Personally, I'd Rather Lick Sand

(Chapter Twenty Seven: Epilogue)

Waves lapped up on the dark shore, the spray of foam whipping through the night air. We were so close to the water that I couldn't really understand which sounds were really which; when did the melody from the reception behind me stop, and when did the sound of the current begin? Maybe I was just too out of it. I sleepily watched him carve nonsense into the sand with driftwood, absently tracing shapes and faces. Will glanced over his shoulder and smiled at me, mussing my hair a little.

"You look totally and completely smashed."

"Not true," I yawned, stretching out on the blanket, hands folded beneath my head. "I always get sleepy on beaches."

"Some fun you are," he murmured, scooting farther to sit beside me. At some point, our bodies adjusted and I laid my head in his lap, looking up toward the sky.

"Don't judge," I laughed quietly. "I don't see you skinny dipping or anything."

"It would be inappropriate, don't you think?" Will mused. "My sister's a few feet away. They have therapy sessions for this kind of thing."

"Excuses, Mr. Darcy."

He grinned, turning away to look at the water.

I smiled, watching him. It was typical of us to steal away from the party. Pretty hypocritical on my account too. I've never been one to insist upon changing people, but when I first started seeing Will a year and a half ago, I promised that I would make him less of a social retard (a title he's since fully accepted, by the way). And what happened instead? He made me see the great, inconvenient and beautiful thing about private moments.

"You suck," I mumbled.

Will snorted and looked down at me, surprised, "Thanks?"

"Seriously," I laughed. "I can't even be assed to get back to my own birthday party. You stole me away from my family and made me not want to go back. I used to like people before you came along."

"That's right, blame the misanthrope for all your troubles," he muttered, tracing the goose bumps on my arm.

"Misanthrope," I repeated, giggling. I didn't know why I found this so funny. It sounded familiar. I reached upward with a hand, brushing something off of his collar. He looked down at me and cupped my cheek with his hand.

"I have a question," I said.

"Shoot."

"A year ago…"

"Yeah?"

I didn't know why I was blushing. Will teased me about. I laughed and shook my head, "I don't know. I was just thinking about it. I remember when I started feeling different about you. It was after Rosings. And I guess I was just wondering …when did…"

"When did I?" Will finished thoughtfully. I nodded. He looked up and watched the water in thought, rubbing the back of his neck. I had the feeling he was about to answer. He looked down and opened his mouth when a deep, guttural sound of disgust interrupted us.

Rich was looming near condescendingly, Georgy by his side, arms crossed tightly over her chest. I grinned up at how silly he looked, his dark hair (in need of a trim) windblown. Georgy was smirking.

"Just as I suspected," Rich sighed, drawing himself up. "He's converted her into a hermit, Georgy. Nothing can be done in this case. Diagnosis over. We need to buy them a DVD player to complete the metamorphosis."

"Funny," Will rolled his eyes.

"Lizzy, your sister's looking for you," Georgy smiled, kicking some sand absently.

"Which one?" I murmured sleepily.

"The one you shared a womb with," Rich interjected.

"Oh, that one?" I laughed, propping myself up on an elbow. "Last I checked she was dancing with Charlie."

"Are we talking about the same Bingley?" Rich asked shrewdly. "Charles Bingley is asleep by the dessert table. On three chairs. Jane's dancing with conscious people now, like me. I think I deserve it, I've commuted the farthest to be here."

"Charlie's always been a lightweight," Will said distastefully. "And you live in New York now, Rich. You can't play that card."

"Still," Rich sighed, looking out toward the night sky.

Georgy suddenly seized his arm with excitement, blue eyes that matched her brother's wide and devious, "Oh, Rich! Let's go draw stuff on his face. I have Sharpies."

Rich's grin grew wide. He slung an arm around his cousin and pulled her close, sighing lovingly, "Lord. She's a child after my own heart. Race you."

"I'm not going to race you," she rolled her eyes, black hair whipping against her face with the breeze. She brushed her bangs back impatiently. "What am I, five?"

His shoulders slumped. Within a moment, Georgy sprang to her feet and sprinted back towards the tented reception, laughing. He muttered under his breath and ran after her, and Will and I watched as they ascended the hill. She tripped him and Rich face planted into the sand.

I started laughing, sitting up. I brushed some sand from my dress and got up, searching around for flip flops. Will looked up at me, disappointed, "What? You're going back? It's been five minutes."

"Sorry, Gramps. There are still some dances that still need wrecking. You don't turn twenty one every day."

Will rolled his eyes and then looked up at me, "Gramps? Seriously."

I grinned at him and ruffled his hair, "Big bad law student going to get me for that one?"

"How old are you?"

"Come on," I laughed, taking his hand and wrenching him up to his feet. He grumbled something under his breath but then sobered, and we made our way back to the party, sticking out in all its bright, white opulence in the middle of the shore.

Leave it up to Charlotte to throw Jane and I some big beachside shindig, tented and dimly light and beautiful, and not even show her face. I didn't really blame her. Half of not showing up she blamed on student teaching. The other half was Rich. Because let's face it, when you're on and off again dating, awkwardness tends to result.

Yeah. Charlotte and Rich. Crazy, right? They're actually kind of perfect for each other. In the dysfunctional, crazy, I-adore-you-now and I-can't-fucking-stand-you-today sense. Give them time. They'll probably have five kids. Not really. Well, maybe. Who am I to judge?

"There you are!" Mom flitted over to my side, tossing her hair. She had gotten extensions recently; I didn't really know what possessed her to. Will gave me a look that distinctly says, Grin and bear it, and I sighed, smirking.

"Stealing one of the birthday girls away, are we?" she scolded Will, yanking me into a hug. I laughed and kissed her cheek. Mom actually adores Will. It's really weird. Adores him. She's offered to do his laundry before.

We live two hours away.

"No, Mrs. Bennet," Will said patiently.

Dad's pretty friendly too. In a way, I think he respects Will. He never says it, but it's a way he looks at him. He trusts him. There's a layer of understanding there.

Charlie, on the other hand? No. I'm not sure why. It's hysterical though. If you ever want to see the great Charles Bingley II get restless and a little purple faced, you pluck him right in front of John Bennet. Then again, I'm half convinced Dad just wants to see if he can make a millionaire piss himself.

I spotted Dad all the way at the table, cluttered with long emptied plates. He was talking with Marin, whose shock of auburn pink hair had gone tame into a lovely, pulled back chestnut. She kept slapping his hand half heartedly, probably because he was lurching for a rib eye. Heart healthy diets reigned supreme in the Bennet household. Well, unless Mom had a fat day. Or Lydia was PMSing. Or there was a discount on ice cream at Giant.

The twins were inconspicuously absent, but honestly, none of us minded all that much. We had finally gotten them separated, which might have been bad or good, depending on the outcome. Kit would be starting her first year at Boston U and Lydia would commute to Temple, which seemed reasonable enough. We wanted to keep her home for the first year; no telling what mischief that girl could do when she's by herself.

And Marin? Our studious little Marin got herself into George Washington, sophomore year now. At the time, she was visiting on summer holiday. She would in the future too. No word on whether she's learned to pry herself out of a book yet, but I'll let you know. We half suspect she's going to become a Congresswoman. Or something.

I watched from a distance as Jane came to stand behind her, braiding her hair absently. She caught my eye from across the space and grinned at me, calling me over.

"I'll be right back," I promised, hand slipping out of Will's. He stared at me, wide eyed and less than thrilled at the prospect of being left with my mother, who wouldn't stop talking about hors d'ourves. I laughed and stood up quickly on my tiptoes, kissing his cheek, "Grin and bear it." He narrowed his eyes.

Jane wrapped me in a bear hug when I got to her, smoothing my hair out of my face, "You look so pretty tonight, Lizzy. Glad we wrestled you into a dress? You were dead against this party."

"Kinda, yeah," I admitted, shrugging.

Dad looked up to where I had run from, snorting, "That poor boy looks like he's suffering from an aneurysm."

I glanced across the way at Will, who was nodding tersely at my mother, his hands clasped patiently in front of him. Marin snorted dryly.

"I still can't get over you two," Jane murmured.

"It's been a year," I laughed. "More, even."

"Nuh-uh," she put her hands on her hips defiantly. "Not really. What about those two weeks late last year when you wouldn't let him into the apartment? And you're not even counting Will's time at Lafayette. It's been scattered months, at most."

"You wouldn't let him into the apartment?" Dad scoffed, "Lizzy!"

"He insulted Philadelphia sports teams, Dad. Sixers I can deal with. But the Flyers? Come on now."

"Point taken. Marty Biron is not to be trifled with."

"Still," Jane sighed.

You couldn't really blame her though. Jane's not one to openly swear, but the first time I sat her down at the stoop of the townhouse, took her hand gingerly in mine and admitted what was going on between me and Will Darcy, she practically screamed, "Are you fucking kidding me?" Our neighbors didn't appreciate it all that much.

It might have not been a good time either, because she had recently discovered Will's part in separating her and Charlie. But she had forgiven him ages ago. In my own words, he was guided by, "severely fucked up good intentions and ass biting ego". It was universally accepted fact at this point.

We went through a bit of a spat actually, because Jane was pissed that I hadn't told her everything after Rosings -- but it's not like she had been that willing to listen anyway, what with her manic eagerness to turn over a new leaf.

See, her reaction was funny though. At first Jane had been shocked, but she had grudgingly admitted that, had she not turned a blind eye, she might have seen the signs earlier.

"Seriously?" I had laughed, two days after Will and I had gotten together and I had told her everything. "You knew? I didn't."

"I didn't know you felt anything for him," she had muttered back. "I must have missed something because you were pretty settled in hating his guts. But Will? That boy's probably been smitten with you since Charlie's party. You need to be more observant about how people look at you, Lizzy. He wouldn't stop staring."

"I thought that was glaring."

"Well, he's not that good at flirting, is he?"

I smiled, glancing at Jane now. She was watching Will and Mom curiously, her arms crossed over her chest. I shoved at her lightly and she blinked up at me, startled, "What is it?"

"Nothing," I grinned. "Charlie still passed out?"

Jane looked alarmed, "Sorry?"

"Rich told me he drank too much."

"Rich is a pathological liar. Charlie's right over there," Jane raised an eyebrow, pointing behind her. Marin and I craned our necks. Charlie was dancing with Brenda Baker, my old co worker, his red hair mussed and standing up at weird angles.

"I hate Rich Fitzwilliam," I sighed.

"Ooh," she made a face. "I promised him a dance. Should I take it back?"

I waved a hand, "He's harmless. I think."

Will was making his way back to us, as Mom had presently latched herself onto Georgy, who was way too nice to turn her down.

"Your mother is," Will tugged at his collar, locked eyes with my father and cleared his throat, "a fascinating woman."

"Watch it," Dad warned. Jane grinned and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Why did I get the feeling that you all were watching me this whole time?" Will asked, straightening his tie. He looked at me questioningly.

"Because we were," Marin deadpanned. "Sportscaster commentary, actually."

"Thank you, Marin."

"You're welcome." She suddenly gasped, taking Dad's hand, "Oh, I love this song!"

Billy Idol's "Dancin' With Myself" was just starting out, and she was hell bent on dragging him into a dance. Dad made a pained face, "Heart trouble, sorry honey."

"That's bullshit," I laughed. "You've been eyeing steak all evening. And we took you bowling last week. You've got it in you."

"Yeah, but," Dad sighed, resting his elbows on his knees, "your mother will see me and then she'll expect a dance, and then it's just one great big mess after that. It ends with me collapsing, if you didn't realize. If they play Heart next, I'm a lost man."

"We could always get you a walker," Will suggested pleasantly.

Dad narrowed his eyes at him and pointed, "Darcy, I'm starting not to like you." At that, he rose and led Marin to the dance floor.

"It got him up, didn't it?" Will murmured into my ear. I laughed and he grinned, wrapping his arms around my waist from behind.

After awhile, Charlie showed up, bright eyed and energetic, insisting upon a dance with Jane. And with a smile and an enduring eye roll, she left us. I watched them for a couple of minutes, as Charlie bent low to whisper something to Jane and she pulled back, laughing so hard that she had to dab at her eyes. He grinned and pulled her close, pressing a kiss to her forehead. I smiled.

"I have to show you something," Will's voice brought me back, just by my ear. I turned into him.

"Stealing me away again?" I mumbled. "It better be to an arcade. I still want to kick your ass at air hockey. Again."

Will sighed, "Okay, you got way too competitive at Simon Hurst's birthday party a year ago. And we supposed to be the well behaved, American chaperones. You stole the punch and the party favors."

"They had ring pops, Will. Do you realize how good those are?"

He snorted, "Anyway. No arcades, sorry. But I do have a birthday present."

"I told you I didn't want anything."

"Yeah but, who the hell ever listens to that?" he suggested.

"Not you," I muttered.

"Not me," he agreed, taking my hand. "Come on."

We disappeared behind the tent and walked the five minutes back to the parking lot, Will leading me patiently by the hand like I was some five year old who might snatch away from him at any given moment. It might have been ridiculous if I hadn't, y'know, actually done that before. Sometimes I can't help pissing him off. It's worth it for the make up that follows.

I grinned, following him lightly. He was excited, I could tell, but he was trying not to make eye contact. I watched his profile, smirking. God, I loved him when he smiled.

I cocked my head. You couldn't really see it now, but Will had actually had a cut near his lip up until a month ago. That had cleaned up nicely. See, that? That was a direct result of finally locating George Wickham. I guess that should be afforded some light for a moment.

It was actually really funny when it happened. We had stopped looking for Wickham for his long overdue ass kicking (or murdering). But as Andy Warhol once said, "As soon as you stop looking for something, you get it." Or maybe it was wanting… either way.

Wickham hadn't even left Philadelphia. He was waiting tables and pulling several double shifts across Center City. Georgy and I had dragged Will to his first broadway show at Forrest Theatre, seeking an early dinner afterwards.

And things were going great, really. Until Wickham dropped by our table to take our order, froze in shock, and had a fist collide with the side of his face before he could even flinch.

Actually, that first one was Georgy's.

But then Will lunged himself and Wickham slammed him into the table and fists were thrown and Will got his nose bloodied and Wickham got a kidney punch and a split lip and let's just say we've been um, blacklisted from Budakkan. Which kind of sucks because they have amazing tempura. Still, we're lucky enough that they didn't press charges.

Georgy fractured her wrist, but she thought it was totally worth it. The cab ride afterwards was the best. Mainly because Will's head was in my lap and he was counting fingers and I had the wonderful opportunity of cramming toilet paper up each nostril to stop the blood flow. I think I realized then how much I liked taking care of him, as ridiculous of a situation it was at the time.

"Will you keep up?" his voice snapped me back to reality, and he pulled me closer, grinning. His car was the last in the lot, and at the last minute, excitement made his hand slip from mine. Will wrenched open the car door and I caught up, peering in skeptically.

"Hold up," he slid in front of me, shielding the inside of the car from view. Will sighed, "Okay so, fine, I got you a new pet."

I wrinkled my nose, "Will, you suck at that. Remember Jon Bon Gerbil? Just, no."

"It's not that."

"I can't handle goldfish anymore."

"I didn't get you a goldfish."

"Or did you adopt a kid from Kenya?" I asked shrewdly, "Because I can't pull off the Angelina Jolie thing."

Will passed a hand over his eyes and sighed, "Remember Sam Hutton?"

"You bought me Sam Hutton?"

"Sam Hutton, inebriated as he may seem, is actually the son of a dog breeder. A lab dog breeder."

My mouth opened and closed. "But," I grabbed his collar, smiling excitedly, "but you told me when we bought that apartment three months ago that if we ever got a dog you would hang yourself by your shoelaces because it would shit on everything."

"Yeah, but then I saw that movie Marley & Me--" I shoved him and Will laughed, "Just kidding. Look inside, will you? God."

Laughing, I bent low and poked my head inside the doorway. I followed a leash, wound around the driver's seat to the back, where a chocolate lab puppy lay sleeping on the backseat, eyes slowly opening. He suddenly raised his head, tail whipping back and forth.

I screamed, scrambling inside. Will winced.

"I'm naming him Atticus!"

"Name him whatever you want."

"Shnookiebutterbums."

"Do you want the dog to kill himself?"

I laughed as the puppy squirmed in my arms, jittery and excited, reaching up to lick my face. "He's adorable," I smiled, scratching behind his ears. "Dude, I feel like a little girl who finally got that tricycle she wanted when she was three, but now she's thirty so it's not really relevant anymore."

"Yeah, but you're in your twenties, and this isn't a tricycle."

"I know," I grinned, reaching up to kiss Will's cheek. "Thank you."

"Good present?" he smiled.

"Great present. Thank Sam Hutton for me," I said. I craned low then, wrinkling my nose at the backseat. "Oh, and um, get a plastic bag from the party when you get the chance."

"Why?"

"Atticus left you a present back there."

"Shit."

"Plenty of it," I patted his shoulder, "back there, to the right."

When we returned to the party (several strings of expletives later), my sisters harbored the puppy and Mom began fussing so much that we rather debated her getting her a little chow or something to preoccupy herself when all of her daughters were finally all college bound by the end of the summer. It would do her 'nerves' some good to focus all her attention on a different species.

In the meantime, I bullied Will into a final dance while a pretty girl up front covered "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday, her deep voice filling the air. I watched him, smiling, searching his face.

He was really calm that evening, and I was happy. He had been so stressed from classes lately that it had taken some coaxing just to wrestle him to the Jersey shore that weekend.

"Hey," Will murmured, and I looked up. "I have an answer to your question."

"Which one?"

"That one about when I realized how I felt about you."

"Was that the question?" I grinned, teasing.

He chewed on the inside of his mouth in thought, "The answer is that I don't know. That's the thing, I never know. By the time I realized I was felt something for you, hell, I was probably in love with you already."

"Aww."

"You're teasing me."

I frowned, "Wait, but that day you came over with Charlie, when he made up with Jane…"

"What about it?" Will asked, his blue eyes searching mine.

"Well, you didn't say anything. You didn't say that you still loved me; I had no idea."

Will's eyebrows rose. He actually laughed, "Lizzy, wow. Wow. What does a man have to do? Scream it from the rooftops?"

"You're an ass."

"I wrote it in that book. And I kissed you. And I took you out. Come on."

"Yeah, but a girl would appreciate a little directness."

"Nothing pleases you," he shook his head incredulously. "I didn't want to be that blunt. What if I scared you off? I was pretty good at that the first time around."

"Yeah," I muttered, wincing a little.

"Either way," Will smiled ironically, "you didn't exactly jump right out in say it either."

"I did the next day."

"But you made me wait a whole day."

"I was freaked out," I rolled my eyes. "I didn't know if you still felt the way you had at Rosings."

"I kissed you that evening!"

"I thought it was spur-of-the-moment!"

"Dear God," Will groaned, stopping in the middle of the dance floor. He rubbed his face wearily, "We really suck at communicating. Or at least, you suck at taking really obvious hints."

"I can't believe you're insulting me," I glared at him. "It's my birthday."

"I got you a dog, didn't I?" Will teased. "It defecated all over the backseat of the sedan, if you didn't notice. I think I deserve at least one jab for that."

I rolled my eyes and he smiled, pulling me back until he could link his arms around my waist again.

"By the way," Will murmured into my ear, "I don't think you checked out the mail before we left Philly."

"Nope," I said sleepily. It didn't make sense to. We would be spending the end of summer at Pemberley anyway. I had spent the last week packing. I grinned, thinking of Bea. She always made a fuss with meals. She would be calling me three days in advance to find out what I wanted for dinner.

"Then you didn't notice the letter," Will prompted.

"What letter? Are you evicting me?" I teased.

A slow smile spread on his face.

"Your short stories got accepted by Random House. Well, four of them. They really liked that one about the old woman by the bar, wearing her late daughter's jewelry and playing matchmaker for all the regulars--"

I think I screamed. Or pulled an Atticus. Either way, I definitely stopped dancing. "What?"

"I still think you should keep working on that novel, because I've been reading through some drafts, and I know you have all these internships in line for these papers, especially the Courier, but--"

I cut him off, grinned and grabbed both sides of his face, pressing my lips against his. He laughed. Then I shoved him.

"What the hell?" Will started.

"You waited all night to tell me that?"

"Pretty much."

"Why?" I demanded roughly.

"You know," he mused, looking upward, "I'm not really sure. Maybe I really am an asshole."

"I wouldn't put it past you," Rich suddenly said, dipping into our little bubble, dancing with Jane. She sent me an apologetic glance and laughed, and Will glared at his cousin.

I opened my mouth, eager to blurt my news to her, sheer joy running through my veins. I was downright giddy. Will cast me a quiet smile, and then I decided against it. For some reason, I felt content with just the two of us knowing for now. I wanted to bask in this little slot of golden secrecy. It was ironic, but it seemed strangely fitting. I rested my hand against his cheek and smiled, feeling light.

"You know, we're breaking out the cake soon," Jane hinted at, wincing. "Prepare to be sung to."

"I will if you will, Janey," I grinned at her, taking her hand quickly. "Just give me one more dance." She smiled, and Rich spun her regally towards Georgy and a guy friend of Jane's, dancing close to the band.

"Charlie's going to be jealous," Will muttered.

"You're not an asshole."

"Pardon?" he asked, bending closer as if he didn't hear me.

"You're not an asshole," I repeated, laughing. "You're just severely misunderstood."

"Like a teenaged girl," Will elaborated, grimacing.

"Kind of," I smiled. "You're learning."

He laughed, and it finally hit me just how happy he was tonight. He spun me around once, and my skirt flared around me like a bell, the hem brushing delicately against my knees. I laughed, and Will pulled me back close, his breath tickling my ear.

"I love you," he murmured.

"I know."

"No, like, a lot. A ridiculous amount, actually."

"I know." It filled the room. I smiled. "I love you too."

He bent down and cradled my cheek with his hand, brushing his lips against mine. He kissed me so tenderly that I felt a little lightheaded for a moment. My hands traveled up his chest and he pulled apart slightly, tucking a wisp of my hair behind an ear. "Hey, Lizzy?" Will asked softly.

"Yeah?" I said, slightly breathless.

"Let's go get some cake."

I grinned up at him and laced my hand in his. "Okay."


Author's Note: I take ridiculous satisfaction in ticking this story off as completed. Really.

That's it! I hope you enjoyed, I really do. I can't thank you guys enough for the ridiculous support behind this story, the reviews, the PMs, the number of favorites and story alerts. It's just been fantastic. Thank you! It's been so fun. I've gotten really attached.

Keep an eye out for more modernizations in the future, because I have a feeling that I'm not through yet. :)