A/N: Thanks everyone for the reviews...a special shout-out to Mary S, who seems to be my most devoted reader : ) I hope I don't let you down. I'm home from school for the summer now so updates should be more regular than they were, but still fairly sporadic because I work pretty much full time (blahhh). Anyway...tell me what you think!

After Wickham related to Lizzy the atrocities of his past, she became even more attached to him. She really felt he was the most consistently fun, agreeable person she had ever known. Was it love? She wasn't sure, but she tried not to waste too much time stressing over the question. Despite all his attractions, in her heart she knew Wickham was not the type of guy it would be a good idea to seriously fall for.

"His heart was taken long ago by the rich Darcy slut," she would tell herself.

Since Wickham had told her of his lost love, she had begun to associate with his character a depth of feeling, of which she believed most of his friends were utterly ignorant. He had suffered so much, but had borne it with such strength; to look at him, one would never know the pain he had endured. And what pain! To be betrayed, forsaken, given up willingly and forever by the love of your life, for no better reason than your being the illegitimate son of a non-millionaire! She could understand how such a thing might have been a problem two hundred years ago, but really, this was the twenty-first century! She could scarcely imagine the agonies Wickham must have suffered, the agonies he still must suffer every day. For this reason she did not expect him to commit to any sort of exclusive relationship with her, and she did not complain when she saw him flirting with other girls. Jane, however, did not see the situation so clearly.

"He spent the night with another girl, and you're okay with that?" Jane asked her incredulously on the phone one night.

"Why shouldn't I be? It's not like I'm his girlfriend."

"Lizzy…I don't like this. You hang around with him all day, he's all you talk about, clearly you like each other…why won't he commit? How can you be okay with the fact that he hasn't? It's not like you."

"Well, maybe I'm finally growing up. I'm learning not to be one of those paranoid clingy girlfriends who flips her shit if she sees her boyfriend talking to another girl. Look, Jane, don't worry about it. Wickham and I are just having fun. He can sleep with other girls if he wants, and I'm free to do what I like with other guys. This is how normal college relationships work," she said practically.

"Tell me honestly, have you slept with him?"

There was silence on the other end of the line.

"Oh my God, that means you have!" cried Jane. "Lizzy, I can't believe you, have you completely forgotten yourself? Who knows what he's doing with other girls! Did you use protection! Oh God, please tell me you used protection – "

"Jane…" Lizzy cut in. But Jane wasn't finished.

"I can't believe this. You're not even in a relationship with him! What happened to my little Lizzy? Scratch that, what happened to the grown up, responsible, practical girl that is my sister? The one who wouldn't even let Patrick Haseley kiss her in the tenth grade until he swore that he wanted an exclusive relationship? What happened --"

"Jane – "

"No!" Jane yelled, continuing her rant. "What happened to the Lizzy who swore so solemnly when she was eighteen that she would never sleep with anyone she didn't truly love? What happened to the Lizzy – "


Jane heaved a sigh of relief, which was inaudible to Lizzy over the shrieks of laughter issuing forth from her roommate Charlotte, who had heard, despite the fact that she had headphones on, Lizzy's passionate avowal.

"Look, Jane, I've gotta go," Lizzy said with some annoyance.

"Okay fine. Wait, before you go, you're coming to the Philips' barbecue next weekend, right?"

"Ugh," Lizzy groaned. "Yeah, I'll be there, unless I have the good fortune to drop dead between now and then."

"I wish you wouldn't always be so negative about family events, Lizzy," said Jane reproachfully. "I know Aunt Cindy can get on your nerves, but she has a big heart."

"I have nothing against her heart; it's her shrill voice and inane laughter that make me want to stab myself in the head whenever I spend more than ten minutes around her. Calm down, Jane, you know I'm exaggerating. Plus I'm pmsing in a violent way. Look, I'll be there, okay? Now can I please go? I'm gonna be late to work."

"Wait, one more thing. Are you going to bring Wickham?"

"I don't know, should I? Is it that kind of thing? I don't know if I want to subject him to our family just yet…we're getting along so well…"

"Well, I'm bringing Charles, and Lydia is begging Dad to let her bring her new boyfriend, and you know he'll give in eventually. Just something to think about."

"I'll think about it. I've really gotta run though."

"Okay, I love you Lizzy."

"Love you too – bye."

Wickham was not very keen on going to the barbecue. In fact he flat out refused.

"You know I'd go, babe, but it's really not my kind of thing. Family events and George Wickham don't mix. I'm not the type of guy you bring home to Mom. Plus, I'm not even your boyfriend…it would just be weird. Also I already committed to a power hour on that night with some of the girls from Alpha Chi."

Lizzy didn't press it – in fact she laughed it off. But in truth she was a little irritated. She had recently shelled out thirty bucks – roughly five hours of work at the coffee shop – for a Busch Gardens ticket, because Wickham had invited her to go with a group of his friends, when at the last minute the trip had been cancelled because some of the guys decided they'd rather go to a strip club. Lizzy had ended up dragging Charlotte to Busch Gardens so as not to waste her thirty dollars, and it had proceeded to rain all day, so nearly all the roller coasters were closed. Needless to say she had not been the happiest camper. And now Wickham didn't even have the decency to give up one night to her – free of charge – or to even formulate a reasonable excuse for it! Inwardly she was getting to be pretty pissed off, but she smiled casually, allowed him one peck on the lips, and headed off to her second job – editing student papers at the Writing Resource Center in the English department.

The rest of the week did not go much better. She got a B- on a paper she thought was the best she had ever written, and when she went to talk to the professor about it, he said her writing style was "prodding and dull." This cut straight to the core; if there was one thing Lizzy prided herself on, it was her writing ability. But when she read the paper over – it was an explication of Dylan Thomas' "Love in the Asylum" – she was forced to admit to herself that the professor was partly right. She had used the word "suggest" four times in as many sentences.

"And they pay me to edit other people's papers!" she thought to herself with mild alarm.

But this was not the worst of it. She decided to go running one afternoon, despite Charlotte's fervent pleas that she wouldn't, seeing as the sky was an eerie greenish gray and rumbles of thunder could already be heard in the distance.

"Char, I'm not afraid of a little rain. And I haven't been running in two days because I've been so busy with work and papers. So I'm going now. Deal with it."

"Lizzy…oh God, did you hear that? Did you?" Charlotte cried, alluding to a crash of thunder that had just shook the building. "This is not a friendly little rainstorm we're dealing with here; this is the wrath of God! Please just wait it out!"

"This is the only free time I have all day. If I wait any longer I won't be able to go at all – I have to be at work at 5:00. Look, if I'm not back in two hours, send out a search party."

And with that she left, ignoring Charlotte's grumbling. About five minutes into the run, large drops of rain began pelting her. She didn't mind though; running in the rain could be quite enjoyable, so long as it was warm out. It happened to be about 80 degrees on that day, so the cool shower was more than welcome. She turned her face up to the sky and drank in the fresh rain. There really was nothing like being caught in the middle of a heavy rainstorm – to race through the sheets of rain, letting the cool water soak deep into your skin – was anything so glorious? But when the soothing raindrops began to turn into rock hard chunks of ice, her mood quickly changed. The storm got to be so bad that she couldn't see more than a few feet in front of her. The worst of it was that she happened to be on an isolated path in the middle of a forest – there was nowhere to take shelter.

"This is just great," she muttered to herself, futilely trying to shield herself from the hail with her arm.

Suddenly she heard someone calling her. She turned around and could just make out the form of another person about three feet away.

"Come with me!" he cried, taking her arm and leading her away.

It wasn't like she had any alternatives. She took his hand and a few moments later found herself standing under a gazebo slightly off the path.

"Oh, it's you," her rescuer said in a tone that Lizzy felt suggested he was not overly pleased by the discovery.

He was Will Darcy. Lizzy rolled her eyes slightly.

"Don't worry," she said sarcastically as she reached her hands back to wring out some of the water in her hair. "I won't tell anyone about this. We wouldn't want your precious reputation to be spoiled by any rumors that you were hanging out with the lowly Elizabeth Bennet."

"What are you talking about?"

"Never mind," she said.

They stood in awkward silence for a few minutes, Lizzy furious and humiliated by the fact that she had allowed herself to be rescued by Will Darcy. Soon Lizzy noticed that the hail had stopped, and decided to continue her run.

"Wait!" Will cried, for she was already running away. She turned around. "It's still pretty nasty out – are you sure you don't want to come back to the house with me? It's just right over that hill; you could hang out there until the storm is completely over."

"Thanks," she replied with an arch smile, "but I don't expect any favors from you. You've had your hour with me, and frankly, for me, that was more than enough time. Goodbye!"

And with that she left him. He watched her as she ran through the torrents of rain, and despite all his attempts to suppress it, he could not help himself from feeling strongly attracted to her. He could think a thousand reasons why she was the last person in the world he should like in that way. Firstly, she was Wickham's used goods. Although so was…but he wasn't going to think about that. Secondly, even if she hadn't been Wickham's used goods, his family would never approve of her. She was poor – probably had to take out half a dozen loans to afford her education – and she certainly didn't dress suitably. He knew these were rather petty criticisms, but, although he personally could overlook them (in fact, he admitted to himself, he rather liked the loose-fitting skirts and faded tank tops that she wore – he couldn't really imagine her wearing clothes from Abercrombie or J. Crew), his father would have been disapproved, and his Aunt…he almost burst out laughing when he imagined what her reaction to Elizabeth Bennet would be. Thirdly, she had been strangely rude to him during their last conversation. Despite this, he was confident that if he did decide to make his feelings known to her, when faced with the prospect of being Will Darcy's girlfriend, she would probably be able to overcome in an instant any feelings of hostility she harbored towards him – if indeed such feelings existed, which he rather doubted. Probably being hostile was just her way of flirting or something. But this was taking it rather far, wasn't it? Feeling irrationally attracted to a girl was one thing; making those feelings known and forming a relationship with her was quite another.

He was not surprised when Charles invited him to Jane Bennet's family's barbecue that weekend. He knew perfectly well it was a pity invite – the day of the barbecue happened to be the anniversary of his parents' death. Charles wanted to make sure Will would be kept busy during that day so he didn't become too depressed. The invitation was understandable; what surprised him was his acceptance of it.

"Sure, I'll go," he said, and then it occurred to him what he had just agreed to. He told himself his only motive in going was to keep busy, but he could not help suspecting within himself a slightly ulterior motive.