Not for the first time, Darcy comes home from work to find her freaking out.
He's not usually this late to arrive home, but he'd called ahead, so he knows it can't be anger at him, nor would it be worry for him. That leaves two things: work and family.
It turns out that, as much as Lizzie hates the way her mother panics, Lizzie also tends to love a good panic herself. He knows it's a sore subject, especially because all her videos are is basically one big panic. But it doesn't matter. She doesn't make them anymore, and therefore he can't really use them against her. Not that he'd want to. Both of them are more than okay with keeping the more sensitive parts of their past out of arguments- it's the ultimate form of anger if one of them uses it, and so far it's only happened twice.
That's why he's very careful when he walks into their dark bedroom to find her on the floor in pajamas, the TV blaring silently behind her, yelling into a cell phone and sitting amidst several thousand pieces of paper. He doesn't want to say anything that will cause her to launch into a rant that will destroy all plans that he has for the evening, which is supposed to include a Colin Firth movie (they always seem to get her going), a glass of wine, and the very comfortable couch that spends its time in Lizzie's favorite living room in the house. This is the reason that Darcy merely leans down, kisses her on the lips, and waits patiently on the edge of the bed until she's off the phone. Then, he crouches down onto the floor with her and lifts one of the papers.
"What's all this?" he asks.
"Work stuff," she sighs, seeming exhausted.
"Can I look at it?" Darcy inquires, sitting down cross legged next to her on the floor.
"Nope," Lizzie says warningly, her eyes narrowing to remind him that by no means is he allowed to read anything of hers that is work related. She has this odd insistence to be treated as any other employee is, which he finds to be ridiculous, but it was her stipulation for coming to work for his company. Being treated as any other employee meant that he wasn't allowed to read her work reports while naked in the bath with her. He'd actually learned this the hard way.
"Sorry," he says, grinning a little bit. Immediately, he can see her mouth quirk up into a smile, as it does whenever she makes him laugh. She prides herself in that ability, and seeing as she knew him without knowing his smile or laugh for so long, she makes it her second job to cause him to laugh as much as she possibly can. It's one of the things that he loves about being with her- how much she adores his smile, and how much he adores giving it to her. "Who was on the phone?"
"Jane," Lizzie says shortly, body stiffening again as she thinks of the phone call that she'd just hung up. "They've been married for less than a year and mom just sent her this."
Here, she handed Darcy her phone. He squinted down at it, seeing a picture of a red t-shirt with the words written upon it: it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a fortune and a wife must be in want of a baby. He lets out a snort of laughter, causing Lizzie to give him a reproachful glare. Hoping to appease her, he lifts her hand up, places her phone in her palm, and kisses the engagement ring that is lying on her finger. It works. He does a very strange mental dance in his head before turning the hand over and kissing it, this time landing on the back of her hand.
"I don't think it's as bad as you think it is."
"Jane isn't ready to be a mom, and our lovely mother insists on spending actual money on hinting to her that she needs to get pregnant and fast. Jane was worried that if she didn't get knocked up soon, the shirt would be a waste of money."
"Well, it would."
"William Darcy, I-"
"Lizzie," he says, silencing her with a finger on her lips. She stares at him petulantly, and for a second he wonders if she's forgotten. Forgotten how different he is around her now, how he can be sarcastic and witty and playful. Sometimes, when she gets all caught up in herself, she forgets that he can almost match her blow for blow sometimes, and he never fails to surprise her in those moments. He sees her stumble over her words for a moment, so surprised to be stopped mid-rant because she's so used to merely ranting at a camera, and honestly, it's enough for him to fall in love with her all over again. "You know Jane. She's your sister. She isn't going to do something that she'll regret like get pregnant just because your mom wants her to."
"She bent on the fish versus steak at the wedding," Lizzie points out, wrinkling her nose. "She doesn't even like fish."
"Brides don't get to eat anyways."
"I'm eating at our wedding," Lizzie informs him, raising two eyebrows. "I didn't order that many cream puffs just to have them taken away from me because I have to dance with my new husband."
"I think your priorities are absolutely straight there," Darcy tells her, nodding to emphasize his point. "Seriously, spot on."
"I will share the cream puffs with you."
"Why thank you, Elizabeth. That makes me feel so much better about the fact that you care more about cream puffs than dancing with me."
"You're the most awkward dancer ever!"
"I offered to take classes."
She pauses and wrinkles her nose, only good argument taken away from her.
"The problem is, I've grown to like you awkward," she says quietly.
"Oh, Lizzie," he breathes, leaning down to kiss her. "You're ridiculous."
"You're… awkward," she accuses against his lips, and he laughs and moves his lips up to kiss her cold nose.
"That's new," Darcy mentions sarcastically, his lips going down to her throat.
"Well," she says, and then she seems to lose track of her thoughts for a few seconds. "Well," she continues a few minutes later, still flustered. "I've grown to like you the way you are. So sue me."
He pulls back, looks her dead in the eyes, then says,
"I'm not going to sue you."
He can see a little shiver go through her body and knows how much she enjoys hearing him say those words. It's like another 'I love you' for the two of them. He doesn't know when it became that way or even why, but they've grown to love it. Lizzie calls it their 'okay', referencing one of her favorite books, but Darcy's never read it and he doesn't get the reference.
"Oh god, you really do know how to get a girl going, don't you?" Lizzie says, rolling her eyes.
"Maybe just this one," he offers helpfully.
She pulls back, thoughtful.
"That's true. You'd probably be useless with any other female that you're attempting to have a romantic relationship with. Good thing you already proposed to me. Your sexless days are completely behind you."
"Oh, because I'm sure you were getting laid so much wearing a newsie hat and bowtie on camera twice a week."
"That burn was justified," concedes Lizzie.
"I know," Darcy smirks.
Her serious face vanishes, and she breaks out into an enormous smile. She gets up off of the floor, wincing as she moves, and he can tell she's been there for a while. He's up before she is, so he gives her his hand and allows her to use it to boost herself off of the floor.
"Ever the gentlemen, even when the woman is sporting a pajama bottoms, and a messy ponytail. I at least would have thought your standards included makeup," Lizzie comments as she flicks on the light to the bedroom. It washes over the room, causing them both to blink rapidly at the sudden light. Darcy bends over to grab the remote and turns the TV off before getting up and following Lizzie down the stairs and through the hallways until they reach the kitchen. She's already got the popcorn out, ready to pop, and Bridget Jones' Diary lies happily on the coffee table three rooms away. Lizzie had found his childhood home to be far too big, so she'd picked a series of rooms that centered around the kitchen and claimed them for the rooms that they would do their main living in. The rest of the house is largely ignored nowadays, yet Darcy doesn't think he'd ever felt so at home before she'd completely abducted it and turned his entire living situation into something totally different. He likes the way she wants to live, which is part of the reason he'd proposed so soon in the first place. Maybe he should have waited longer than a year to go for the proposal, but as soon as he'd seen the way she'd transformed his house into someplace livable and cozy, he'd known that this was the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with, and, most importantly, the woman he wanted to be raising his children.
He leans against the counter and watches as she pops the popcorn, chatting happily about something that had to do with Charlotte, but he doesn't listen, so entranced by her liveliness and her sparkling eyes and the fact that he's seen her in extremely fancy dresses and yet he still doesn't think he's ever seen her look more beautiful than during times such as now, when she's filled with happiness and content and so beautifully alive. She has more quirks than anybody he knows, but somehow that's the reason he loves her the most.
"Will?" Lizzie says, breaking off hastily. "Are you even listening to me?" He stutters for a few seconds before she saves him by saying, "I just asked whether you'd rather dress up as a robot or a unicorn at our rehearsal dinner, so I'm going to take that as a no." She frowns, biting her lip. "Something you need to talk about?"
"For once," he says, "no, actually. Everything is perfect right now. Which is what I was thinking about, as a matter of fact."
From the look on her face, he can tell that she is once again stunned by him. She'd told him long ago (words induced by wine and a very good date) that she had always expected him to be the kind of guy that attempted to express his love through buying things instead of using words, but as soon as he'd gotten comfortable around her, that idea of him had been demolished. He likes thinking up creative ways to show her how much he loves her now, just to challenge himself and to prove past-Lizzie wrong. He doesn't ever want past-Lizzie to be right, as past-Lizzie hated him and thought him to be pompous and rude and prideful and wasn't in love with him. Regressing to that place would definitely be a problem, as they are getting married in a month.
"Have you been reading my romance novels before bed again?" Lizzie teases, but her eyes are curious, wondering what had brought on the sudden bout of emotion in his countenance. He knows that he's gotten easier to read overtime- and getting to talk to Gigi about his mannerisms and moods had definitely been a help in that for Lizzie- but sometimes he is so closed off that she can't read him or understand where he is going with certain things. Like now, when this has come out of nowhere. Instead of being helpful and quenching her curiosity, he decides to answer her half-joking question with another question.
"When did you really, really know that you wanted to marry me?" he asks, and she almost does a double take at how random this question is. This isn't a when did you fall in love with me or even the more common and ever more romantic when did you stop loathing me with every fiber of your being? He's never asked her this before. Her finger hits the button to stop the microwave as she mulls over his words, and Lizzie absentmindedly pulls out the popcorn, miraculously avoiding burning her finger as she does so.
"Your idea of the perfect night is snuggling on the couch, drinking glasses of wine, and watching movies that I enjoy. You're so socially incompetent that people on the internet call you 'awkward turtle'. You dance with me at weddings and parties even though you're unusually uncomfortable with even the smallest forms of PDA. And ever since you told me that you love me that first time, you have been working steadily and tirelessly to change yourself into a person that is good and loveable for me, someone that I could respect. You succeeded. You bettered yourself when you realized how wrong you were, and it makes me fall in love with you every day. So I don't know when exactly I knew I wanted to marry you- maybe I didn't know until you asked. But, Will, you have become one of the most selfless men that I know, and in the end I love your flaws as much as you love my quirks. So there was never going to be a no once you asked, anyways."
His mouth goes dry, but he manages to emit a quick (but not nearly witty enough), "I see that useless college degrees make you good with words," before she's launched herself at him and is kissing him. She doesn't even seem to care that his sharp remark is less than up to the usual standards.
"Now, don't take what I'm about to say the wrong way," she murmurs against his lips, "but maybe we can skip the Bridget Jones for the night."
"How can that be taken the wrong way?" he questions, and his heart speeds up involuntarily at how so very close she is to him. Even now, after such a long time with her, small moments like these make it hit him like a wave, how they're together and how he's never going to experience that same painful longing ever again because now he has her forever and he's not going to do anything that's going to make her want to let him go.
"First of all," Lizzie starts, leading him up the stairs, "one could assume that this is an insult to Colin Firth, which is absolutely untrue, as, in spite of the age he is gaining, he is still the second sexiest man I've ever seen besides you."
They reach the bedroom. She doesn't even bother to turn the lights on.
"Second of all?" Darcy asks.
"You could misconstrue that sentence and the walking up the stairs thing to mean that I actually want to sleep."
"Ah, yes," he agrees. "That would be a problem."
And then, because she's already asked and he's so unselfish, he shuts the door very tightly behind himself.