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The Other Sides

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Charlotte looked over at Lizzie as the music clip ended. “What do you think?” she asked.

“I really like it!” Lizzie smiled. “Your editing was amazing, it added a lot of humor and the pacing was great. “

“Ready to post?” Charlotte’s fingers hovered over the keyboard.

“Yup.” Lizzie nodded. “Do you think anyone will actually watch it?”

“We’ll find out soon. Maybe we’ll get a few hits before it’s time to post our second video on Thursday.” Charlotte finished posting the video and they both stared at the screen. Lizzie passed Charlotte a glass of sparkling cider, held her own glass up and toasted “To the success of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries! May they prove to be at least somewhat entertaining for more than just you and me.” They clinked glasses and then hit play to watch the video online for the first time. They had been planning this project for weeks and now that the first video was finally up, it felt a little anticlimactic. They just had to wait to see how it was received, or even noticed. It made Charlotte feel rather vulnerable, their work exposed for anyone to view, criticize and comment on.

“Well,” Lizzie stretched after the video had finished. “Even if no one watches the videos, we’ll learn a lot that we can use for our theses.”

Charlotte grinned. “You know you love the creativity of telling stories, Lizzie. You’d probably be thrilled to do this even if you weren’t going to use it for your degree.”

“True,” Lizzie admitted. “I hope you love editing as much as I love blabbing about my life.”

Charlotte nodded. “I do. Most people don’t realize how important good editing is.” She hit the refresh button. Lizzie and she squealed when they saw there were 6 views, and 1 thumbs up. They simultaneously turned to each other with identical smiles on their faces. Their lovingly conceived project, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, was officially launched.

*

Charlotte grimaced as she watched Lizzie and Darcy’s dance end. That had to have been excruciating for Lizzie. It looked like they had exchanged about two words during the entire dance, and Darcy had held Lizzie several inches away from his chest as if he was in middle school. It provided quite a contrast with Bing and Jane’s dances where Bing held Jane close and moved fluidly and smoothly. Lizzie stepped back and turned towards Charlotte with a frozen blank look on her normally expressive face. She came over and whispered, “What is up with him? That was the strangest dance ever! He was so snobby and rude, I thought he would just push me aside and take off halfway through the dance.”

Charlotte patted Lizzie’s arm sympathetically. Lizzie was gorgeous, had an engaging smile and a lively personality. Guys normally didn’t shut her down like that. She looked over Lizzie’s shoulder at Darcy, who was moving off the dance floor towards the side of the room. He was really good-looking, but Darcy had a haughty, distant look on his face that was rather off-putting. Lizzie told Charlotte the entire conversation she and Darcy had had as they headed towards the wide French doors to go outside. Actually, the conversation had been so short, Lizzie had finished by the time they had gone about three steps.

The cool air felt refreshing on the patio. Lizzie turned to Charlotte about to speak when they heard Bing’s voice around the corner. He was entreating Darcy to dance, and he suggested Lizzie as Darcy’s partner. Darcy’s voice sounded annoyed. “Lizzie is decent enough, but why would I continue to dance with her when no one else does?” Charlotte turned towards her best friend. She wanted to go find Darcy and smack him upside his perfectly coiffed head when she saw the hurt look in Lizzie’s eyes. “Come on, Lizzie.” Charlotte pulled her back towards the reception hall. “Let’s go get a drink.”

Charlotte wasn’t feeling any pain a few hours later when she’d had a few drinks under her belt. She didn’t normally drink very much and the vodka tonics she’d ingested seemed to all have hit her at once. She had met a guy who krumped or thought he could krump, and he was teaching Charlotte a few moves. Charlotte was laughing hysterically as she tried to pop her chest and stomp to the beat. She thought she saw Lydia recording the dance lesson with her phone, but it was hard to care at this point. Abruptly, she found herself sitting down, hard, on the floor, and she had no desire to get back up. Or maybe she had no ability to get back up. It was really hard to tell when the room was lurching out of control. Lizzie was suddenly beside her, grabbing her arm to haul her up. “Come on, my smashed bestie. I think I’m your designated driver tonight.”

Charlotte crawled under the covers, blearily noticing that Lizzie had put a tall glass of water and a bottle of aspirin on her bedside table before she left earlier. Charlotte had just spent 20 minutes puking, and the room no longer spun quite so crazily out of control. She grabbed her phone and texted Lizzie, “thks besti hes a dic dont wory abou it i cn krmp”. She closed her eyes and sunk her head on the soft pillow gratefully. She had the feeling her head might not feel so good tomorrow.

*

“Lizzie,” Charlotte cautioned, “you need to lighten up on Jane. She’s been trying to tell you that she really likes Bing, and you just keep acting like they should not be in a relationship because your mom wants them to be together. What matters here are Jane’s feelings.”

Lizzie sighed. “You have to admit, a world where my mother’s weird-ass freaky plan to marry off her daughter actually works is creepy.”

“I get your point,” Charlotte nodded. “But making a judgment just to thwart your mother is allowing her the power to decide your opinion, in a bizarre kind of way. Can’t you put your mom’s views aside and form your own opinion of him?”

“Yeah, I guess I’ve been a bit unfair to Bing.” Lizzie conceded. “But he has to be really special to deserve Jane. I’ll try to reserve judgment until I get to know him better.”

Charlotte took a deep breath. “You’ve also been awfully harsh on Darcy.” Charlotte had thought Darcy’s behavior at the Gibson wedding was pretty appalling. However, maybe the gossip about his lack of social skills was true and this had added to his dismal performance.

“Don’t waste your breath trying to defend him,” Lizzie objected darkly.

“But you don’t really know him yet,” Charlotte argued. “Maybe he’s different than you think.”

“Not likely,” Lizzie snorted. “Let’s talk about something more interesting, like what movie we should watch tonight. How about ‘Clueless’? I love it when updated adaptations of classic books are done well.”

“Fine,” Charlotte gave up for now. One good thing about Lizzie, Charlotte reflected, was that she was very intelligent and eventually with enough evidence, she would figure it out. Or at least, that was Charlotte's hope.

Chapter Text

Lydia burst into Jane’s room. “Can I borrow your new necklace?” she asked, plopping onto Jane’s bed.

“Of course,” Jane rummaged through her jewelry box. “How are you liking your classes lately, Lyd?”

Lydia grimaced. “Booor-ing! Please, don’t trash my mood with school-talk now. Speaking of downers, why is Lizzie so upset about what that Darcy guy said about her at the wedding? She doesn’t usually worry that much about what assholes she doesn’t care about think.”

Jane looked perplexed. “I honestly don’t know. Lizzie is way more sensitive than she tries to let on, but it is surprising that she let it get to her. Now she has her mind made up about Darcy and you know how stubborn Lizzie can be.” She pulled out her necklace and handed it across the bed to Lydia.

“He was pretty foul. Why is Bing friends with him if he’s such a prick?” Lydia might mock Lizzie to her face but it got her back up when someone else was rude to her sister.

“I’m sure he has his good points,” Jane protested. “I don’t know much about him, but he seems---well, he must be smart and he works all the time, according to Bing.”

Lydia laughed. “Whatev. I’m pretty sure Lizzie won’t have anything to do with his sorry ass if she can help it.”

“I hope she’ll eventually get along with him,” Jane said. “He’s Bing’s best friend, so he has to be an okay guy. It would be awkward if Bing and I date and my sister can’t stand his best friend.”

“Good luck with that!” Lydia snorted emphatically. “Thanks for the necklace,” she rolled off Jane’s bed and bounded over for a quick hug before racing down the hall.
*

Lydia knew Lizzie and Jane were anxious about Bing and Caroline coming to the Bennet’s house for dinner. She didn’t want to bug Jane, Jane never rose to the bait and that just made Lydia’s teasing mean-spirited. But Lizzie was fair game. Plus Lizzie always gave as good as she got, which made it more fun.

“Liz-zie!” Lydia flung open the door into Lizzie’s room. “Do we have to get all dressed up fancy for our loaded new neighbors? What do you think about my green mini-skirt?”

“Can’t you learn to knock, Lydia?” Lizzie had been studying, and she jumped when the door bounced off the wall. “No, you can’t wear your mini-skirt, you need to wear something decent.”

“My mini is decent! It totally covers at least six inches of my legs. What are you wearing? Do you need some help making yourself look like you’re under forty?”

Lizzie rolled her eyes. “I’ve got my outfit picked out. Why don’t you wear your black dress, the one that Jane got for you? It will look good with your gold necklace. And remember, you need to be on your best behavior tonight. We need to make a good—no make that tolerable-- impression for Jane. No drinking stories or rhapsodies about hot guys or---”

Lydia felt a pang that Lizzie thought she needed to be told how to behave. Sometimes it was best to ignore Lizzie. “You’d better hurry up and start getting ready, big sis.” Lydia said, looking in Lizzie’s mirror and fluffing her hair. “I’ll help you. It takes you a long time these days to make yourself presentable, and I only need about five minutes to get ready.”

“Do you even listen to half of what I say, Lydia?” Lizzie glared at her.

“Don’t flatter yourself, sis. Maybe I catch one-quarter.” Lydia frowned. “You use way too many words anyway.”

“I can handle dressing myself,” Lizzie shut her book and got off her bed. “Does mom need any help with dinner?”

“She’s been in the kitchen a long time, so hopefully she’s got it covered.” Lydia eyed Lizzie’s camera. “Can I be on your next video? Maybe your viewers are ready to hear the real truth about you now. Though it’s not pretty.”

“Using real as an adjective for truth is redundant.” Lizzie pointed to the door. “Out!”

Lydia flounced towards the door. “I’ll be back to check on your outfit later, sis. I’ve seen you make a less than tolerable impression with the way you dress and we don’t want to embarrass Jane tonight.” Lydia giggled when Lizzie’s door slammed behind her.

*

Lydia pulled Lizzie’s hand to hurry her as they headed to the door at Carter’s. “Thanks for bringing me, sis! Although really you should be thanking me, for getting you away from your boring, empty life of constant studying and video blogging.”

Lizzie’s smile did not quite reach her eyes, which looked worried. “Remember, Lydia, we’re only staying until midnight. I can only tolerate so many hours of inane pick-up lines from dumb jocks.”

“Just because they’re jocks does not mean they’re dumb,” Lydia protested. “It just means they have great bods, am I right?” She pushed open the door and they stepped into the bar. Lydia headed to the bar, knowing Lizzie would follow. She knew Lizzie would keep a close eye on her, but that it was worth it to meet new guys and flirt a few hours. With Lizzie breathing down her neck, there would be no action after leaving Carter’s so she might as well enjoy her time while here.

The next few hours passed swiftly for Lydia. Her overbearing sister managed to keep the number of drinks Lydia consumed to a minimum, but the energy drinks Lizzie foisted on her made her video game playing even more impressive than usual. She was killing at Just Dance. It was funny that some guys who were so coordinated athletically could not dance worth shit. But it was fun to watch them try. There were so many guys with scorching bodies! Lydia loved the rock hard abs of swimmers. She was talking to a tall, chiseled guy with blonde hair when she realized she hadn’t seen Lizzie in a little while. She looked around the bar and spotted Lizzie laughing at something with some guy Lydia hadn’t noticed before. Who was that? Even in a bar teeming with desirable men, this one stood out. His tight blue t-shirt emphasized his sculpted shoulders and brought out the intense blue of his eyes. She walked up to stand next to Lizzie and stared.

Lizzie turned to her with a smile. “Lydia, I was wondering where you were. This is George Wickham. George, my little sister, Lydia.”

George turned those amazing eyes on Lydia. “Nice to meet Lizzie’s little sister,” he smiled. God, was he real? Lydia struggled to keep her jaw from dropping. This guy took hot to a new level.

“Thanks for rescuing me. I think I’d reached my tolerance for the mindless prattle of inebriated assholes.” Lizzie grinned at him.

“Anytime.” George winked at her.

“We have to go,” Lizzie took Lydia’s arm. “Great to meet you, George.”

“I’ll be in touch,” he raised his beer to them and then to his mouth for a drink. Lydia stared at his mouth, mesmerized. He had to be a model. Someone that striking should be making money from those looks. Lizzie pulled Lydia’s arm and propelled her outside.

“Wow!” Lydia exclaimed. “Who would have thought my nerdy older sister could attract that!”

“Thanks, sis. I appreciate the insinuation that he is out of my league.” Lizzie rolled her eyes. “Did you have fun tonight?”

Lydia yawned. The energy drinks had worn off leaving her exhausted. “Loads. Just wake me up when we get home.” She climbed into the passenger seat of Lizzie’s car and closed her eyes. She heard Lizzie pulling off her sweater, and she smiled as she felt Lizzie drape her sweater around Lydia’s shoulders.

Chapter Text

Jane yawned and snuggled up next to Bing. They were sitting on the couch in the lounge where they had been talking for hours. Bing’s party—the party he kindly put on after being badgered by Lydia—had been wonderful. The guests had long left, Caroline and Darcy had gone to their rooms hours ago, and Jane and Bing had talked as they cleared up the party debris. Dawn had slowly lightened the room and Jane was starting to feel her second wind. Before tonight, she and Bing had not had much alone time to get to know each other, just the two of them. This night had been perfect and she didn’t want it to end.

“What kind of doctor do you want to be?” Jane asked. They had been talking about Jane’s hopes about working in fashion design for some time.

“Pediatrics, most likely. I really like working with kids,” Bing turned to smile at Jane. “I’ve always known I wanted to help people. Kids are so honest and fun. I’d love to help make them well.”

“I think that’s wonderful,” Jane looked at her hand, interlocked with Bing’s. “It’s so noble.”

“I don’t know about that,” Bing replied. “I’ve been so blessed in my life. I’ve had all the advantages anyone could want. Working with people makes me feel good about myself. It’s not that selfless.”

Jane laughed. “If wanting to commit your life to helping others is not laudable, I don’t know what is.”

“If you put it like that…” Bing grinned. “The only part that’s hard is my classes aren’t as invigorating as I’d hoped. I don’t really enjoy learning all the technical details of the bodies’ systems and organs and all the terminology. But I know it’s necessary to be able to be a doctor and heal children, so I’m sticking it out.”

Jane pursued her lips. “Have you had to see anything too gross yet?”

“Oh yeah. Some students keeled over during our first autopsy observation. I barely managed to stay conscious.”

“I’m afraid I would have been one of those people flat out on the floor in the first few minutes. Or I would have lost my lunch.” Jane admitted. “I’m pretty squeamish.”

“Speaking of food but in a nicer context, can I make you breakfast?” Bing asked.

“I’d love that. Let me just text Lizzie so she won’t be worried.” Jane grabbed her phone, and Bing got up to head to the kitchen. Jane smiled to herself as she texted her sister. She’d never felt this way about anyone before.

*

Jane knocked on Lizzie’s door. They had just moved into Netherfield and Jane was excited. It would be so great to have time to get to know Bing better. Lizzie called for her to come in, and she opened up the door to find Lizzie setting up her camera. “Oh, are you going to keep filming your videos here?” Jane asked.

“Yes, I’ll send the footage to Charlotte for editing.” Lizzie said, adjusting the height of the tripod. “I don’t want to stop for the next two weeks and I’ll have plenty of time to work on these now that I’m out of school for the summer.”

Jane sat on Lizzie’s bed. “Isn’t it great to be here? Have you checked out our bathroom? It’s huge!”

“It must be nice to be in the upper one-percent. At home, we share a bathroom half the size of this one with Lydia.” Lizzie came back and sat on her bed next to Jane. “Are you willing to be in this video?”

Jane smiled. “Sure!”

When they had finished, Lizzie looked at Jane. “I don’t come across as mean when I talk to Darcy, do I?” Jane knew Lizzie was thinking of Jane’s request to Lizzie to be nice to Darcy.

“Not exactly,” Jane said. “A bit brusque and sometimes snarky.”

“Honestly, I don’t want to antagonize Bing’s best friend. But he just—I don’t know—brings out the worst in me somehow.”

“Why?” Jane asked. She had a serious note in her voice that told Lizzie not to be flippant.

“I wish I knew. Maybe it’s because I can’t stand him, or because he is such a snob and so condescending.” Lizzie was trying to be honest without getting into another rant about Darcy.

“But there are other people you dislike and you don’t go on and on about them. You just seem so wrapped up in complaining about Darcy.”

“I know.” Lizzie sighed. “He makes me feel tense. I don’t like feeling like that.”

“Well, try and relax. I hope you enjoy yourself while we’re here.” Jane was used to being the serene sister who calmed down Lizzie and Lydia. Lizzie had more in common with their mom than she would admit, and Jane was kind enough not to point that out.

“I’ll be fine. Now go off and find that guy of yours. I’m going to get this video to Charlotte.”

*

“Lizzie, do you want to play a game?” Jane looked over at Lizzie, who was reading on the couch. Darcy was on his laptop, Caroline was flipping through a magazine and Bing was out picking up some wine for dinner.

Lizzie set down her book and smiled at Jane. “Sure!” The Bennet sisters loved board games and played often. “Are there any board games here?”

Caroline looked up from her magazine. “No, but we do have cards.”

“I’ve been meaning to teach you cribbage!” Lizzie said. “Do you want to play?”

“Don’t we need a cribbage board?” Jane asked.

“It’s more of a pain when you’re pegging, but we can just keep score on paper.” Lizzie jumped up and returned with a deck of cards, paper and pen Caroline had indicated were in the table drawer. Lizzie explained the rules to Jane and they played an open hand so Jane would understand the strategy. After they had played a few hands, Caroline left looking bored. Darcy was so quiet in the corner, they forgot he was there.

“Let’s spice it up a little,” Lizzie suggested. “The loser of each hand has to tell something that happened that was embarrassing at the time.”

“You’re on.” Jane smiled. After she lost the next hand, she said “I kissed Tommy Johnson in the second grade and he told me it was gross.”

“I bet he regrets that now.” Lizzie grinned. She lost, and admitted “I was really jealous when you got your first bra before me and I snuck into your room one night and tried it on.”

Jane laughed. “I wish I had woken up to see that.” After she lost she admitted “I was really mad when you tested at a higher reading level than me when you were in fifth grade and I was in sixth. I told mom you shouldn’t be allowed to read more than 30 minutes a day.”

Lizzie put a hand over her heart. “Jane Bennet! You tried to stifle my education! It’s a wonder you turned out so practically perfect.”

“Mom sat me down and told me that you tested at college-level reading which was the top one percentile for fifth graders, and that my scores were also excellent, just not at that level. “ Jane looked at her sister. “You know, Lizzie, Mom is proud of you.”

“She has a funny way of showing it.” Lizzie remarked.

“She tends to harp on the stuff we don’t concentrate on, not the things we already do well in.” Jane said. “That’s not so weird for a mom.”

“But it’s weird she’s so worried about you and I getting married!” Lizzie complained. “Like everything else in our lives matters less than that.”

Jane lost again and said, “I poured all Dad’s beer out in the sink when I was 12 because we had a drug and alcohol awareness class and I was sure he must be headed towards alcoholism with his 6-pack in the frig. When mom found out she laughed so hard, she started crying.”

Lizzie grinned. “I bet you watched how many beers Dad drank each night for a few weeks!”

“I totally did!” Jane said. “Eventually I realized he averaged about half a beer per night.”

Lizzie lost the next hand. “Last summer when it was really hot, Lydia persuaded me to go with her to the community pool, you know where all the teenagers hang out. When we got there, I found I had not put my suit in my bag and I had to borrow a miniscule bikini that Lydia had. It was really, uh, revealing. A 16-year old kid hit on me. It was so embarrassing.” She giggled and started tallying their points on the score sheet. “Lydia wouldn’t let me give the bikini back. She said I may need it to up my game in the future.”

Jane laughed. She leaned back against the couch and then looked up and was startled to see Darcy with a frozen look on his face. He was far across the large room and looking fixedly at his laptop. She thought back on all they had said. There hadn’t been anything too discomfiting shared, except maybe Lizzie’s bikini story. He probably hadn’t been listening, Jane decided. There was no need to embarrass Lizzie by letting her know Darcy was in the room.

Lizzie finished adding the points. “I have 110 points, I only need 10 to win. You have 89 points. It’s your crib, and I count first so I think I can go out this last hand.” Lizzie had a good hand and easily won. Caroline came noisily back in followed by Bing just as Lizzie collected the cards.

Bing walked over to Jane. “What have you two been doing?”

Jane smiled at Bing. “I learned to play cribbage. Are you brave enough to take me on later?”

Bing nodded. “I should warn you, I’m really good at cribbage.” He put his hand on Jane’s shoulder.

“I look forward to it.” Jane loved being at Netherfield.

Chapter Text

“She shouldn’t have blown him off like that! Her mom is dead and her dad is an idiot who doesn’t care about her. To dump the love of her life on the advice of a family friend –she could have just told him they needed to have a long engagement!” Lizzie argued.

“But that’s not in her character. Family matters to her and she has to follow her family’s wishes. She’s in a higher social class than he is. Anne does not make waves, she calms everyone down. Her strengths are her loyalty and caring nature.” Darcy’s voice was composed and controlled, as usual.

Caroline didn’t bother to listen to Darcy and Lizzie’s debates much. She only paid enough attention to make sure they didn’t start talking about anything personal. Their conversations were so boring, and it wasn’t worth the mental energy to follow closely. It was wearying, having Lizzie at Netherfield. Caroline was constantly on edge, watching Darcy and Lizzie’s interactions.

She couldn’t figure out what Darcy saw in Lizzie anyway. She had to admit that Lizzie was attractive, but she was so argumentative with Darcy. Plus, her mother and little sister were borderline white trash, and the whole family was up to their eyeballs in debt. They were nowhere near Darcy family standards. Lizzie and Jane acted with more taste and decorum than you’d expect considering their background, but the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, in Caroline’s experience.

“So she should have given up her happiness, her chance to be married to the man she loved because of her family? So she can just cater to her sisters the rest of her life with no expectations of her own?” Lizzie frowned at Darcy.

“She wouldn’t have been happy with him if she disregarded her family’s wishes. She-“ Darcy was interrupted by Caroline.

“Why don’t we take a time-out? I believe dinner is served now.” Caroline’s voice was syrupy smooth. She got up from her chair, watching Darcy carefully. He’d always hid his emotions well, but she’d noticed he stared at Lizzie quite frequently these days. Sure enough, he was watching Lizzie as she got up from the couch and combed her fingers through her hair. Jane and Bing walked into the dining room ahead of them, chatting amiably, but Caroline hung back waiting for Darcy. There was an intensity in Darcy’s stare when he scrutinized Lizzie that bothered Caroline.

As they sat down at the table, Caroline searched her mind for a topic that would not start off another Darcy-Lizzie debate. “You never mentioned where you got your undergrad degree, Lizzie.” Caroline smiled at her guest.

“Berkeley. My Bachelor’s degree is in Media Studies,” Lizzie replied briefly.

“Was that your first choice?” Caroline didn’t know who would pick a public university by choice.

“No, my first choice was Stanford.” Lizzie replied.

Caroline nodded sympathetically. “Stanford is very competitive. You shouldn’t feel bad about not being accepted there.”

Jane spoke up. “Lizzie was accepted to Stanford. She was even offered a scholarship there.”

“Partial scholarship,” Lizzie interjected. “Even with scholarships, Stanford was still more expensive than Berkeley.”

Bing addressed Lizzie. “I don’t know much about the communications field. Is Stanford well regarded in communications?”

“It’s the top ranked program in the world.” Lizzie answered with a small smile.

“Surely it would have been worth it for you to go there then.” Caroline put in.

“Berkeley is ranked fourth in the world. It is an excellent school and it was great for me. And I knew even in high school that I wanted to go on and get my Master’s immediately after my Bachelor’s. I didn’t want to take on too much debt for my undergraduate degree knowing I’d take on more debt for my master’s.” Lizzie grinned. “I have a limit as to how much money I am willing to owe before I start earning my keep.”

Jane turned to Caroline. “What about you, Caroline? Where did you go to college?”

“Cornell. My major was Business, specializing in Accounting. I felt it was important to attend an Ivy League school. My Master’s degree is from USC.”

“College costs have risen so much the past several years,” Lizzie commented. “It’s becoming more and more difficult for many people to afford. Others do it and are straddled with huge debts that will hamper them for years.”

“Some students take on too much debt rather recklessly. They attend private colleges and enter a field where the compensation is not that high. Then they are unhappy that their loans are so high.” Darcy commented.

Lizzie frowned. “So you’re saying students should only enter fields where the pay is high? They should not pursue what they are interested in because of the money, or lack of money, they’ll earn?”

“No, I’m saying that they should look at what jobs typically pay in the field they want to pursue, and figure out how long it will take them to pay back the debt they’ll incur to get their degree. Public universities often have just as good, if not better, programs than private universities. Students need to weigh their options more carefully.” Darcy stated.

“That’s true for some. But what if you don’t know what field you will end up earning your degree in when you start college? Many people really don’t know what they want to do when they are just starting college.” Lizzie argued. She had a familiar gleam in her eye.

Caroline mentally rolled her eyes as Darcy responded. There didn’t seem to be any safe topics that would keep these two from arguing. She might as well start planning her errands over the next few days. It was better than listening to yet another long-winded debate.

*
Darcy obviously had serious reservations about pursuing Lizzie. Caroline was careful to continue to feed him stories and comments about Lizzie’s inappropriate family. And Lizzie hated Darcy. Just to be safe, Caroline fanned the flames of Lizzie’s antagonism to Darcy whenever possible. Caroline didn’t foresee them getting together with Darcy’s high standards and Lizzie’s feelings of aversion towards him.

Darcy’s feelings for Lizzie, painful as they were to Caroline, did not concern her as much as her brother’s feelings for Jane. Jane and Bing were very different. Bing did not care about Jane’s unsuitable family. He looked at Caroline as if she’d sprouted two heads when she pointed out the issues with Jane’s mother and sister. Bing was more involved with Jane each day. And she knew that Jane loved Bing. Watching Lizzie’s videos had taught her that. The only advantage Caroline had was that Jane was naturally very guarded when it came to showing the depth of her feelings. Bing wasn’t sure how Jane felt about him and Caroline was careful to nudge Bing’s insecurities about Jane’s feelings whenever she could.

“Jane didn’t seem very happy after you two came back from dinner last night,” Caroline observed. She and Bing were alone in the lounge. In just a few minutes, the others would be down for dinner and Caroline seized this opportunity to talk to her brother alone. “Did you two argue or something?”

Bing looked surprised. “No, I thought we had a great time. Did she say anything?”

“Not really. You know how Jane is normally always smiling. She just—wasn’t.” Caroline knew when to stop. Thoughts had to be left alone to fester sometimes.

*
Caroline smiled with relief as Bing and Darcy walked back into the lounge. They had just seen Lizzie and Jane leave to go home after their long stay at Netherfield, and the two men were both quiet. Caroline felt amazing. The stress of watching Darcy’s increasing absorption with Lizzie, and Jane and Bing’s romance blossom had taken its toll on her.

“It’s nice to have the house back to just us,” Caroline said then added quickly as she saw Bing’s frown “though of course I’ll miss Jane and Lizzie. They were such wonderful guests.”

“I think it’ll be too quiet for me now,” Bing looked around the lounge looking a little dejected.

“I do feel bad for Jane and Lizzie. Having to go back to their small house with their annoying little sister constantly barging in on them.”

Darcy looked at her sharply. “It’s their home. I’m sure they are happy there.”

Caroline agreed. “Yes, I guess they are used to it. I guess I’m speaking for myself when I say I would shudder to have a mother and a sister with so little tact and manners.”

Bing glared at her. “Their family is loving and caring. There’s nothing wrong with Mrs. Bennet and Lydia.”

Caroline didn’t want to get Bing too defensive of the Bennets. “I just mean that we are really lucky with the family we have. We understand each other and fit together so well, our goals and hopes are the same.” She turned to Darcy. “You must feel lucky to have Gigi as a sister, Darcy.”

“I certainly do,” he nodded.

“You know, you can’t pick your family,” Bing was looking at Caroline critically. “But I believe Jane and Lizzie’s family are alright.”

Caroline did not like the way Bing had looked at her when he made that comment. She might need to think of a different way to help Bing realize Jane was not right for him.

Chapter Text

George debated whether or not he should hook up with Lizzie when he headed back to her hometown in a couple of days. She was pretty, sharp and ridiculously funny but he got the sense she did not put out in casual relationships, and he had no intention of being in a serious relationship with a broke grad student. Being an assistant swim coach had its perks but the pay was shit.

He needed to pack. He entered his hotel room to find his roommate Mark there, watching some show on the internet. That was the other problem with his crappy job, he even had to share a room with another coach when they were at away meets. “Hey,” Mark looked up. “Wasn’t that girl you met at Carter’s named Lizzie Bennet?”

George nodded. “Yeah. So?” Mark had been at Carter’s that day when George had first chatted up Lizzie.

“There’s these videos called the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Is that her?” he turned his laptop screen towards George and George saw the unmistakable wide smile of Lizzie Bennet.

“Yeah.” George grinned. “Hey, can I borrow your laptop for a few?”

George watched the first few videos. There was too much girl talk, but Lizzie was entertaining. Wait—didn’t she say that the rich dude, Bing Lee’s friend, was called Darcy? How many Darcy’s were there? It must be him. He watched the next several videos closely, and his smile widened when he saw Charlotte and Jane telling the internet that Darcy had a thing for Lizzie. He grabbed his phone and texted Lizzie. Dating Lizzie would seriously piss Darcy off. A little payback would be sweet.

*

George was getting drinks for the table, when he noticed Darcy enter Carter’s. The guy stood out, he was dressed way too formal for this bar and he walked ramrod straight as if there was a stick up his ass. He saw Darcy scan the room and how his expression changed when he spotted Lizzie. Darcy didn’t show his emotions much, but George had known him for years and he recognized the yearning look Darcy had for her. Darcy had it bad, George realized maliciously.

Darcy walked up to their table and greeted Lizzie. He was talking to her when George returned with the drinks and Darcy froze. George glared back. It wasn’t easy glowering at Darcy, that guy knew how to chill you with just his eyes. George noticed Lizzie looking curiously between the two of them as Darcy muttered an excuse and turned away.

“What was that all about?” she asked him after Darcy had left.

“We have a history,” George shrugged. This wasn’t the best place to talk with Darcy still nearby.

Lydia came flouncing over. “Lizzie, can I borrow 20 bucks?” she wheedled. “My money’s in my other purse.”

Lizzie dug a twenty out of her wallet. “Not for alcohol, just games,” she admonished as she handed it to her sister.

“Thanks!” Lydia blew Lizzie a kiss and headed back to the video games. George smiled at Lizzie. “Aw, you are such a good big sister.”

Lizzie looked down at her drink, rubbing her hand up the glass stem a little sadly. “I’m not much of a best friend, though.”

George knew how to be a good listener. “That’s hard to believe.” He jostled her elbow. “What awful, back-stabbing thing did you do to your best friend? Sleep with her boyfriend? Talk behind her back? Watch ‘New Girl’ without her?”

“Nothing quite that dramatic. But I wasn’t listening to what Charlotte wanted and I didn’t support her. I was too wrapped up in my own little world to see what was going on right in front of my face. Now she’s gone and I miss her.”

“There’s an easy fix for that. Call her.”

“It’s not that simple.” Lizzie replied shaking her head.

“It’s simpler than you are making it out to be. You miss her, you want to talk to her, you have a phone and I presume she does too, just pick it up and make the call.”

“I think I really hurt her feelings.”

“Who could stay mad at you? If you two were close, she’ll be missing you too. Trust me.” George put his hand over Lizzie’s. He noticed Darcy staring at them from a nearby table.

Lizzie nodded and looked at him. “I’ll think about it. Thanks for listening.”

Darcy was with the dark-haired woman George recognized as Caroline from the videos. Over Lizzie’s shoulder George could see how Darcy could not keep his eyes from watching them. George leaned in closer to Lizzie and whispered something sufficiently flirtatious in her ear. When she laughed and colored slightly, George saw Darcy flinch. It was almost too easy to torment Darcy this way. Obviously Darcy thought so too, because George saw him say something to Caroline and then Darcy stood up and stared at George. There was a Dexter-ish gleam in his eyes that made George decide it would be best not to run into Darcy without witnesses. Darcy and Caroline left abruptly.

George smiled at Lizzie. “What’s a guy got to do to be invited to your house?”

Lizzie raised her eyebrows. “I’m free on Saturday.”

“It’s a date.” George figured he could work in his Darcy scholarship sob story to Lizzie. Lizzie already disliked Darcy, this would just add a little insurance. Anything for his dear old friend Darcy.

*

George had actually wanted to go to Bing’s birthday party with Lizzie. Rich people always had expensive booze and he would have liked to have seen Darcy’s face when he and Lizzie slow-danced. He would have made sure that dance was awkward in the opposite way from Darcy’s first dance with Lizzie. It was annoying Darcy had managed to intimidate him. But there were too many possibilities at a private party for Darcy to corner him and George had a vested interest in keeping his good-looks intact.

George waited a few days to call Lizzie. He made an excuse for standing her up, the story sounding lame even to his ears. Surprisingly, she didn’t even ask him any questions about why he couldn’t have borrowed someone else’s phone to call her sooner. Yet she sounded angry.

“Are you mad at me?” he asked.

“No, not at you. I’m mad at Bing. The guy Jane was dating.”

“What did he do?” This was Darcy’s best friend. George was genuinely curious.

“His party was weird. He didn’t spend much time with Jane, I guess he was being the polite host. And then the next morning, he just left. Without talking to Jane or even saying good-bye.”

“Where did he go? Did Darcy leave too?”

“Yes, Darcy and Caroline, Bing’s sister, left with him. They went to L.A. And now, Jane is heartbroken. She’s holed up in her room and she doesn’t even want to talk. She really loves him. I feel so bad for her, and I can’t figure out how Bing could have done this to her.”

“Did something happen at the party that would have made Bing mad at Jane?”

Lizzie’s voice sounded puzzled. “Not that I know of, or that Jane mentioned. She was really shocked when she got his tweet.”

George had to smirk when he hung up after chatting a little longer with Lizzie. Even he hadn’t ditched a girl using twitter before.

George jumped at the chance at an off-season coaching job when it was offered the next day. It was time to cut loose although he liked Lizzie more than he had expected. She was lots of fun to talk to, and unlike many of the girls he had dated, she did not make him feel his IQ dropped after spending time together. But just as he’d suspected, she wouldn’t let him past first base. Besides, with Darcy out of town, George couldn’t torture Darcy with Lizzie anymore. He decided to wait until the last minute to tell her about his new job. Less drama that way. He called Lizzie, “Hey, can I drop by later?”

“Sure,” she sounded a little sad.

“What’s up? You don’t sound too thrilled at the thought of seeing me.”

“It’s not you. My sister got a new job in L.A. She’s leaving today.”

“I’m sorry.” Even in the short amount of time George had been seeing Lizzie, he knew how much her sisters meant to her. “Can I do anything to cheer you up?”

She laughed. “Thanks, that’s okay. I’ll be fine. See you later.” She hung up.

It looked like Lizzie would allow him an easy exit. Another thing he liked about her.

Chapter Text

“What kind of food are your lovely ladies interested in ingesting tonight?” Fitz felt that he knew Lizzie already. Darcy had mentioned her frequently, and she and Fitz had connected very quickly after they met today at Collins & Collins.

Charlotte spoke up. “I could go for Thai.”

“There’s a good Thai place downtown,” Brandon was quieter than Fitz, but like Fitz, very charismatic.

“Done deal!” Fitz drove his car out of the parking garage and headed towards downtown. The four chatted easily on the drive. Lizzie had fun regaling them with stories of Mr. Collins, which had Fitz and Brandon in stitches. Charlotte wore a bemused smile, but giggled often.

“Charlotte has done such an amazing job working with Ricky,” Lizzie said as they walked into the restaurant. “She knows just how to handle him to keep him on track and to hold his loquaciousness to a minimum. That man can take a simple thought that should take five words to express, and expound on it for half an hour.”

“I’ve been really impressed with what Darcy and I have seen during this review so far, Charlotte.” Fitz said seriously as he pulled out a chair at their table for her as Brandon did the same for Lizzie. “We’ve just started, but I think Collins & Collins is being managed very well.”

Charlotte beamed. “Thank you. It’s a little nerve-racking, having outsiders looking at our operations. I appreciate you telling me that.” Their order was taken quickly as they chatted easily.

“So, Lizzie,” Brandon said. “Are you enjoying shadowing Collins & Collins?”

“Yes, it’s been really interesting to dissect the company and learn more about not just Collins & Collins, but where they fit in this growing industry. It will be even better when I get to do the same to a few other companies, and can then compare them.”

“The internet is really changing our culture quickly,” Brandon nodded. “We’re witnessing an amazing technical revolution. Think of what our grandparents had, technology wise, compared to what we have today. If technology continues to grow at this warp speed, it’s mind-boggling to think what our grandchildren will be able to do.” Their food arrived and they started to eat.

“Do you have plans for when you finish your degree, Lizzie?” Fitz eyeballed her cashew chicken across the table.

Lizzie smiled and passed her cashew chicken platter to Fitz. As Fitz enthusiastically spooned some onto his plate, she answered “Get a job that is creative, challenges me and that hopefully compensates well enough for me to pay back my college loans before I need to start saving for retirement.”

“Good plan.” Fitz nodded before indicating his fried rice with a questioning look at her. She nodded and he passed it to Lizzie.

Brandon laughed. “I’m glad you’re willing to share food with Fitz, Lizzie. I prefer to eat what I order and it drives him crazy.”

Charlotte nodded. “I’m with Brandon on this.”

“Why only have one type of food when you can have multiple?” Fitz asked rhetorically. “I like having more options.”

“Do you put tons of different toppings on your frozen yogurt?” Lizzie asked enthusiastically.

“Yes!” Fitz grinned at her. “And now I know where we’re going for dessert.”

Charlotte looked at Brandon. “I think we’re witnessing a rare meeting of two incredibly alike minds here.”

“Let’s test them. Okay you two, answer quickly. Ice cream flavor: Chocolate or vanilla?”

“Both, swirled” Lizzie responded. “Natch,” acquiesced Fitz. A short but spirited discussion of the best types of ice cream followed.

“PC or Mac?” Brandon asked as he signed the bill.

“PC” was said simultaneously and they both looked at each other in surprise. “I thought you’d be an Apple snob, Fitz.” Lizzie commented.

“The mouse on PCs has a right-click and a left-click button. No mono-click mouse for me. I thought more college students used Macs.”

“PCs are less expensive and you can get more speed and options for a better price.” Lizzie leaned across the table and stage-whispered to Fitz “How many monitors do you have at work?”

He grinned. “Three.” Lizzie and Fitz bumped fists.

“This is scary.” Charlotte commented to Brandon as they pushed away from the table and headed outside. “Maybe we’d better stop.”

“Just one more,” Brandon quirked his lips and waited until they had stepped outside of the restaurant. “‘N Sync or Backstreet Boys?”

“’N Sync!” they practically shouted. Fitz turned to Lizzie and they both started singing “Bye bye bye”. Brandon and Charlotte were treated to Fitz and Lizzie jumping, feet together, and pumping their fists as they sang the first verse and made their way to the car.

“Okay, we’re done.” Brandon looked at Charlotte sympathetically. “I’m pretty sure I could find something they disagree on soon, but I want to leave their record intact. Shall we join them on this quest for frozen yogurt?”

“I think I can put up with them a little longer for frozen yogurt.”

*

Fitz looked at Darcy as they headed towards the front door of Darcy’s Aunt Catherine’s house. “You know, I really like Lizzie. I can see why you gush so much about her.”

Darcy looked sideways at Fitz. “I don’t gush, as you’re well aware.”

“Yeah, well for you, what you say about Lizzie is gushing. The only person I’ve heard you say more complimentary stuff about is Gigi.”

Fitz knocked at the front door. They were quickly admitted and found Lizzie and Charlotte with Catherine in the living room.

“Hello Darcy. Fitz, where’s Brandon?” Catherine waved at them imperially. Anniekins’ breathing was audible as she perched on Catherine’s lap and Catherine did not stand up so as not to disturb her.

“He had a prior engagement.” Only to Catherine was Fitz this formal.

“Ricky had a last minute change of plans and could not be here tonight either. Come sit by me, William. I want to hear all about Gigi.” Darcy did as his aunt requested, and Fitz found a spot next to Lizzie and near Charlotte. They chatted easily, weaving in and out of different subjects and punctuating their words with laughter and some animated expressions by Lizzie and Fitz, Charlotte smiling more than she normally did at Catherine’s dinners. Darcy obediently talked with his aunt but Fitz saw that he kept looking towards Lizzie.

After some time, Catherine took Anniekins to the kitchen to get her some water. Darcy came over and stood by Fitz. “Darcy,” Fitz grinned. “You’d be willing to check over Lizzie’s business plan for her independent study too, right?”

“Of cour—“ Darcy started, but Lizzie interrupted. “Oh, that’s okay. I’ll have you and Charlotte to run it by. And it’s a long time before I need to get to it.”

“Okay, but you’re missing out.” Fitz grinned. “Darcy is a whiz at business plans.” He turned to Darcy. “When is Gigi’s next tennis match? I haven’t seen her play competitively for awhile.”

“She plays in a tournament at Stanford next week,” Darcy replied with the slight smile Fitz knew was reserved for Gigi.

“Lizzie used to play tennis,” Charlotte interjected.

Lizzie turned and glared at her. “That was like years ago, Charlotte. I haven’t even practiced in months.”

“Really!” Fitz was delighted. “Would you care to take me on some day?”

“How good are you?” Lizzie raised her eyebrows.

“I’m a beginner. I started learning just a couple of months ago.”

“Then, yes, I’ll play you.” Lizzie nodded. “I’m really rusty and I don’t want to play anyone experienced right now.”

Catherine had returned and overheard Lizzie’s remark. “If you practiced regularly, I’m sure you would improve greatly,” she informed Lizzie. “I always felt I would have been a gifted athlete if I had had the time to devote to a sport. But I was far too busy building up my company to have time for athletics.” Fitz met Lizzie’s eyes and smothered a grin. He noticed Darcy looked a little embarrassed for his aunt.

During dinner, Catherine continued to monopolize Darcy’s attention, although she threw little asides to her other guests, just enough to let them know they were not being neglected. She excused herself after they finished, taking Anniekins to use the “facilities”. Fitz really hoped that was a euphemism for the back yard. He was a little worried Anniekins might actually have her own special bathroom.

Fitz turned to Lizzie. “Do you follow football? How do you like the chances of the 49ers this year?”

Lizzie nodded to the first question and answered the second. “They’re only 4-2. They were just creamed by the Giants. I’m not so sure they’ll make the play-offs this year.”

“What?” Fitz was aghast. “Do my ears deceive me? Do we have a hater in the house?” He turned to Darcy. “What do you think of such traitorous talk, Darcy?”

“I think,” Darcy answered “sometimes Lizzie likes to pretend other opinions are her own to keep a discussion interesting.”

Fitz snorted as he looked at Lizzie and recognized the teasing glint in her eyes. Lizzie threw back her head and laughed at being caught out. Fitz turned to Darcy and froze when he saw his expression. For a moment, Darcy’s face was unguarded and a blaze of heat, comprised of admiration, longing, and desire shone from his face directed straight at Lizzie. Fitz was astounded. He had guessed Darcy had feelings for Lizzie, but this was different—this guy was utterly, deeply, head over heels in love. He’d known Darcy for years, and he’d never seen him like this. Fitz twisted to see if Lizzie had noticed, but she had turned to Charlotte. When Fitz looked back at Darcy, his face was carefully impassive again.

When they left a few hours later, Fitz shook his head at Darcy. “You should talk to her, dude.” Darcy looked startled but did not speak. “Nothing will happen if you don’t tell her how you feel.”

*

Fitz slammed open the door to Darcy’s office. “Damn it Darcy! What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Darcy looked up wearily. Fitz noticed that he looked even more exhausted than when they had arrived in L.A. a few days ago. Fitz stifled his sympathy and continued. “I can’t believe you. How could you talk to Lizzie that way?”

Darcy looked away. “I take it you watched Lizzie’s latest videos.”

“You know,” Fitz pointed at his friend. “I felt bad for you after I saw how dejected you were after she turned you down. And I felt worse for you when I watched her first several videos and she said that she hated you. I couldn’t figure out how she could have not seen what a good guy you are, even though you don’t have the greatest social skills. But then I saw you the way you told her you loved her, I –I don’t even know what to say. What the hell! You really think it matters that you’re in a higher socioeconomic status than she is? This is not the 19th-fucking-century!”

Darcy shook his head but didn’t answer. Fitz glared at him. “Do you know that Brandon comes from a lower class family? That he went to college on a scholarship, and had to work every summer and every free minute he had to give his family financial help? Should I have stayed away from my partner, who I love more than life, because I was rich and he was not? What does it matter? Would you be embarrassed with Lizzie on your arm at one of those fancy soirees you have to attend--and hate I might add-- because she’s ‘from a different world’?”

Darcy flinched. “I would never be embarrassed being with Lizzie.”

“That’s not what it sounded like. You acted as if you think she is beneath you.” Fitz was on a roll. “What difference does it make that her family has financial difficulties? This country just got through one of the worst recessions in decades and lots of people are still recovering. And Lizzie is taking on thousands of dollars in debt to become more educated. This is to her credit and her family’s credit for supporting her even though they have few resources, not to their detriment!”

Darcy looked down. Fitz couldn’t stop himself from continuing. “And you put down her mother and her sister! Families are sacred, man. Lizzie is allowed to bitch about her family. You, an outsider, are not! How would you have felt if Lizzie had talked about Gigi like that?”

Darcy looked surprised. “Why would Lizzie ever do that?”

Fitz threw out his arms. “She wouldn’t! Because I’m pretty sure Lizzie has better boundaries than you. The point is, it would make you very defensive and hurt if Lizzie did put down your sister and used her as a reason why she shouldn’t be with you.”

Darcy looked stricken. Fitz took a deep breath as remorse washed over him. It was not like him to blow up at one of his best friends like this. He continued in a normal voice. “The guy I saw in that video is not the guy I know. You’re a caring friend, a great boss, a conscientious CEO and a fantastic brother. Did you ever show Lizzie any of that? From what she said of you, it seems you came across as snobby and condescending to her.”

Darcy rubbed his eyes tiredly. “I was so sure that I shouldn’t be with her and that I had to hide my feelings, I didn’t think how I came across to her. And as you saw, it obviously was pretty bad.”

Fitz frowned. “I’m sorry, dude. I know you’ve suffered a lot and you don’t need me to add to that."

“Nothing you’ve said is worse than what I’ve said to myself these past several days, Fitz.” Darcy looked at him and the emptiness in his eyes tore at Fitz. “The pain I felt when I watched Lizzie’s videos and saw how she felt about me—it was nothing compared to the pain I feel knowing that I can’t be with her. Her videos have made me fall even more in love with her.”

“What about Bing? Do you still think Lizzie’s sister didn’t care for him?” Fitz had been shocked when he’d realized the care package he helped put together was for the same girl Darcy had persuaded Bing to dump.

“No. After watching Lizzie’s videos, it appears I was wrong about that too.” Darcy looked defeated.

“I’m sorry I told Lizzie about that, Darcy. I really messed that one up for you.”

“It doesn’t matter. The blame rests with me. I interfered with Bing’s relationship. I destroyed any chance I had to be with Lizzie in so many ways. I blew it, Fitz.”

Fitz sighed and sat next to Darcy. “It might not be over. Maybe you’ll have an opportunity to be around her again someday and things will be different.”

Darcy shook his head. “I doubt that Lizzie will want to be near me ever again. But Lizzie’s videos did me a favor, albeit harsh. I am taking a hard look at myself and I don’t like what I see.”

Chapter Text

Ricky carefully sat on the couch next to Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet. Caroline Lee, a close friend of Ms. De Bourgh’s, had joined them for dinner and he looked forward to an interesting evening. Ms. Lee looked very confident and she talked to Ms. De Bourgh more as an equal than Ricky felt comfortable doing.

“How is your work, Caroline?” Ms.De Bourgh leaned toward Ms. Lee. “You recently received a company award, I hear.” Her dog Anniekins breathed heavily with eyes half-lidded from her lap.

“Yes, thank you.” Ms. Lee had exquisite manners, Ricky noticed. “I was given the ‘Rising Star’ award for my work on the Fuller project. I am currently working on a prospective acquisition report for my company.”

Ms. De Bourgh waved towards Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet. “See what you can aspire towards, Charlotte and Liz. Caroline is an exemplary model for you to emulate.”

Ms. Lee smiled graciously. Ms. Bennet choked on the wine she had just sipped, and nodded her thanks when Ms. Lu handed her a napkin.

“I am so sorry you just missed my nephew.” Ms. De Bourgh continued speaking to Ms. Lee. “William jumped at the chance to come and review Collins & Collins despite his busy schedule. He so enjoys spending a bit of extra time with me. He would have been so thrilled to see you, Caroline. I’m sure he would have wanted to spend quality time with a peer after interviewing Collins & Collins employees and analyzing data all day.”

“Yes, I’m sorry I missed him also.” Ms. Lee’s glance swept over Ms. Bennet. “I imagine he needed to get back to his company after all the time he spent here. It was quite an….undertaking, the comprehensive report you required.”

Ms. Lu coughed. Ms. Bennet silently handed Ms. Lu a Kleenex from her purse.

“Are you still studying advanced French in your spare time? I find it so remarkable that you continue to educate yourself further after your exhausting work days.” Ricky had never heard Ms. De Bourgh give more compliments to anyone than Ms. Lee besides her niece, Ms. Darcy and nephew, Mr. Darcy.

“Yes, I really enjoy it. I’m already fluent in French, but I like to keep my skills up. It is useful when I visit Paris.” Again, Ms. Lee glanced at Ms. Bennet. Ricky noticed there was a regal look to her stare. She was very well-bred.

“Learning other languages is a very important part of being truly accomplished.” Ms. De Bourgh smiled at Ms. Lee. “You know William is already fluent in Spanish and is listening to podcasts to learn Mandarin now. Charlotte and Liz would do well to take language classes.” Ms. Lu reached for some nuts from the nut dish, and Ricky noticed her shoulders were slightly shaking. Ms. Bennet was biting her lip.

“Have you attended any good opera performances lately, Caroline?” Ms. De Bourgh patted Anniekins gently. Anniekins’ breathing had switched to a rasping wheeze punctuated by snorts.

“Yes, I just saw La Bohème.” Caroline nodded. “It was wonderful. I highly recommend it.”

“Splendid,” Ms. De Bourgh nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind for the next time I’m in L.A. or New York.” She turned towards Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet. “It’s too bad Hunsford does not have an opera house. Young people today often mistake movies and television shows for culture.” Ms. Lu smiled with tight lips and nodded. Ms. Bennet’s eyes were wide, and she was clasping her hands together very tightly.

Shortly after, they moved to the dining room for dinner. Ricky noticed that Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet were rather quiet, but as Ms. De Bourgh was catching up with her old friend Ms. Lee, that seemed very courteous of them.

“How is your brother, Caroline?” Ms. De Bourgh put a small piece of meat on her palm and put it out for Anniekins to sniff.

“Very well, thank you.” Ms. Lee smiled. “He is extremely busy with his classes. He doesn’t have much spare time lately.” She looked sideways at Ms. Bennet who at that moment ferociously stabbed an errant pea with her fork.

“You are such a wonderful elder sister, Caroline. You always look out for your brother.” Ms. De Bough smiled approvingly. “William watches out for Gigi most conscientiously. I don’t believe there is anything he would not do for his sister.”

Ms. Lee nodded. “They are very close, just like Bing and I. Being a medical student is very difficult. I try to do all I can to support Bing so he is not distracted from his studies.” Ms. Bennet picked up her knife and was very slowly buttering her roll. The knife must be a little slippery; Ricky noticed that her knuckles clutching the knife were white.

Ms. De Bourgh nodded at Ms. Lee. “You and William both have such strong work ethics. You set goals and you diligently work until you reach them.” She turned her eyes in the direction of Ms. Bennet and Ms. Lu. “So many young people today seem to expect everything to be just handed to them on a silver platter.” For some reason, Ricky noticed that Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet were avoiding each other’s eyes. Ms. Bennet very carefully put down her butter knife and took a small bite of her roll. Ms. Lu took a slow drink from her wine glass.

“Liz, you should set goals for what you plan to do when you finish your degree,” Ms. De Bourgh instructed helpfully. “You will be able to do so much more if you have direction.”

Ms. Bennet smiled tightly. “I have worked on some goals already. I’m sure I will continue to come up with more as I get closer to completing my degree.”

“Perhaps you should also consider creating a list of contacts in the industry. It’s not every day you will be offered a position such as the one you turned down at Collins & Collins earlier. It might be very difficult for you to enter the workforce at that level, and you should prepare yourself to start at a more entry level position.” Ms. De Bourgh continued to pet Anniekins, who had now fallen into a loud slumber. Ms. Bennet nodded briefly and looked down at her plate.

After dinner was over, they returned to the living room, Ms. De Bourgh graciously chatted with Ms. Bennet further, freely offering advice on her career and life. Ms. Bennet’s expression was grave and courteous, and Ms. Lu also listened carefully with downcast eyes. Soon it was time for Ms. De Bourgh to retire for the evening. Ricky escorted Ms. Lu and Ms. Bennet outside after they graciously thanked Ms. De Bourgh. He saw them get into Ms. Lu’s car, and was surprised when he heard what sounded like an explosion of laughter from inside the car. It must be an inside joke, Ricky reflected. He hadn’t noticed anything amusing at the dinner tonight.

Chapter Text

Gigi and Lizzie found a table in the corner of the Pemberley cafeteria and set down their lunch trays. It was late for lunch, and the room was fairly empty. “So, you’re really okay?” Lizzie studied Gigi’s face with a look so full of concern it made Gigi want to cry again.

Gigi patted Lizzie’s hand. “Yes, I’m better than okay. I—“ She stopped as she saw William enter the cafeteria, his tense eyes scanning the room for her. She had left him a message after finishing the video shoot with Lizzie. She saw the relief when he spotted her looking calm and dry-eyed and the quick, familiar look of longing when he saw Lizzie next to her.

“Gigi,” William was at their table quickly. “How did it go? Are you alright?” His fists were clenched and his shoulders stiff.

Gigi smiled. “I was just telling Lizzie that I’m fine. I feel –“ she paused reflecting, “a sense of release. Like a huge weight has dropped off my shoulders.”

Gigi saw that Lizzie’s shoulders slumped in relief. “I’m so glad,” Lizzie said softly. Lizzie looked as if a lump had formed in her throat. Gigi knew that Lizzie had been so worried Gigi would regret sharing her painful story on the internet, afraid that she might feel more humiliated and exposed. Gigi noticed that Lizzie looked tentatively up at William who was staring at her. An understanding look passed between them, and Lizzie looked even more relieved when she recognized he was not angry with her for shooting Gigi’s confessional video about her relationship with George Wickham.

“Have lunch with us, William!” Gigi patted the empty spot next to her. “We can celebrate the end of my sad saga.”

William hesitated. “I don’t want to intrude—“ he started, glancing at Lizzie.

“You’re not intruding,” Lizzie spoke up with a smile. “Please join us.” Gigi smiled inwardly. They were making progress.

William left to grab a sandwich and came back swiftly. Lizzie offered him her baked potato chips and then turned to Gigi. “Would you like to see it after I’ve finished editing? I won’t post it until tomorrow morning.”

“No, that’s okay.” Gigi said evenly. “I trust you, and I’ll watch it once it’s online.”

William looked back and forth between the two women. “How awful was it, Gigi?”

“It was hard, at first. But Lizzie is easy to talk to, and I mostly concentrated on telling her. That helped so much.”

“You told it really well. That took a lot of courage,” Lizzie grabbed Gigi’s hand again. “I was afraid I would break down crying a few times.”

“Now that the pain is subsiding, I feel more stupid than hurt,” Gigi admitted. “There were plenty of warning signs about him I missed.”

“Some people are totally different from what you first thought when you really get to know them.” Lizzie looked at William. “I was certainly fooled by George Wickham.”

Gigi followed Lizzie’s gaze and looked carefully at her brother. Judging by his encouraged expression, he understood Lizzie was not just talking about George Wickham.

William cleared his throat and managed to drag his glance from Lizzie. “I’m proud of you, Gigi,” he said.

Gigi smiled and blinked back tears. “Me too. This was a big step in the right direction.” She looked between Lizzie and William. “Now let’s move on to a happier topic. Any special places you want to see when we sightsee on Saturday, Lizzie?”

“Whatever you guys decide is fine with me.” Lizzie grinned and handed William her oatmeal cookie.

“Lizzie,” William frowned, looking at the remainder of her salad and roll. “How can you subsist on that tiny little lunch? You’ve given me half of what you had.”

“I’m not tall and muscular like some people here. “ Lizzie laughed. Gigi grinned when she saw her brother’s eyes light up. She was impressed how casually Lizzie had slipped in a flirtatious compliment about William’s build. “Apparently you don’t realize the small number of calories the rest of us can eat without gaining weight,” Lizzie continued. “Gigi, you must eat way less than Darcy.”

“I certainly do,” Gigi nodded. “But you eat even less than me.”

“That’s only because you’re in training for tennis,” Lizzie protested. “I ate more when I was playing too.”

“Then you’ll be able to eat plenty on Saturday,” Gigi promised. “We are going to walk your feet off. And there are loads of hills to climb.”

“You’re on!” Lizzie laughed. “I’ll look forward to getting to have dessert too.”

*
Gigi smiled as she slid into the booth across from Fitz. “You know I don’t smoke, but after witnessing some of the stares between those two yesterday, I felt I should light up.”

Fitz laughed. “So I take it the sightseeing excursion went really well?”

“It was fantastic!” Gigi’s smile softened as she added, “I think I’ll get to tell my nieces and nephews someday that I was there to see their mom fall for their dad.”

Fitz put his hand up for a high five. “Well done, Gigi, now spill! I want details and I want them now.”

“Have you ordered for me yet? I’m starved after all that walking yesterday.”

“Western style omelet and whole wheat toast are on the way. Don’t even think of not starting until your food gets here.”

Gigi took a breath. “William was himself, Fitz. Finally. He’s been pretty good about being himself at Pemberley since Lizzie came, but this time he showed her the real William outside of work. He opened up, made quips, laughed at Lizzie’s jokes, and allowed his feelings to actually show on his face for a change, as much as is possible for him, that is. And she just ate it up. She looked so happy. It’s great how expressive Lizzie is. She smiled at him, like all the time. More than once I caught her just watching him when he wasn’t looking. Which was nice, normally he’s the one always gaping at her when she isn’t paying attention.”

“Did they ever—you know—touch each other?” Fitz could make his eyes really wide.

“Yes, but in what could be construed as just being polite kind of way. They were both pretty careful. William gave her his hand to help when we were scrambling over logs on the beach and when climbing up and down on the cable car. But I did notice he would hang on to her hand just a fraction too long. You know, like he was reluctant to let go. And she never pulled away and always smiled at him, really warmly, when he helped her. They were leaning towards each other and bumping arms pretty frequently at lunch too. And once,” Gigi laughed, “Lizzie grabbed William’s arm and pressed up to him when an eagle came swooping down close to us when we were on the beach. She was hanging on to him for dear life and looked terrified.”

Fitz grinned salaciously. “Darcy must have been stoked.”

“He looked like the cat that swallowed the canary. But he was trying to hide it as Lizzie was genuinely shaking,” Gigi laughed. “I noticed she didn’t clutch my arm but went straight to him. She didn’t let go of him even after the eagle had disappeared, not until we got back to the car. If it were up to William, I’m pretty sure we would have just stayed at the beach the rest of the day.”

Fitz placed his hand over his heart. “You have no idea how relieved this makes me feel. I’ve never seen Darcy so taken with anyone in his life, and the last few months have been tough on him. The dude deserves to be happy.”

“You’re preaching to the choir. I have never seen William like this before either. His eyes light up even when Lizzie's name is just mentioned.” Their waitress arrived with their food, and they were quiet for a few minutes as they started to eat. "I think the depth of his feelings has shocked William. Lizzie has made him re-evalute himself."

Fitz nodded. “So, what’s next? Did Darcy up his game enough to try and make some plans to hang out with Lizzie?” Fitz raised an eyebrow and leaned back against the booth’s slick upholstery.

“I don’t think so.” Gigi frowned. “She tweeted her thanks to him for our outing together. She told me she’d like to interview him for her thesis on her video early Monday morning. Hopefully, the sparks will continue to fly during that.”

“How was Darcy after you got home last night? Was he thrilled? Pumped? Did he say anything?” Fitz leaned across the table towards Gigi.

“You know he doesn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. But I could tell he was feeling really good,” Gigi grinned. “I understand with what happened in October that he’s hesitant to open himself up again. But I think he’s almost there. Lizzie really seems into him and he’s paying close attention.”

*

Gigi came in from her tennis practice and checked her phone. She had a missed message and she frowned as she listened to the hesitant silence that the call began with.
“……..Hi. This is Lizzie’s sister, Lydia. Can you call me when you get a chance?”

Gigi’s mouth went dry. She had a good guess as to why Lydia was calling. It had been a few weeks since William had successfully taken down the website with George and Lydia’s sex tape. Gigi could barely imagine what Lydia had gone through. The betrayal and humiliation Lydia must have felt was so much worse than what Gigi had faced when George had callously left her once money was dangled in front of him.

She quickly called Lydia back. She did not want Lydia to think she wanted to avoid her.

“Hello Gigi.” Lydia sounded quiet, tentative. Not like the brash, funny, confident girl Gigi had seen in the Lizzie’s early videos.

“Lydia. Are you…okay?” Gigi was not sure what to say.

“I’m getting there. I’ve been worse.” Lydia stopped and cleared her throat. “I just really needed to thank you Gigi. I found the Domino videos and saw what you did. I know how hard it must have been for you to call him.”

“It’s okay. It was nothing compared to what you were facing.” Gigi didn’t know how fragile Lydia was right now. She just hoped she wouldn’t say anything that made things worse.

“You don’t even know me. You stuck your neck out for me and—I mean I know you care about Lizzie. But it was amazing that you did that.”

Gigi felt tears prick her eyes. “I do love Lizzie. But I did it for you, too. I know how I felt when George betrayed me and showed me how little I meant to him. And what he did to you was worse. I just wanted to help, at least a little. William did the most. He worked for weeks to find where the tapes were.”

“I’m really grateful to him too. I know Darcy did so much to take it down. I’ll thank your brother later. I’m not quite ready to talk to him yet.” Lydia sounded nervous. “And I saw Lizzie’s video, where you know, she first found out about my tape. Because of me, Lizzie had to leave Darcy and Pemberley right when they ..….she was having so much fun there. I’m so sorry about that too. Lizzie doesn’t know yet, that Darcy was the one who got it down. I’ll tell her soon.”

Gigi wasn’t sure what to say. “I hope to meet you soon.”

“Yeah, me too. If your brother and my sister manage to get on with it and get together already, I think we’ll see each other a lot.”

Gigi giggled. “I know, right? They are the lamest at finishing the deal.”

“We’re going to be awesome aunts to their nerdy little kids.” Lydia’s voice sounded a little more like the old Lydia. “I’ll be there to teach them how to be less socially awkward than their parents.”

“I hope we’ll be good friends someday, Lydia.” Gigi hoped Lydia wanted that too.

“I’d like that.”

“And Lydia…it does get easier after awhile.” Gigi felt close to tears again.

Thanks again, Gigi.” Lydia hung up.

Chapter Text

Bing hesitated, and then finally picked up his cell phone. He had done even more soul searching in the last few weeks since finding Lizzie’s videos online. It was time to talk to Darcy.

“Bing,” Darcy picked up right away. “Is everything okay?”

“No,” Bing waited, trying to form his words. “I watched Lizzie’s videos. Not all of them, but enough.”

Darcy was silent for a minute. “I’m really sorry, Bing. I hope you believe me when I tell you I had no idea the strength of Jane’s feelings for you when we left Netherfield.”

“Why did you tell me she was making out with Jay at my party?” Bing didn’t know if Darcy could hear the trepidation in his voice, afraid his worst fears were true.

“When I came around the corner, Jay was kissing her.” Darcy paused and Bing sensed he was choosing his words carefully in the knowledge this would cause Bing pain to hear it again. “At the time, I thought it was the middle of a make-out session. But after Lizzie’s denial of any wrongdoing by Jane and after watching Lizzie’s videos, I believe Jane was not an active participant.”

“Caroline was there before you, wasn’t she? Did she tell you what she saw?” Bing needed to hear the details again.

“Yes, Caroline was right behind Jay when I came in. I only know what she already told you, that it looked mutual.”

“I need to do what I should have done back then,” Bing sounded noticeably upset “and talk to Jane. I was such an idiot not to ask her about it right away. I was just—so crushed at the time.”

“I’m afraid Caroline and I influenced you there, and I should have stayed out of it. I’m sorry, Bing. I wasn’t much of a friend.” Darcy sounded flustered, unlike his usual calm voice. “If there’s anything I can do—“

“No, it’s time for me to step up.” Bing felt determined. “I’m going to go talk to her in person. Although I’m afraid she may not want to have anything to do with me now.”

“When you go to their house, watch out for Lizzie.” Darcy advised. Bing heard a hitch in Darcy’s voice when he spoke of Lizzie. “She’s pretty protective of Jane and she might let you have it.”

“I’m sure she won’t give me more grief than I deserve.” Bing stated emphatically. “Maybe it will make me feel better if Lizzie chews me out. Jane is so kind, she probably won’t.”

*

Bing and Jane sat on the couch in the living room of Jane’s house. Bing had been invited over for dinner at the Bennet’s house several nights in a row, and the rest of the family had tactfully left them alone after finishing dinner. Lizzie and Lydia had left to see a movie and Jane’s parents were on a walk. Bing and Jane’s relationship was progressing slowly since she had agreed to be friends again. He knew it would take time and patience to regain her trust after what he had done.

“Did you like your job in L.A.?” They had been talking about Jane’s last position and where she might want to apply next.

“I loved it.” Jane smiled sadly. “It had so much more responsibility than my last job here.”

“I’m really sorry your boss was such a jerk, not letting you have time off for a family emergency.” Bing shook his head. “They lost you, which is crazy-stupid.”

“I would make the same choice in a heartbeat if I had to again. Lydia needed me, and so did Lizzie. It was a terrible time. Lydia was so hurt and humiliated. This almost broke her, Bing. Lizzie felt guilty about her rift with Lydia, and was ready to kill George. My dad felt he had failed Lydia. We all felt frustrated and helpless.” Jane’s mouth twisted as she tried to hold back tears. “It’s so strange, I didn’t cry when we were desperately trying to support Lydia and waiting to see if that awful website would be taken down before the tape was posted on the internet. Now that it’s over and the website is down, I keep feeling like crying.”

Bing moved closer to Jane on the couch. “Maybe you held back from crying when you felt you needed to be strong. Now that it’s over, the reaction is hitting you. You can cry, Jane. It’s okay to let it out.”

Tears started to run down Jane’s cheeks. “Lydia is still hurting. The website is down but the damage George did to her is still inside. I don’t know if she’ll ever be the same. I miss her bright smile and her goofy sense of humor. I miss her being upbeat and happy.” Her chest started heaving with sobs. “Lizzie is so sad. She tries to hide it, but I think she misses Darcy. When I caught up on her videos, I was stunned at how they looked at each other.” Bing put his arm around Jane’s shoulder and pulled her close. She buried her face in his chest. “And I know it was just a j-j- job, but it’s so hard to get a good job in the fashion industry. It’s all I ever wanted to d-do.” Jane was crying too hard to speak anymore, the tears soaking his shirt. Bing wrapped his other arm around Jane and held her tight. He was afraid to ask her how much the hurt he had caused her had added to this wellspring of grief pouring out of her, but he knew her sorrow from their relationship was a significant part of her heartache. He hated himself for the way he had treated her, leaving her with only an impersonal, pathetic little tweet. No matter if only a fraction of the pain she was expressing now was caused by him, he would have preferred she had berated him, shouted at him, hit him, anything rather than having added to the depth of her pain he was witnessing now.

After several moments, Jane’s sobs subsided and she drew several calming breaths. Bing passed her a tissue and she wiped her face. “I’m sorry, I got your shirt w--” she started but Bing interrupted her. “Don’t be. My shirt doesn’t matter to me. You do.”

Jane smiled up at him. “Thank you, Bing.” She put her arms around him and just hung on for a long time.

*

Bing lightly ran up the steps to Jane’s front door and knocked briskly. It was opened quickly by Lizzie, who smiled widely at Bing although her eyes were suspiciously wet.

“Hi Lizzie,” Bing beamed. He was beaming at everyone lately. Ever since Jane had agreed to resume their relationship, romantically this time, and allow him to follow her to New York, he could not stop smiling. “Is Jane almost ready?”

“She’s just checking her luggage one last time in her room. Go ahead up there.” Lizzie waved him inside and he bounded up the stairs towards Jane’s room.

He knocked on Jane’s door, though it was ajar. “Come in,” Jane called as she rummaged through a drawer.

“Hi Jane. Do you need any help? We still have a few minutes before we need to head to the airport.”

“Bing!” Jane turned to him with a huge smile. “I just want to make sure I haven’t missed anything. I’m going through my room one last time.”

“Are you sure you won’t let me upgrade our tickets to first-class? I noticed there were still a few first-class seats available on our flight from L.A.” They had to take a commuter flight to L.A. before the long flight to New York and Bing wasn’t looking forward to the cramped seats in coach.

“Nope. You’re not paying my way and I can’t afford first-class.” Jane was adamant. She turned back to her dresser. “You can sit in first-class if you must. If you want to be the guy who ditches his girlfriend in coach so he can sip champagne in first-class, far be it from me to stop you.”

Bing had thought his spirits couldn’t rise any higher, but hearing Jane refer to herself as his girlfriend made him feel he was walking on air. How he had ever been so stupid to let her slip through his fingers was beyond him. “I’m good with sitting wherever you are.” He stepped up behind Jane and wrapped his arms around her. “I’ll even give you my shoulder to sleep on if you want.”

Jane leaned back against him. “That sounds nice.” She turned around and looped her arms around his neck. “I’m so excited for this new stage in our lives.”

They were interrupted by the sound of running feet, and Lydia came through the door full-speed. “Jane!” she cried. “You still have a few minutes, right? I made you something for the plane trip.” She handed Jane a small bag. Jane opened it and smiled when she saw the contents. “You made us sandwiches and cookies! Thank you, Lydia.”

Bing looked confused. “Do you always bring your own lunch on flights?”

“Duh.” Lydia spoke up. “Ever since those cheap-ass airlines started charging extra for their nasty little sandwiches. Mine are way better. Pay attention, Bing. You’ll need to know how real people live if you’re going to be working to help people through charities or non-profits.”

Lizzie came around the corner quickly, although she was a tad more sedate than Lydia had been. “I brought you something to read on the plane,” she smiled at Jane. She handed Jane a small tote bag that had several paperbacks in it. “And I stuck this one in for Bing.” She pulled out ‘The Economist’ magazine. “Fitz told me this was your favorite.”

Bing smiled. “That’s Darcy’s favorite. But thanks. I like it too.”

“Oh,” Lizzie looked startled and turned her eyes away. Bing noticed she looked forlorn at the mention of Darcy’s name.

Jane held out her arms to both her sisters. “Thank you both! I’ll miss you so much.” Lizzie and Lydia wrapped their arms around their eldest sister in a three-way hug. “Come visit me as soon as you can.” Jane told them with tears in her voice.

Bing picked up Jane’s suitcases and they all headed downstairs. While Jane hugged her parents, Bing looked at Lizzie. He gave her a quick one-armed hug good-bye. “Call him,” he told her and before she could reply, he headed out the door to load Jane’s suitcases in the car.

Chapter Text

He knew this would be difficult but it was something he felt he should do. He picked up his phone, calculating the two-hour time difference between Chicago and California.

She answered without a greeting. “You saw.”

“Yes.” He knew how to wait. There was a long pause.

“Do you expect me to apologize? I did what I thought was in the best interests of my brother!”

Darcy frowned. “Do you think that justifies manipulating me, lying to Bing, and more importantly, breaking up two people who loved each other?”

“You said it yourself. If Bing’s feelings were that strong, he wouldn’t have let himself be parted from her.”

“I was wrong,” Darcy stated emphatically. “I was thinking of myself and that I would never leave the woman I loved that easily. But Bing is not me. He has a different way of handling his relationships. He trusted us. He trusted you and me to be looking out for him and to do everything in our power to support him. We failed him, Caroline. In the worst way possible.”

“He’s bounced back from other relationships before.” He could hear the tears in Caroline’s voice as she struggled not to cry.

“Not this one. He really loves Jane and instead of allowing him to run his own life, we interfered and almost ruined it for him. And you set up a phony scenario that made Bing and I believe a total lie.”

There was silence for a few minutes. When Caroline spoke again, her voice was more hesitant than he had ever heard it. “Do you think he’ll ever forgive me?”

“We’re talking about Bing. You’re his sister. Of course he’ll forgive you.”

“Will you?” Caroline’s voice was so quiet he had to strain to hear.

“I don’t know,” Darcy struggled to be honest. It would be hard to forgive her for duping him into leading his best friend astray. That mistake had cost Bing and Jane months of agony and threatened Darcy’s friendship with Bing. Caroline knew better than most how difficult it was to regain Darcy’s good opinion once it had been lost. Plus Darcy’s interference with Bing and Jane’s relationship had badly damaged his chance to be with Lizzie, the woman he loved to distraction. Only for Lizzie, who he sensed would want him to forgive Caroline, was he able to say, “I’ll try.”

Caroline seemed to follow the train of his thoughts. “I don’t get what you see in her. After the Gibson wedding, you didn’t think much of her reputed looks. You said she was about as much of a beauty as her mother was a wit. Her mother and little sister are tactless and inappropriate. She’s admitted she’ll be paying off her student loans for years. You thought she wasn’t right for you from the beginning.” He could hear a note of desperation in the slightly disjointed sentences that poured out from her.

“That was before I knew her,” Darcy’s voice was curt. “Since then, I think she is the most beautiful woman, inside and out, I’ve ever known. Her family is supportive and caring and Lizzie loves them. That’s what matters. And I don’t care how long it takes her to pay off her loans. All I care about is her.”

“Then why aren’t you with her already?” Caroline snapped.

“That’s entirely up to Lizzie. If she wants me, I’ll be waiting.”

There was silence for a few minutes. Finally, Caroline spoke with a resigned tone, although with a trace of bitterness still evident. “You need to watch her recent videos more carefully. I think she does want you.” Caroline hung up. Darcy’s hand shook as he set down his phone.

*

Lizzie spun around after entering the foyer in Netherfield and pinned William to the door. “Thank you for the lovely one-week anniversary dinner,” she whispered in his ear. “Would you like me to provide the… dessert?” William felt her hands inching their way up his chest to his shoulders.

William just managed to swallow a groan before she was kissing him and all rational thoughts fled. “Lizzie,” he gasped as she pulled on his tie. “I think you take an inordinate delight in driving me crazy.”

“That’s one thing that hasn’t changed in our relationship. We’ve always driven each other a little crazy. Now it’s just--better.” She pulled his tie from his neck and started working on the buttons of his shirt. “I’ve been patient all through dinner, waiting to ravish you.”

He laughed and bending down, scooped Lizzie up, carrying her quickly up to his room. It wasn’t easy climbing the stairs without losing his breath while carrying his beautiful girlfriend who was running her fingers down his bare chest and pressing her lips to his jaw. Once there, he placed Lizzie on his bed and lay next to her. “I love you,” he murmured looking into her eyes before kissing her again deeply while his hands roamed down her body. He told her at least once every day. After months of trying to stifle his feelings, he felt privileged to be able to say it. Lizzie had not yet told him that she loved him, but William felt she did. He felt it in her touch, the way she looked at him with her expressive eyes, and the way she treated him with a mixture of sweetness, loving consideration and affectionate teasing. He had waited so many months to be with Lizzie. He didn’t mind being patient again. Still, he yearned to hear her say it.

Later, Lizzie put on his shirt and brought up water from the kitchen. They had worked up quite a thirst. She looked delectable in his shirt, William thought, as she handed him a glass of ice water.

“I’m going to miss you when you go back tomorrow morning,” Lizzie looked at him sadly. “This has been an amazing week.”

“I’ll miss you too.” William set down his glass and ran his hand down her cheek. “We can use Domino to talk every night.” The week had gone by so fast. He had been so nervous when he’d arrived on her birthday, unsure of her feelings and trying to tamp down the hope that had flooded him when he had heard her message.

Lizzie fidgeted with the buttons on his shirt that she was wearing. “What were you planning to say to me, when you came on my birthday? Did it depend on what I answered about why I called you?”

“I was hoping for an opening to tell you how I felt about you, but I was determined to find out your feelings.” William rubbed her arms and she looked up at him with a smile. “I would have told you regardless of what you answered.”

“I was so scared to call you. When you didn’t contact me, I thought that you didn’t want me to be in your life, that I had blown my last chance with you.”

“You had infinite chances with me, Lizzie. I would not have given up on you. If you had told me you were not interested in me, I would have left and kept my distance. But I would have kept hoping that someday you would change your mind and come to me.” He pulled her into his arms and rubbed her back.

“Were you…apprehensive when I first came to Pemberley?” Lizzie kept her face buried in his chest.

“I was thrilled you were coming to Pemberley, but determined to stay out of your way. I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable as I did when we were both at Collins & Collins.” He shifted and she looked up at him. “After Gigi forced our first meeting, I was relieved. You didn’t seem to hate me anymore. I don’t know if you realize how much it mattered to me that you touched my arm.”

Lizzie giggled. “That was so awkward! You were so…nice. After what I said to you at Collins & Collins and in my videos, I felt I didn’t deserve any consideration from you. And yet you didn’t seem to hold that against me. I was trying to show you my feelings for you had changed when I touched you.”

“It didn’t take me long after that to want to try to be with you again. But I was nervous. I waited and watched you and tried to gauge your feelings by how you acted towards me.” He combed his fingers through her hair. “You seemed to like me on our sightseeing tour of San Francisco. However, after how badly I misjudged your feelings before, I was still cautious.”

“Oh I liked you before that.” Lizzie took his free hand and started running her fingers around his knuckles. “I think I really noticed it when we did costume theater together as ourselves. I was shocked at how I responded to the intense way you looked at me, as if you were just drinking me in. But I was also struggling with my feelings about your interference with Jane and Bing. The attraction between us really hit me then. It was so strong, it confused me. That’s partly why I ended our conversation so abruptly.”

“That confused me too. I felt we had a connection, but then I thought you were still upset with me. I wasn’t sure what I should do.” William kissed the top of her head. “Then, when you interviewed me—“

Lizzie laughed. “I’m pretty sure you did a much better job of interviewing me.”

“I finally believed you might care enough about me to try again. I wish I had asked you out sooner, so we could have had our first date before you had to leave.”

“Me too,” Lizzie sighed. “I thought about that for weeks once that website was taken down. I kept imagining what could have been. I don’t want you to know how many times I watched the Pemberley videos of us together.”

“Probably less than me.” William admitted. “Your videos were my lifeline for almost two months. I missed you. Pemberley felt empty without you there.” He didn’t tell her how often he had walked by her old office, how every spot in Pemberley he had been with her had felt haunted with her memory.

“Will you do something for me when you’ve gone back?” Lizzie curled into his chest and lifted her head to see his eyes. “Will you write me a letter?” At his look at surprise, she smiled self-consciously. “Your letter was a turning point for me. It opened my eyes to my misjudgments and eventually, helped me open up and really see you. I’ve re-read it so many times. I would love to have another letter from you, one that has nothing to do with a certain person who has hurt both of our sisters.”

William tightened his arms around Lizzie. “It will be my pleasure to write you a letter, Lizzie.”

Lizzie smiled and cuddled up against him for a long moment. “Speaking of pleasure,” Lizzie started to move her hands down along his chest. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting much sleep tonight, William Darcy.”

“My flight back tomorrow takes about 40 minutes,” he replied thickly. “That’s plenty of time for sleep.”

*

Postscript

William quickly strode out of the secure area of the airport. His flight had landed about 10 minutes early, and he was one of the first off the plane (one of the perks of first class) holding his carry-on luggage. He didn’t expect Lizzie to be here yet, but even before he could scan the people milling in the terminal, he saw a blur of motion out of the corner of his eye and a small warm body was launched into his arms. He bent down, wrapping his arms tightly around Lizzie and inhaling her scent on her neck. “Finally!” he heard Lizzie breathe, his sentiments exactly. He felt relief coursing through his body. It was Friday afternoon and he had left early Monday morning, but despite the nightly Domino sessions and frequent texts, the minutes had dragged by excruciatingly slow without her. His hands roamed further down her back and discovered warm skin. What was she wearing? He started to pull away but then decided that thought could wait as his mouth had a mind of its own and descended on hers. Desire spiraled through him, and the busy sounds of the airport receded as his senses were engulfed with the feel and taste of Lizzie. Her kisses were tantalizing, making him forget everything but her and his desperate need for her.

After an immeasurable amount of time, they pulled apart and smiled at each other. Lizzie’s eyes were bright with happiness and desire, and her wide smile lit up her beautiful face. “I’ve missed you,” she gently reached up and ran her hand down his jaw.

“Me too. So much.” William was still adjusting to how much his world had changed now that Lizzie and he were together. There had been so many months that he had loved her with no hope of being a part of her life that he had become used to a hollow emptiness permeating his days. That void was full now, and the buoyancy and happiness that had replaced the dull ache still surprised him each day. The reality of Lizzie was even better than the dream of Lizzie.

William grabbed Lizzie’s hand, picked up his bag that he hadn’t remembered dropping and finally had the time to look at Lizzie’s dress. She was watching him hesitantly, as if she was carefully waiting to determine his reaction. “Do you know why I wore this?” she asked and he recognized the concern in her voice.

William paused deep in thought. “You wanted to show we’ve come full circle? That so much has changed between us since that day last October when I first admitted I love you?”

Lizzie’s smile was blinding. “You always surprise me with how well you understand me. So much has especially changed with my feelings in the last several months, William. I’m thankful every day that you were willing to wait for me.”

William dropped his bag again and pulled Lizzie into his arms. “I’m not sure I had a choice. My heart has been yours for so long now.”

Lizzie blinked away the tears in her eyes and stretched up to hug him. “I will take good care of it. You’re all I want,” she said. She leaned back and grinned at him. “Now, we need to get out of this airport before I strip you of all those unnecessary clothes.”

William picked up his bag again and laced his hand with Lizzie’s. “Do we have time to drop off my bag at Netherfield before meeting Lydia and Charlotte?”

Lizzie’s eyes sparkled. “We have enough time to stop for a certain little welcome back celebration I planned to have with you at Netherfield.”

William raised an eyebrow at her. “Do we have enough time for a shower also? Just in case we get…sweaty.”

Lizzie laughed. “I think we can work that into our schedule.”

Hours later, William pulled Lizzie closer into his arms and kissed the top of her head. They had called it a night early after Ricky Collin’s interruption, and Lizzie and he had barely made it back to Netherfield before their passion had culminated into fervent lovemaking. He couldn’t keep his hands off her, despite their earlier celebration (and yes, they had needed a shower) before meeting Lydia and Charlotte to celebrate the end of Lizzie’s diaries. He had been struggling to keep his hands somewhat discretely on her back all evening in that handy cutout of her dress. Now he felt relaxed and satiated with the promise of an entire long weekend with Lizzie stretching before his return to San Francisco.

“You are going to miss the diaries,” he stated.

“Yes,” Lizzie turned, pressing closer against him. “They’ve been a big part of my life for the last year.”

“You’re not stopping in any way because of me, are you?” He did not want to cause an impediment to anything Lizzie loved doing.

“No, I meant what I said on my last video yesterday. It’s the right time to stop for me.” Lizzie’s hand circled patterns on his chest. She yawned. “I haven’t felt this relaxed since—“

“after our one-week anniversary last Sunday?” William finished for her.

“Exactly.” Lizzie turned and rolled on top of his chest. She looked into William’s eyes. “There is one more part to why I wore that dress tonight. I need to admit something to you.” William felt his heartbeat speed up as he stared into her eyes, hearing the echo of his words from that day last fall. “William Darcy, I’m in love with you.” Lizzie’s eyes were pools filled with the deepest love. The vulnerability inherent with the implicit trust of her opening her heart to him floored him. He felt a rush of emotions and a release of an inner coil of tension. “Oh, Lizzie,” he said her name with a heartfelt sigh in his voice. “I love you too.”