Disclaimer: The author does not own these characters. They are the property of Helen Fielding. No money is being made with this work, and no copyright infringement is intended.

Leap into Love: a Bridget Jones Fanfic

by Eggsbenni221

Part One

"I wanted someone like you, someone I could hold on to and give my love until the end of time.

But forever was just a word, something I'd only heard about, but now you're always there for me. When you say forever, I believe."- Jim Bricman, "Destiny"

-Bridget-

February 28

I'm standing in my kitchen, staring into the refrigerator as my stomach growls in protest at the meager selection it offers: a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, a bottle of wine, and a weak-old container of leftover Chinese takeaway I'd forgotten I had. I realize I should have considered restocking the food supply, especially since Mark is due home from Chicago tonight. As always, I had ambitions of impressing Mark with my culinary skill (or lac thereof). I'd even gone as far as looking up recipes on fancy food blogs. It was the least I could do as a welcome-home gesture, but I'd begun to panic when I saw words like crushed rosemary and freshly-squeezed pepper.

I wrinkle my nose as I open the Chinese take-away carton and stare forlornly at the shriveled noodles. With a sigh, I slam the refrigerator shut and wander into the sitting-room. Flopping onto the sofa, I reach to switch on the telly when my mobile begins to ring. I bounce up to retrieve it, smiling as I glance at the display.

"Hello?"

"Bridget, it's Mark."

"Mark, I was wondering when you'd call. Flight go all right?"

"Yes, we've just landed. Listen," he pauses. "I've got to stop by the office and retrieve some papers I need for an all-day meeting tomorrow, and then I'll come round. All right?" I try to ignore the twinge of disappointment his words provoke.

"A meeting? Tomorrow? All day? I've hardly seen you this last month. You've been away so much. I'd hoped to have some time with you."

"I know, love," Mark says gently. "I'm sorry. We can talk about it later. I'll be there soon."

"I-well, all right."

"I must go. I love you."

We end the call, and I sink back into the sofa cushions, dearly wishing now that I'd taken the time to prepare something in the way of an edible meal. I have only a few minutes to brood on my lack of kitchen skill when the phone rings again. Automatically I reach for it without glancing at the display.

"Hello?"

"Hello, darling!"

I groan into the cushion. "Mum, I-how are you?"

"Splendid, darling. Not interrupting anything, am I?"

"No," I reply.

"Oh, I thought perhaps you'd be with Mark. Isn't he due back from America?"

"Yes, he's just got in-he'll be here soon, so Mum—"

"Then I won't keep you, but Mark's the reason I'm calling, actually." I wince and contemplate chucking the phone out the nearest window.

"Bridget? Are you there?"

"Mmmhm," I offer by way of reply.

"Don't mumble, dear. It's not attractive."

"So, what is it about Mark, then?" I ask.

"How have you two been? Everything going swimmingly?"

"Mum, we're fine. What's this about?"

"Well, I was just thinking, you know, you've been together for some time now, and I'd hate to see you wasting your time in a relationship that wasn't going anywhere and—"

"Mum, I really don't have time for this conversation," I interrupt. "Besides, Mark's not going to rush into anything after, you know, what happened the last time." The name 'Daniel Cleaver' buzzes in the silence on the line until my mother flicks it away like a pesky fly.

"Rubbish, darling. That's all water under the bridge. He's got you now, hasn't he? Surely that business is all behind him."

"Well, we haven't talked about-" my tongue catches on the word-"commitment."

My mother laughs. "Don't be silly, darling. You know how men are about these things, and that's why I was thinking: well, you know what tomorrow is, don't you?"

Fighting a rising sense of panic, I mentally sift through my calendar. "I haven't…forgotten some distant relative's birthday, or anything?" I suggest.

"No, darling. It's Leap Day, of course!"

"I, uh, I don't follow, mum."

"You know, February 29th," she prods.

"OK, and you're driving at…what, precisely?"

"Well, there's always been a tradition of women proposing to men on Leap Day, and I just thought—". Every time I think my mother's schemes to ruin my life have reached their limit of insanity, she proves me wrong.

"Mum, I don't…I mean…you can't possibly think…I couldn't, you know, do…that."

"Don't be silly, Bridget. Of course you could. It's the 21st century. People are a bit more open-minded about that sort of thing nowadays, and besides, it's quite an old tradition, actually."

"I don't mean that, Mum. I mean—"

"OH, I've got to dash, but do think about what I said, and let me know how it turns out! Byee!"

Releasing the breath I've been holding, I drop my phone onto the table beside the sofa and head back into the kitchen, opening the fridge and reaching for the wine bottle in the hope of regaining my equilibrium before Mark arrives.

'My mother is mad,' I think as I rummage through the cupboards. 'Bloody mad. What could she possibly have been thinking?' I suddenly have a flash of that moment several weeks ago when I'd glanced up while dressing for a party to find Mark gazing intently at me, his mouth half-open as if he were about to speak. He'd dropped his gaze when I'd noticed him looking and hadn't said anything. I'd supposed at the time he'd just been working out a delicate way to tell me I'd been trying to force my shoe onto the wrong foot or had got my dress on backward. He couldn't have been thinking of anything more…serious.

"Yes, my mother is mad. Bloody Hell, where's a clean wine glass when you need one?"

"Looking for something?"

I jump and spin round, just managing to keep hold of the glass in my hand. "Mark! I-I didn't hear you come in."

One corner of his mouth turns upward in a half-smile. "That's obvious." He leans against the kitchen door, arms folded as he scrutinizes me, and I notice the sleeves of his shirt are pushed back to the elbows.

"How—"

"Hang on," he interrupts, moving in to kiss me. I taste peppermint and a hint of the scotch he'd probably ordered on the flight home. He raises his head after a pleasant interlude. "There. That's better. Now, you were saying?"

"How was the trip?"

"Long, and over."

"You look tired," I murmur, running my fingertip along the line of his jaw.

He smiles. "And you look like a woman who's been sleeping alone for far too long."

I raise my eyebrows. "Really? Is the strain beginning to show?"

"A bit, but I think we can fix that quite easily." Mark reaches behind me and uncorks the wine. He hands a glass to me, claims the other for himself, and turns back to the sitting-room.

'Mad,' I think again as I follow him to the sofa, struggling to silence the voice in my brain that's trying out 'Mrs. Mark Darcy, wife of top human rights lawyer' to see how it sounds.

"You're rather quiet," observes Mark, sipping his wine and reaching for my hand. "Something troubling you?"

"No," I reply hastily.

Mark smiles and takes another sip of wine. "Come now, Bridget. You always were a dreadful liar."

"No, really," I insist. "It's just my mum. She called a little while ago, and sometimes she can be a bit, you know…"

"Completely mad?" Mark suggests.

I giggle in spite of myself. "Yes, yes, that."

Setting his wine glass aside, Mark slips an arm around my shoulders and pulls me to his chest. "I've missed you, Bridget," he murmurs, resting his cheek against the top of my head.

"I've missed you too," I whisper back. "Have you really got an all-day meeting tomorrow?"

"Hell, I'd forgotten about that for a moment. Yes, unfortunately I have."

"You've been so busy lately," I sigh. "Not that I'm complaining-I know your work is important."

"Yes, what was it you called me-'great legal brain', or something of that sort?" Mark nuzzles my neck affectionately.

"Yes, well, I just…wanted to spend a bit of time with you now you're back."

"I know, love. I'll come round as soon as I've finished. I promise."

I curl my legs beneath me and snuggle into his lap, resting my head against his chest. "All right then."

Mark strokes my head silently for a few minutes before speaking again. "So what's your mother done to upset you this time?"

My body tenses involuntarily, and I try to ignore the clenching of my stomach. "The usual. You know my mum. I'd rather not talk about it if you don't mind."

Mark presses a kiss to my brow. "Let's just forget about it then." He slips his hand beneath my blouse, and as I begin to unbutton his shirt, it's easy to do just that.