Set after episode 31, when everyone is going to the vineyard.
Feeling downcast that Lizzie isn't coming, Darcy decides to stay home, he and Lizzie end up spending an awkward evening alone together …
William Darcy was sprawled diagonally across the double bed in his guest room at Netherfield, lying facedown with a leg dangling off the edge and his blackberry in one hand. Normally he wasn't so … casual in his movements, but he was feeling surprisingly out of sorts after being told that Lizzie wasn't coming on the proposed scenic drive and wine tasting. It had been his idea; he thought she would enjoy getting out of the house since she had complained more than once of having cabin fever, but he had been informed by Caroline at the last minute, literally as they were all about to get into the car, that she was doing something with Charlotte Lu instead.
Suddenly, all of his enthusiasm for the outing had vanished.
Faking that he had received a text (his phone was his crutch when it came to awkward social situations) he said that Gigi wanted to talk to him about something, so they should go on without him.
All three of them had kicked up a fuss, Jane only marginally less so than Bing and Caroline, but he was adamant. Tossing the keys to his rental at Bing, he insisted that they take the convertible anyway and headed back inside before he could be regaled by more entreaties to come.
His phone buzzed in his hand. Without raising his head from where it was mashed into the duvet he opened the message – It was from Caroline.
Hope everything is okay with Gigi, send her my love! Xxx
Rolling onto his back, he pressed speed-dial 1 and waited patiently as the phone rung. He didn't have anything better to do so he figured he may as well call his sister, that way he wouldn't be lying if people (Caroline) asked how his conversation with her went later.
"Wazzup, bro?" Gigi's voice bubbled out of his phone.
He hung up instantly and then grinned.
Seconds later his phone rang again. He could hear Gigi laughing as he answered it. "Sorry, never answering the phone like that again," she giggled. "Everything okay?"
"Of course, why wouldn't it be?" he said, the sound of her voice already perking him up after his earlier disappointment.
"You don't normally call out of the blue, you prefer email," she replied candidly. "Therefore, my spidey-sister-senses tell me that something is up."
"Nothing is up." He paused. "Caroline says hello, she asked me to pass along her compliments for your new twitter."
"Ugh," was Gigi's only response.
"I told her that I'd ask you to call her."
"Damn it, Will! Why would you do that?" she exclaimed. Gigi had very little love for Caroline, finding her more than a little patronising towards her and too absorbed in her looks.
"I caved under social pressure?"
"Nuh uh, not good enough."
"I was … distracted," he confessed.
"Oh yeah? By what?" Gigi asked, sounding far too interested.
By a certain Lizzie Bennet lying on the plush, shag rug in the lounge with her ankles crossed in the air behind her as she read Anna Karenina.
"Nothing important," he said with a sigh.
"Well if I am to brave the wilds of a phone call with Miss Caroline Lee, I expect you to make it up to me."
"The Royale?" he proposed, naming their favourite restaurant in LA.
"You're forgiven." He smiled down the phone – such expressions were rare on him, and Gigi was one of the few people to coax them out.
"So how's school going?" he asked, and they slipped into a long conversation about trivial matters. Gigi always had a calming effect on him. Will gradually let go of his disappointment over Lizzie, after all he hadn't specifically asked her to come and she was certainly within her rights to make other plans. About an hour later, by the time he and his sister said goodbye, he was no longer sprawled on the bed but sitting up straight against the headboard.
The others wouldn't be back for several hours, and he had no idea when Lizzie would be returning. Taking advantage of an empty house, he pulled his laptop towards him and got started on some work. His room was his favourite place to work. It was almost Spartan in its neatness, no stray clothes littering the floor, an immaculately made bed, tidy desk to promote efficiency and a bookcase organised in alphabetical order. It was certainly much better than trying to work in the study, where those damn tropical fish Bing liked so much kept distracting him with their darting movements. Or the library, where he spent every moment wondering if Lizzie would walk in to get a new book. Or worse, the lounge, where Caroline was always looking over his shoulder.
Bing was forever complaining that he was constantly working, but still being in medical school and not the working-world his best friend had yet to realise that work was constant. There was always something to be done, something to be checked over, something that could be improved – Will often felt that his job was simply treading water to keep himself from drowning, never actually swimming.
After two hours of emails, five point plans and several complaints, Will was surprised by his stomach rumbling loudly. He closed his laptop, tossed it onto the duvet and headed downstairs, thinking to ask the Chef if he could knock him up something for dinner.
Will slowed down as he approached the kitchen – no, he wasn't imagining it, there was definitely the sound of someone singing. Rather loudly and off key at times, but instantly familiar.
It appeared Lizzie was home.
He hovered in the open doorway, watching her at the far end of the large, gourmet kitchen. A bright green ipod was plugged into a docking station playing jaunty, modern music that Lizzie was singing along to as she cooked.
"I'm gonna break your little heart, watch you take a fall, laughing all the way to the hospital," she sung, wiggling her hips and shoulders slightly as she chopped vegetables. "'Cos there's nothing surgery can do, when I break your little heart in two."
She was utterly mesmerising, wearing a grey vest top that hugged her light figure and a black skirt, showing her toned legs. She had her hair tied up in a messy ponytail and her feet were bare. Will noticed she had painted her toenails purple.
She just seemed so free in her movements; she could be so prickly, even downright cutting at times, but right now she was relaxed and happy. Some of her dancing was over exaggerated and almost farcical; she was clearly just dancing for fun, not caring about her movements since she thought she was unobserved.
The song changed, switching to something equally nauseating but far more provocative. Lizzie absently turned up the volume, already singing and popping her hips along to the stimulating lyrics of a song apparently called 'Sexy Naughty Bitchy Me.'
Will swallowed as she pranced around, stirring a pot of on the stove, swaying and sashaying to the music. At one point -"I pick all my skirts to be a little too sexy!"- she did a wiggle almost down to the floor, her hands half raising the skirt around her thighs and his knuckles turned white from where his hand was reflexively gripping the door handle. Then, using the spoon she was stirring with as a microphone, she trilled "Just like all my thoughts, they always get a bit naughty," raising one hand to her hair as she did so – and Will was currently having some very naughty thoughts involving the two of them and the kitchen table - or counter - or against the wall, he wasn't fussy really.
She didn't know all of the lyrics so she would occasionally switch to humming or 'da da da-ing' along with the music only to abruptly switch back to singing. She loudly sung a wrong line midway through the song and immediately started laughing at herself. He loved the sound of her laugh and was fortunate enough to hear it often – what was it she had said the other day, when she and Caroline had been teasing him? I dearly love to laugh.
He wondered if he should make his presence known, after all she might notice him at any minute and think he was being creepy by watching her dancing.
Which, let's face it, I kind of am, Will thought, his eyes glued to her form.
But then he had never seen her like this before, ever. Even when they had been at Carters bar (hellhole that it was, at first he had only gone for Bing's sake but then he had hoped to maybe catch a glimpse or conversation or even maybe a drink with Lizzie) playing dance video games she had just been playful, not revealing any hints of this sensual, sexual being in front of him.
Just as he decided to take a few steps back and pretend to walk in for the first time Lizzie sung "Unlike all of my guys, I like 'em tall with money" and he dropped his phone to the floor with a clatter.
She spun around, her spoon poised to be a weapon and he froze like a deer in the headlights, half bending down to pick up his phone.
There was a sudden silence, and then both of them burst into movement. Lizzie dived to turn off the music and Will picked up his phone and straightened his clothes.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded, her fine eyes comically wide. "I thought you went to the vineyard."
Will swallowed and forced his mouth to form words – it was a genuine effort after being taken by surprise by her suddenly noticing him. "That was the intention, but I got a phone call from my sister so I decided to stay and talk to her.
Only a white lie, after all he couldn't exactly say 'without you there going to a wine tasting hardly appealed.'
"But they took your car," Lizzie insisted. It sounded like she was trying to rationalise that he couldn't possibly be present in the kitchen if his car was gone.
"Yes," he said, but that didn't sound like enough. "Bing is insured on it also."
"So you've been here all afternoon too?"
"Yes," he replied, wondering what she meant by 'too.' Had they been in the house alone together? Had he known he wouldn't have barricaded himself in his room, he would have sought her out for some conversation.
There was silence between them.
"You're cooking," Will said, feeling like an idiot for pointing out the obvious.
"Yes," she said, and did he imagine it or was there the hint of a challenge in her voice?
Will edged further into the kitchen, it felt strange talking to her from across the room. "Where's the Chef?"
"I told him he could go home." Lizzie looked a little sheepish. "I thought it was just me here and I don't like being waited on – I mean, who actually has a Chef for their own house?" She laughed slightly, disparagingly, at how the other half live. "I know that might have been overstepping a boundary - he works for Bing, obviously, not me. But we were chatting and he said his daughter was desperate to see this film, so I said I didn't mind cooking for everyone this evening. And Bing doesn't have to pay him if he's not here, so I'm saving people money, right?"
"Right," Will echoed, slightly overwhelmed by the torrent of words that had just erupted from Lizzie's mouth.
"And this kitchen is craaazy," she said, elongating the word into three syllables and gesturing with her spoon. "Couldn't resist trying out some of the toys."
"Would you like some help?" he offered.
"No!" she replied a little too quickly. "No, I'm sure your busy with your – your computer. And your sister. And, you know, work." She smiled at him winningly. "You're always working, busy as a bee, you and that computer …"
"I have already finished all of my urgent business," he said, suddenly grateful for the two hours he had spent in his room.
"But there must be stuff you can get ahead on," Lizzie insisted. "Right?"
"It can wait," he shrugged. "What are you making?"
She sighed softly, and turned to the chopping board, contemplating it, as if she hadn't decided what to cook yet. "Aubergine parmigiana, homemade garlic bread and a salad."
"I'll start on dessert then," he said, taking off his jacket and tossing it over one of the high stools around the kitchen island.
Will went to the large pantry at the end of the kitchen to hunt for ingredients. He wasn't sure what to make yet, so he was going to see what provisions they already had. He was in luck, finding a batch of store-bought chocolate muffins wrapped in plastic. He knew a great recipe that could use crumbled muffins to cut corners if you were in a hurry. Quickly gathering the rest of the ingredients he went to join Lizzie, setting up his workspace a few feet down from her on the counter, the oven between them.
She had put her ipod back on, though thankfully that god-awful dance music (though he certainly hadn't minded her dancing) had changed to a Meatloaf track instead. Now that was music he didn't mind; it reminded him of long car journeys with his father, who would play power ballads in the car.
There was an awkward silence as they both started working. Lizzie appeared to have finished the salad she had been making and was now alternately grilling slices of aubergine and stirring a tomato sauce in a pan on the stove.
"Are you enjoying your stay at Netherfield?" he asked suddenly, appearing to startle her.
"Well yes – I mean no," she corrected herself. "I don't know."
"Those are the three possible answers to that question," Will pointed out wryly, setting up a pan next to hers to start the sauce for the sticky toffee pudding he was making.
Lizzie braced her hands on the counter, her shoulders high, and looked contemplatively at him. "William Darcy, I do believe you just cracked a joke."
"Not at all, I was simply stating a fact," he said, deliberately deadpanning.
She snorted, not sounding particularly amused. He wondered if she had realised he was being sarcastic, but before he could clarify she had started talking again. "What I meant to say is that it's lovely here, really amazing. Nicest house I've ever been in," she added, sounding slightly self-deprecating. Will could easily believe that, given her families' financial situation he wondered if she had ever even stayed in a hotel as nice as Netherfield. "But I am looking forward to going home, I even miss Lydia, believe it or not."
"It's perfectly natural to miss a sibling when separated from them for a long period of time," he pointed out. "I miss Gigi every day."
"How old is she, if you don't mind me asking?" Lizzie questioned, snagging a piece of cucumber from the salad and popping it into her mouth.
"She will be twenty next month."
"That's quite an age difference," she said, leaning towards him to stir her pot on the oven. "I imagine you will probably go back to LA for her birthday, right?"
"Yes," he said, realising that after a months time he may never well see Lizzie again, assuming Bing and Jane's relationship didn't last.
He was distracted from his sudden melancholy by a loud, instantly familiar and undeniably terrible song belting out from the speakers with a southern twang. Once again, Lizzie instantly leapt towards her ipod to change the track – Moody Blues, much better.
"Was that … Cotton-Eye Joe?" Will asked, stifling his amusement.
Lizzie pulled a face, but her eyes were dancing with laughter. "Lydia massacred my playlist, I keep finding these lovely surprises when I put it on shuffle," she explained. "I left my white ipod cable thingy at the house, so I haven't been able to change it."
"I have a dock connector cable if you would like to borrow it," he offered, placing slight emphasise on the proper name for the 'white cable thingy.'
"Oh, no that's okay," Lizzie shrugged him off.
"It's not a problem," he insisted.
"No, it's fine."
"Are you sure?"
Again, silence reigned between them. The song changed again – Poison, Talk Dirty To Me. Will finished crumbling the muffins and mixed in the rest of the ingredients, packing the mixture into five ramekins which just needed to be heated in the oven for a few minutes. Moving towards where Lizzie was standing, he checked on his sauce, giving it a quick stir.
"What are you making?" Lizzie asked suddenly.
"Sticky toffee pudding," he replied – and did she just stifle a laugh? Glancing over to her, he saw that she had her lips pressed tightly together though she was smiling.
"Smells good," she said, raising her eyebrows ever so slightly.
There was silence again for two tracks – Katy Perry and (god help him) a Disney song. The music changed to Journey and Lizzie started to hum and jiggle again as she filled a ceramic dish with the chopped vegetables and tomato sauce. She didn't seem to realise she was humming, so Will said nothing, not wanting her to spook when she remembered his presence. Instead he merely watched her out of the corner of his eye, her hand movements far too dramatic for the simple task of arranging food.
"Voila!" she said with a final flourish, a beaming grin on her face. Noticing him staring at her she adopted a sheepish expression. "I've finished, it just needs to bake for half an hour or so before the others get home."
"I too am nearly done," he said, giving the sticky toffee sauce a final stir.
"That was quick." Lizzie was busy scraping her vegetable peelings into the bin and tidying her work area.
"It's an easy recipe."
It's Gigi's favourite, he thought. Could I tell her that? How it's a recipe simple enough for children to make, and that I remember helping Gigi cook this while she was standing on a chair to reach the oven, a look of absolute concentration on her face.
Just as he was considering telling her that story – Gigi's voice echoing in his head, telling him to "open up, start conversations, actually speak to people, Will!" – Lizzie appeared at his shoulder, peering into the pan he was stirring. He delighted at how close she was standing to him.
"Can I try some?"
In lieu of a reply he lifted the spoon from the pan and held it out towards her, one hand raised underneath to catch the drips. Too late, he noticed the spoon in her own hand, poised ready to dip into the mixture.
There was an awkward pause, but just as he was about to lower his hand Lizzie shrugged ever so slightly and leant forward, lightly pecking at the spoon in his hand.
"Oh my god, that's orgasmic!" she exclaimed, briefly closing her eyes in pleasure as she licked the remnants from her lips.
Will stared, wholly transfixed – what he hadn't realised was that Lizzie saw his expression as disapproving and immediately started back-tracking.
"I mean, it's very good – delicious, even."
"Thank you," he stuttered out, overwhelmed by the sudden, erotic images of what, precisely, could be done with the sticky toffee sauce and Lizzie's svelte body.
His rather pleasant musings were shattered by the Crazy Frog ringtone blaring out from Lizzie's phone. He scowled in confusion and, noticing this, Lizzie rolled her eyes and explained, 'Lydia again. She programmed it into my phone, I haven't figured out how to change it yet."
Turning her back to him, she answered the phone. "Hello? Jane, hi! You guys having a good time?"
Surprisingly enough, her bad grammar didn't bother him – he normally corrected anyone other than Gigi, who only did it to annoy him. While he was watching her on the phone Will surreptitiously finished the spoonful of sauce Lizzie had sampled from, inwardly thrilling that his mouth was touching where hers had momentarily been.
Get a hold of yourself, old boy, he thought.
"Oh, oh okay." Lizzie's shoulders slumped slightly. "Yeah, it's no problem … sounds like fun! Don't worry about it, it'll see you later."
She hung up the phone and turned back to him, anxiously tapping her iphone against the palm of her hand. "They found this little Italian place, so they decided to eat out.
"I see," he said, wondering why she looked so put out – he was rather pleased, more time alone with Lizzie. "Well, more for us then."
"I … beg your pardon?"
"Were you planning on letting dinner just go to waste?"
"Well no, but -"
"I, for one, am rather hungry."
"Yeah, but this … this is far too much for both of us, it can keep in the fridge for tomorrow."
Will stared at her, trying to figure out if she didn't want to eat with him for some reason. What he hadn't realised was that his stare was unnerving Lizzie, who decided to backtrack her refusal. "Or, you know, now is fine."
Lizzie put the food in the oven, setting the timer. Will carried the remaining pots and utensils they had used over to the sink and started running the tap to rinse them.
"What do you have planned for after dinner?" he asked without looking at her, adding washing-up liquid to the sink.
"Probably just a movie, thought I would make use of the big TV in the living room," she leant against the counter, a dreamy look coming over her face. "How about you, what will you be doing? Back to work?"
Will turned off the tap and hesitated just a moment before saying, "Actually I thought I would join you." It came out as more of a question than a statement.
"If you don't mind, of course," he added hastily.
"Of course," she repeated. "No, it's fine."
Her phone rang again, the Crazy Frog ringtone startling them both – Lizzie visibly jumped, since she was still holding the phone in one hand. She cast an exasperated look his way, then glanced down at the phone. "It's Charlotte, do you mind if I take this?"
"Not at all," he insisted.
She answered the phone as she headed out of the kitchen door. "Hey Charlotte, did you get the video? Yeah, no point deleting the last one after what Caroline said …" she said, her voice trailing away as she moved further from the kitchen.
The ipod was currently playing ACDC, so he didn't bother changing the track as he finished rinsing the pots, loading them into the dishwasher and wiping down the surfaces. After some searching he managed to find where the plates were kept. He wondered whether they should eat in the dining room, but then decided that it would be better to set the table on the kitchen island. More casual that way.
Could this count as a – sort of – date? It was the first time the two of them have ever really been alone together …
As an after thought he went down to the cellar and selected a rather expensive bottle of red wine from Bing's collection, leaving it on the counter to breathe.
He opened the oven to check on the food and was overwhelmed by a heavenly scent, Lizzie's dish smelt amazing. He definitely needed to add 'ability to cook' onto his list of what makes a together woman.
Waiting for Lizzie to come back, he occupied himself by looking over her ipod. Scrolling down her list of artists he noticed just how diverse the content was. The fact that she had artists like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Bob Dylan mixed in was just about enough to compensate for the disturbing presence of Nicki Minaj and One Direction – though surely that was Lydia's doing again, right?
Flicking over to her playlists, he saw that they were ordered by mood and activity. He found a 'Chilled-out' playlist, filled with artists like David Bowie, Phil Collins and Coldplay and set it to play during dinner.
"What are you doing?" Lizzie's voice came from behind him as he was bent over the docking station, sounding vaguely accusing.
"Just examining your playlists," he said truthfully. "You have … eclectic music tastes."
She rolled her eyes slightly and noticed the plates, wine glasses and cutlery set out on the kitchen island. "We're eating in here?"
"Less formal than the dining room, wouldn't you say?" he said, hoping she approved.
Lizzie shrugged. "No complaints here."
"Wine?" Will offered, scooping the bottle up from where it rested on the counter.
Lizzie took it from his hands and tilted it to read the label. "Ah, Chateau L'Evangile," she said, deliberately butchering the French pronunciation. "A common vintage, with a splendid bouquet and rich colour."
"You know wines?" he asked a little hesitantly, since very few people would call Chateau L'Evangile common.
"Not in the slightest," she said cheerfully, pouring them both two healthy glasses. She slid his along the counter and then raised her own, tilting it towards him. "Clink clink?" she coaxed, wiggling her glass slightly.
He tapped his glass lightly to hers, making a satisfying ring.
As they started dinner Will asked her what movie she wanted to watch – and since no conversation between them was ever simple, they immediately launched into a spirited argument over the merits of their favourite films, eventually deciding on the Back To The Future trilogy.
Their conversation about films led them into a discussion of books. It turned out Lizzie had minored in English Literature, so she was surprisingly well informed. He silently decided to read Tolstoy after she made a disparaging remark about the fact that he had never read it – then he would surprise her by slipping a reference into conversation, it would be like a private joke between them.
As books turned to politics Will realised he had not spoken this much to one person at a single time since he had last seen Gigi. Of course, they didn't agree on everything, but the conversation was intelligent and eloquent, something he had found lacking in a house filled with Bing and Jane (whom he had dubbed the 'congenial couple' in his head since they never seemed to disagree on anything) and the insipid Caroline.
"I haven't had a debate this intense since the semester finished," Lizzie said at one point, pausing to take a sip of her wine.
"Indeed," Will said, pleased how the evening was progressing. "I am surprised you are so eloquent considering you haven't yet finished grad-school."
"Well, I do try," she replied, sarcasm thick in her tone.
"Have you considered a career in politics? I think you would be a good public speaker," he said, helping himself to seconds.
This suggestion led them to an intense discussion (he loved that she could keep up with him intellectually) about the degeneration of the government and the voting system.
She was firm in her opinions and rigorous in her defence of them. His every argument and counter-argument was torn apart, examined and dissected with her ruthless intellect and cutting gaze. She asked for no quarter and he gave none, drilling her mercilessly in return until they were both forced to find new justifications for their opinions lest they loose the battle of wills.
It was an invigorating, stimulating discussion and he found Lizzie sexy as hell when she was all fired up, those fine eyes flashing at him as she battled back with words.
Eventually, some time after they had both cleared their plates, Lizzie threw up her hands in frustration. "Gah, you are …"
"For having an opinion that's different to yours?" he asked, in a deliberately mild tone.
"Yes!" Lizzie paused, then laughed at herself. "No, I didn't mean that. For putting the other side so eloquently … I'm not saying you're right, but you're making me think I might have been too prejudiced."
"You too present a good argument," Will said, happy to give credit where it was due. "Should I ever feel the need to play devils advocate when discussing the electoral process you have given me several strong points to work from."
She snorted derisively. "So what you're basically saying is 'you're wrong Lizzie, but thanks for playing.'"
"That's not what I said at all," he replied with a scowl.
"I was paraphrasing."
"You were deliberately misunderstanding me again."
Lizzie rolled her eyes. "We went over this earlier, how can you deliberately misunderstand someone?"
"You seem to do it with great ease."
"Are you always this argumentative with people?" she asked, leaning towards him.
"Only with you," he said honestly, giving her a small, shy, sideways smile.
She shook her head, looking equal parts amused and exasperated. "You are impossible to talk to."
He frowned slightly, thinking of all the people who had told him something similar over the years. He wasn't the most sociable person, it was true, but he was trying. And surely Lizzie was only being sarcastic since they had been talking fluently for the past hour or so to the extent that they had almost neglected their dinner.
Oh yes, he was definitely in danger of falling in love with her, no one but Gigi, Bing and maybe Fitz bought him out of his shell this much.
"So I've been told," he said lightly to her in reply, topping up her wine glass.
Lizzie placed both hands over her stomach and slumped back on her chair. "I'm stuffed. Nothing like a good argument to make you savour your food, huh Darcy?" she said with the barest hint of sarcasm.
"It was an enjoyable meal," he said, frowning in concentration as he tried to remember when he had last enjoyed a meal this much.
"Thanks," Lizzie said, her voice dry.
"Do you think you could manage dessert," he asked, and was amused to see her perk up instantly.
"I thought we could eat in the lounge while we watched the film," he suggested, thinking it would be a more intimate, casual setting.
"Sounds good to me," she said, standing up and starting to clear their plates, pausing by the docking station to turn the volume up on the David Bowie song it was playing.
She rinsed everything and loaded the dishwasher, humming along to Rebel Rebel the whole time. Will warmed up the desserts and added the finishing touches, a liberal pouring of the hot, sticky toffee sauce and a dollop of cream to each.
As he handed one of the ramekins to her their fingers brushed. Cliché as it sounds, he could have sworn he felt a spark – it was the first time he had actually touched her since they had danced at the Gibson wedding – but she didn't seem to notice anything.
Instead she was occupied in dipping her finger into the sauce, no doubt to taste it again.
To stop himself doing anything rash (like grabbing her wrist and licking the sauce off her finger himself) he turned on his heel and headed out of the kitchen towards the lounge. Lizzie was following in his wake, and he heard the faint popping sound of her finger being pulled from her mouth as she finished sucking the sauce from the tip.
Just think of baseball. Or football. Or Aunt Catherine and her ridiculous asthmatic dog – ah, that did the trick.
He perched on the far end of Bing's enormous sofa and watched Lizzie flit around the room, plucking the DVD from the shelf and placing it into the machine. Her movements were so light and lilting it was almost like watching a dance.
As she sat down on the other end of the sofa, remote in hand, Will realised in dismay that there was more than enough room for two extra people to sit between them. He should have sat in the middle of the sofa so that they would be closer together. Oh well, he couldn't shift places now. Lizzie might think he was trying to make a move. Which he wasn't, he told himself. She wasn't right for him, no matter how bewitching her eyes were or how lively her conversation was or how the way she had danced in the kitchen has caused all of his blood to migrate abruptly south.
Still, that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy her company while he was here.
Will was woken up in the morning by the pale dawn light streaming through the French doors of the lounge. Rubbing his eyes blearily, he wondered why he was sprawled uncomfortably on the couch – then, sitting up suddenly, he looked over to where Lizzie had been sat.
She had fallen asleep midway through the second movie, curled up tight into a Lizzie-shaped ball at the corner of the sofa. Instead of paying attention to the film he had spent an inordinate amount of time simply studying her face (it wasn't really fair to his sanity that her skin should be that pretty and soft-looking) and watching the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest as she slept. It was wonderful to see her like this, so relaxed and peaceful – it felt intimate, and he was pleased that she apparently was comfortable and relaxed enough in his presence to allow herself to fall asleep.
When he was changing the second disk for the third (he had to have something on in the background, some reason to stay in the room, otherwise he would just feel like a creeper staring at her) she had shivered slightly in her sleep, which was unsurprising considering the thin vest top she was wearing. So he had grabbed the blanket from the other chair and tucked it gently around her. As he did so she had clutched it in her hands, drawing it closer and snuggling into it with a sigh and a mumble.
But now, in the bright morning light, she was nowhere to be seen, and he was surprised to find the blanket that he had carefully wrapped around her falling half off him instead and onto the floor.
Rearranging the pillow so that there was actually something other than the armrest beneath his head, he stretched fully out along the length of the couch, staring up at the ceiling. She may not have stayed in the lounge when she woke up, but she put the blanket over him when she left. That had to mean something.
"Oh Charlotte, it was horrible! He's just so … blegh!" Lizzie exclaimed, sitting in a cosy coffee shop with her best friend, enjoying a rant about her least favourite person. "I had to deal with his stupid douchy face and judgey look all night! And the way he corrects people!" She slipped into her Darcy impression. "'Uh, actually it's called a dock connector cable, Lizzie, how is it you're in grad school again?'"
"I'm sure you're exaggerating, Lizzie," Charlotte said mildly, stirring her cappuccino.
"I don't exaggerate," she said, chagrined.
"I think many of our viewers would disagree," Charlotte pointed out with a small smile.
"He was judging my playlists!" Lizzie said defensively. "I'm allowed to be annoyed, my ipod is like my baby."
"This guy sure knows how to get under your skin."
"And then comes the judging, disapproving looks …" she continued.
"Here we go," Charlotte said resignedly, taking a sip of her coffee.
"Oh come on, this bit is actually funny!" she insisted, waiting for Charlotte to indicate her interest until she launched into the story. It took about five seconds before Charlotte sighed and gave her a pointed look. "So at one point I tried his sticky toffee sauce and, without thinking, I said that it was orgasmic -"
"You've really got to stop using that as an adjective, Lizzie," she interrupted, pulling a slightly disapproving face at her.
"Yeah, I know," Lizzie laughed mockingly at herself. "I think it's a Lydia-ism that I've picked up, it just popped out. But the point is, when I said that he just stared at me, gave me the proper stink eye!"
"Maybe he was just surprised?" Charlotte suggested.
"Not to mention he tried to hand feed it to me – I mean, who does that?" Lizzie said, on a roll here.
"Yeah, though the sauce was amazing." She paused to take a sip of her rapidly cooling, over-priced latte. "Darcy may be a douche, but he whips up a mean sticky toffee pudding." She grinned at Charlotte and leaned forward. "Also, hearing him say sticky in that overly enunciated, must-pronounce-everything-correctly voice of his was insanely funny."
"He hand fed you?"
"Sticky. Stiiicky," Lizzie said in a falsely proper voice, practically ignoring Charlotte. "I had to stop myself laughing, I think he noticed."
"And it was just the two of you?" Charlotte said, the serious tone of her voice alerting Lizzie to the fact that her friend more interested in the dynamic of the evening than her making an idiot of herself in front of him.
"Yeah, why do you ask?"
"Dinner, wine, dessert and a movie?" Charlotte clarified.
Lizzie rolled her eyes. "He didn't even help me set up the movie, he just threw himself into a seat as if he expected me to do all of the work. And he didn't thank me for the dinner. He just said 'it was an enjoyable meal.' Well thanks very much Darcy, next time the Chef is away you can just go hungry."
"It sounds like a date," Charlotte said, a slow smile spreading across her face.
Lizzie stopped in her ranting tracks. "Come again now?"
"A date," she said smugly. "Two people spending time together, partaking in food and romantic activities …"
"Okay, it was not a date," Lizzie drawled sardonically at her best friend. "For it to be a date one or both of us would have to have a romantic interest in the other, and I am certain that Darcy hates me as much as I hate him."
"Still sounds like a date," she said, clearly not wanting to let this one go.
"We spent the entire dinner arguing! How many dates have you spent like that?"
"Arguing or debating? Because there is a difference – and I seem to remember on your questions and answers video that you ideal man would be someone who you could have a debate with." Charlotte sounded far too pleased with herself as she pointed this out.
"Arguing," Lizzie deadpanned. "He actually said 'if I ever feel the need to play devils advocate you have provided me with several adequate points, but I am still right and you can't change my mind,'" she said, slipping back into her pretentious Darcy voice again.
"Oh really, he actually said that?" she asked, raising her eyebrows disbelievingly.
"It's called paraphrasing, Charlotte."
Charlotte primly took another sip of her coffee. "Sounds to me like he was trying to compliment your thought process whilst sticking to his own opinion."
"Sounds to me like you're trying to defend him," she accused.
"Only because you're condemning him," Charlotte replied with a shrug.
"I'm not condemning him, I just don't like the guy."
Charlotte leant forward over the table, her expression serious. "Lizzie, have you ever considered that those feelings might not be mutual?"
Lizzie drew her eyebrows together. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, that I think Darcy likes you," she said slowly and simply with the air of someone delivering news that the other person didn't want to hear.
"Whaaat?" Lizzie said, refusing to take this nonsense seriously. "Now you're being ridiculous."
"Am I?" Charlotte challenged.
"Well I still want to get a second opinion here. I'm going to see what Jane says."
"You know she's going to agree with me, right?" Lizzie pointed out. "She's seen first hand all of our bickering and Darcy's creepy staring."
"Staring because he likes you?" she said in a sing song voice.
"More like he is trying to blow up my brain with his mind," Lizzie corrected condescendingly.
"If you say so Lizzie, but I am still asking Jane what she thinks."
"You know what, I just – I don't want to talk about Darcy anymore. He is just so … blegh!"
Charlotte looked at Lizzie interestedly, who was compulsively stirring her coffee. "Fine with me."
Lizzie was glad she hadn't told Charlotte that when she had woken up in the wee hours of the morning, having fallen asleep at one end of the massive sofa, she had been snugly wrapped in a blanket. Darcy had been asleep at the other end of the sofa, slouched over the armrest and concertinaed up like a puppet whose strings had been cut, their feet only just touching in the middle of the sofa. His face had been illuminated by the menu screen of Back To The Future three playing on repeat, the movie having finished.
It was strange, but in the flickering light of the television screen his face hadn't looked like its usual mask. Instead he'd looked content, though strangely fragile without his customary stern expression.
Lizzie had shivered; she was chilly even with the blanket wrapped firmly around her, so Darcy must have been freezing.
Getting up from the sofa, she had turned off the TV, thrown the blanket haphazardly over Darcy and retreated to her room.
It wasn't until the next day, when she received her customary phone call from her mother to encourage her to leave Jane and Bing alone as much as possible, that she discovered that Darcy had apparently commandeered her phone and changed the ringtone while she slept.
He probably just didn't want to be subjected to the Crazy Frog every time her phone rang during her stay at Netherfield – after all, there was no way he could have possibly known that Rebel Rebel was her favourite David Bowie song.
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