart ache. He blinks a few times to make sure she’s really there. She looks at him for a moment and bites her lip, because on top of the guilt she feels a million other things all at once just by being near him.

“I was cold,” she says simply. It’s a white flag of sorts, one that he has every reason in the world to reject.

Without even missing a beat, though, he holds up an edge of his makeshift bedding, edging sideways to make room for her. She crawls right in, still wrapped in her blanket, and burrows herself against his chest. There are tears in her eyes and she sniffles once after she feels his arms encircle her and hold her tightly to him. He’s entirely and unabashedly accepting of her presence, as if she hadn’t worked herself into a downright fit earlier, as if she wasn’t the worst girlfriend in the world.

“I’m so sorry,” she says quietly, but pointedly loud enough for him to hear. “I’m so, so sorry, and I love you so much.”

He presses a kiss against her forehead and tangles his feet with her own. “I will always love you.”

It’s forgiveness she doesn’t deserve, but one she’ll gladly accept. Because she feels everything just as keenly and genuinely as he does, and she never wants to hide from it again.