"Shit," said Caro. "You're absolutely right. Look at her: she smiles more at her dad than she does at Charlie."

"Caro, keep your voice down, for fuck's sake."

"No. Charlie may be a numpty but he's my fucking numpty, and he deserves someone as googly-eyed and pathetic as he is."

Darcy checked around the table of assorted Bingley/Bennet family members, but the other diners were blessedly oblivious to Caro seething beside him.

Two days ago, he almost really had reconciled his rudeness with the fact that he was never going to see another Bennet again, when Caro had perched on the corner of his desk in the library then reclined across his textbooks.

"Fitzwilliam Darcy, I need you."

"It's the smoulder, I can't help it. Take an aspirin and call a doctor in the morning," he said without lifting his gaze from R v. Horncastle.

"Mr Arcy-Darcy, you know how I've been holding the threat of toga party over your head all year? I'm giving you one chance, and one chance only to get out of it."

Darcy flicked his gaze up from his photocopies to Caro, "Uh-huh? This is your way to make me do two things I'd rather not because you will have, without fail, forgotten this Deal of a Lifetime come September so how about you cut the crap. I've got a tute to prepare."

"We've been feeling a bit fighting frisky all week, haven't we, Will? Still blaming me for your faux pas. But don't you think, since your conscience is hanging you anyway, it might as well be for a sheep as for a lamb? It'll be more fun than dumbing down –what's it? – hearsay laws for darling first years to understand."

"You've read R v. Horncastle? What do you think of the implications–"

"Focus, Darcy." Caro snapped her fingers under his nose. "I want to piss off one Elizabeth Bennet. You could be my way in."

"Which one's she?"

"Wee Willie, for fuck's sake, keep up. Elizabeth Bennet, the sister, the one who shot you down in flames: we hate her now."

"I'm not a girl," he reminded her. "I don't have to hate people indiscriminately because a friend told me to."

"She thinks I'm a stuck-up bitch."

"And . . .?"

"And she should not make snap judgements and go mouthing off to her sister within hearing of my brother, who will then come to me all remorsefully and ask if I could be nicer to Jane's sister like I'm the fucking bad guy in this situation. So you're coming with me to the next round of pre-wedding get-togethers to be a thorn in her side, and we will hate on her together. Nobody calls me a bitch without just cause."

"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

"But you'll do it, right?" she said, pinching his cheek. "Because I asked."

Of fucking course he would. So here he was miserably awkward, again. Unable to beat his grey matter into giving him something to talk about with the stranger next to him, again. And to top it off, he had suggested to a woman who had no compunction speaking her mind that maybe the bride-to-be wasn't all that in love while they were in a private function room filled with said bride-to-be's relatives and friends.

What the hell, brain.

He was fine with friends, he was fine teaching tutorials, he was fine in mooting finals before three knighted judges of the realm, but put him in a normal social situation with strangers and his higher brain function just switched off.

"Hey, do you dance?" said a pair of breasts propped up around a girl's collarbones. Then Darcy got to a face: Bennet sister, one of the jail-baits. The other one was giggling over the boy plugging his ipod into the sound system.


"Well, maybe I can convince you..."

"It's thoughtful of you to ask, but I wouldn't want to keep you from your school friends." He kept his voice very polite and genial. If there was one thing dealing with his sister and her friends, it was that being polite, boring, and treating the person in question like a slightly stupid child was the best way to rid oneself of a hormonal teenage girl.

The Bennet rolled her eyes and dismissed him with an emphatic, "Ew."

And just when he thought he'd escape his social-interaction obligations for the night, the hot sister appeared in front of him. Elizabeth, her name was Elizabeth. She didn't really look like an Elizabeth. What's in a name? Focus, Fitzwilliam.

"That was well done," she was saying, and smiling. A small smile, but like a smile. "Lydia can be a hard burr to unstick when she puts her mind to it."

"Heyyyy, Liz-ster!" Was Caro trying to be the most embarrassing person on the planet? She slung an arm around Darcy's neck and smiled at Elizabeth. "Looks like your little sisters are hijacking my brother's dinner and turning it into a dance party; so cute. It must be crazy living in a household with so much ... initiative going on."

"I'm on my way to turn the music down," Elizabeth told her, "I just wanted to say to–"

"Absolutely, you two should totally dance – you wouldn't say no, would you, Darcy?"

Caro was too close and at the wrong angle to be given a proper death stare, and anyway it was kind of satisfying to see Elizabeth Bennet colour up and fluster.

"That is so, I mean, I wouldn't – that is not why I came over here. Please, don't think that I..."

"If you want to dance, whatever, sure," he told her graciously.

She was kind of cute when she was pole-axed. "No. I am, that is, it's just one of those social graces that passed me by I guess. I don't dance, thanks."

"Any man-crazy teenager who wants to grind up against a guy's groin can dance."

The fuck, brain.

"Excuse me?" She looked at him, then pointedly at her younger sisters dancing, and back at him in case he wanted to rephrase. His tongue had become the size and flexibility of a sea cucumber. But really she should be thanking him for unflustering her; there was nothing flustered about her glare."Careful, Fitzwilliam; I just got a little flutter of attraction on my dickhead meter."

She smiled politely over eyes of pure ice, and sauntered away leaving Darcy to attempt an extraction of the foot in his mouth. But she'd remembered his name and what she'd overheard him saying two weeks ago, so just maybe she had replayed that meeting in her mind as many times as he had. Fuck, what kind of thought was that – when had he turned into a girl?

"I can guess what you're thinking," Caro purred right next to his ear.

"I doubt it."

"You're thinking one Elizabeth Bennet is cuter than you thought, maybe even verging on hot – all legs for Africa and big eyes that would just eat you up if it hadn't been for mean old Caroline ruining everything before it even began."

Darcy gave her the patented Fitzwilliam Fuck You Eyebrow and refused to play ball. "Actually, I was thinking about the ramifications of Article Six of the ECHR on the admissibility of evidence to the Supreme Court made by a witness who is identified but does not appear in court."

"Mr Darcy, I'm all astonishment," she smiled and ruffled his hair with an affectionate hand. "Good work on Plan Lizzie B Is a Hater, she looked pissed as hell."

"Then my night is complete: there's no higher achievement to unlock. I'll see you at lecture tomorrow." And with that Darcy evasive manoeuvred the hell out of dodge while he still could.

The reason behind the 'fine eyes' switch-around is that since the last time I watched 1995 BBC miniseries, I've been convinced that that comment is less about Mr Darcy being overwhelmed by his appreciation of Elizabeth's eyes and letting slip more than he meant to, and more about Miss Bingley presuming to be his confidante and knowing what he was thinking and Darcy shutting her down. Seriously, watch it again and tell me Colin Firth is not saying, 'No, I'm not bored; I'm thinking about hot girls who aren't you, suck it'.

I'm writing this story as I have the inspiration so expect an erratic updating schedule, and for only the interesting scenes to appear - but we all know Pride and Prejudice well enough to roll with it, right?