Merry Christmas everyone! Just a short-ish story for the festive season – enjoy, and don't forget to review!
The New Years Eve party at Pemberley Inc was in full swing, with less than an hour left until the midnight countdown. Lizzie Bennet sashayed over to the drinks table with her party hat askew to get herself a top up of champagne – her last one, since she was beginning to lean over the edge of tipsy into drunkenness and didn't want to make a fool of herself in front of the Darcy's or her new friends at Pemberley.
Darcy, enigma that he was, had spent most of the evening milling around the room and talking to his employees. Lizzie had been amazed at the difference in him: while retaining his air of authority he had the respect of the younger generation and a certain camaraderie with the older workers (several of whom had regaled her with rather charming tales of a serious, but occasionally mischievous, little boy who had been curious about absolutely everything whenever his father bought him into work).
He was standing with his arms crossed over his crisp shirt and braces as he spoke to several of the secretaries, one hand loosely dangling a bottle of beer that he hadn't taken a single sip of. They appeared to be attempting to convince him to wear a party hat or some tinsel, which he was stoically refusing. While it was obvious to those who knew him that he didn't find tonight's role of 'boss and friend' easy, it was clear that he was trying his very best to be social this evening.
"You're staring at my brother again," a light, lilting voice said from behind her.
"I was not," Lizzie immediately denied, turning around to face the owner of the voice.
Gigi Darcy grinned widely at her, her own party hat falling off her head and hanging by its elastic around her neck. The young woman had been a pleasant surprise during her visit to shadow Pemberley, eager to meet The Lizzie Bennet her brother had told her so much about. She was a vivacious, playful girl in the privacy of their penthouse home, where Lizzie had the pleasure of staying with them the past weekend, but retreated into shyness in public. Apparently to few bottles of beer Fitz had been sneakily giving her had the effect of boosting her confidence at this work party.
"You totally were," she said, throwing an arm around her shoulders. "And it's cool – I mean, pay back is fair. He stares at you, like, all the time."
She frowned abruptly, her expression eerily similar to her brothers. "I probably shouldn't have said that." Apparently the alcohol had loosened her tongue. She shrugged slightly and continued. "I can't believe you have to go home tomorrow, can't you stay longer?"
Lizzie smiled at the fake pout. "Gigi, you know I already had to extend my stay to be here tonight. I was meant to go home Friday evening."
"And have you miss out on the awesome weekend you spent with us?" she said in mock horror. "I wasn't going to let that happen."
After having spent several days at Pemberley, only meeting Gigi twice when she had come in to visit her brother, the younger girl had shyly approached her (she couldn't figure out whether or not Darcy had prompted her into it) and asked if she would like to stay the weekend, as well as attending the office party for New Years Eve.
Eager to get to know Gigi better, and reluctantly curious about the new, more relaxed Darcy she kept inexplicably bumping into around the office, Lizzie had happily accepted. But when she had started to call the hotel she had been staying at to extend her stay, Gigi had immediately kicked up a fuss – it turned out Lizzie had just accepted an offer to be their personal guest for the next three days, staying in the guest room of their penthouse apartment.
"It really was amazing, I had loads of fun," she said honestly – and she had enjoyed herself, despite one or two awkward moments between her and Darcy. Most particularly when she had collided him half naked, coming out of one of the bathrooms with only a towel wrapped around his waist, his hair dripping and tousled. Lizzie shook her head at the memory and pulled Gigi into a hug. "I'm going to miss you, Gigi."
"You're not getting rid of me that easy, I fully expect to see you very soon," she broke away and looked at her excitedly. "Here, let me give you my number and next time you visit your sister – or you, know, if you're in LA for any reason" (she sent a surreptitious glance towards her brother) "you give me a call, okay?"
"Absolutely," Lizzie said, handing her phone over so Gigi to put her number in.
As she handed back the phone, Darcy appeared at her shoulder.
"Oh look, here's Will now!" Gigi grinned at her brother and looked between the two of them. "Right, I'm going to go … talk to Fitz." She paused, her head tilting from side to side as she kept glancing between them. "Yeah. So I'll just … leave you guys to it." She scooped up a beer from the table and backed away with a smile. "Okay, bye!"
Darcy had one eyebrow quirked, watching his sister vanish into the crowd. "… She has all the subtlety of a brick in the back of the head doesn't she?" he deadpanned.
Lizzie laughed – over the past few days she had become accustomed to Darcy's very dry sense of humour. "She's a really great kid, I'm glad I was able to meet her."
They observed the party silently for a while. "Are you having a good time?" he asked quietly.
"Most definitely," she said, smiling up at him.
He shifted his weight uncomfortably, passing the beer bottle between his hands. "I'm pleased you could stay for the party."
"Me too." Lizzie bit her lip, then glanced at him. "I really have enjoyed myself. It's … a brilliant company you've got here."
Darcy acknowledged her with a brief nod, not meeting her eyes – while she would have previously seen this as pride and arrogance, she recognised it now as modesty and awkwardness at being complimented.
She nodded towards the bottle in his hands. "Are you enjoying your stage prop?"
He turned to face her, his brow furrowed. "I beg your pardon?"
"I saw Gigi pass you her empty bottle when she had finished it earlier."
There was the smallest hint of a smile on his face as he realised he had been caught out. "Protective camouflage, no one will give you another drink if you already have one in your hand."
"Do you drink?" she asked curiously, remembering that whenever Bing would have a beer in Netherfield Darcy would be nursing a bottle of mineral water.
"No, not much," he said, fiddling with the paper label on the bottle. "I never really got into the habit."
She waited for him to elaborate, her head tilted to one side.
Seeing her curiosity, he continued. "I very rarely drink to get drunk, but I prefer wines or scotch when I do drink. I was never one to frequent the … keggers at my university." Lizzie grinned, picturing a younger Darcy clutching a glass of rare vintage wine as frat boys played at beer pong. He placed the empty bottle down on the drinks table. "And I never drink beer if I can help it, personally I think it's vile."
"But I saw you drink a micro-brew at Carters," she pointed out.
"Caroline bought it for me, I could hardly refuse."
Lizzie lent towards him, as if she was going to tell him a secret. "You know, the rumour around the office is that the CEO of this rather amazing company keeps a bottle of scotch in his bottom desk draw."
Darcy looked down at is feet and smiled truly – the effect was shy, boyish and somewhat charming, surprising her. "Indeed, it was a birthday gift from my sister, unopened at present since I never really felt the urge to drink at work in the middle of the day."
"Waiting for a special occasion then?" she asked.
He seemed pensive for a moment. "Actually I think tonight will do, I will need something to toast in the new year," he said thoughtfully, raising his gaze to hers. He hesitated, straightened his shoulders and gestured to the door. "Shall we?"
Lizzie's smile lingered as she allowed him to lead her out of the room. No one noticed the two of them slip away from the party. The noise lowered to a faint din as they walked quietly down the short corridor to his office. He opened the door and stepped back, allowing her to enter first.
The room was dark, but Lizzie didn't bother reaching for the main light switch. Instead she was drawn to the window spanning one wall, letting her fingers trail over the smooth mahogany of his desk as she walked across the spacious office. The lights of Los Angeles were dazzling outside of the massive window, dotting the dark landscape with thousands of yellow and white points.
It was such a different view to the one from her bedroom in her little town that she suddenly felt rather small, thinking back over the events that had led her to be here right now.
The snick of the desk draw closing made her turn around. Darcy was turning the bottle of scotch over in his hands (a nervous habit, perhaps) with a single glass on the desk in front of him. "I only have one glass, I am afraid."
"I'm happy to share," Lizzie said, walking back over to him. Hoisting herself up, she perched on the edge of his desk with her legs swinging, facing the dark expanse of the window. Darcy passed her the glass and lent against the desk next to her, not quite sitting. She took a sip of the scotch. "Hmm, your sister has good taste."
"Actually I picked – and bought – it," he said, brushing her fingers as she passed the glass back to him. "She doesn't turn twenty-one until February."
"Dangerous age," Lizzie said wryly. "Lydia's twenty-first was a nightmare."
"I know," he said softly, staring intently down into the amber liquid filling the glass.
She looked at him, his pale skinned profile clear even in the dim light. "You're still watching then?"
"… Do you mind?" he questioned, sounding like he had been caught out doing something wrong.
"No," she said honestly.
There was silence between them for several minutes as they passed the glass between them, though it wasn't uncomfortable. Eventually Darcy sighed. "Lizzie, about what you said to George -"
"Hey Darcy?" she interrupted. "How about tonight we just … don't talk about George Wickham."
She heard him take a deep breath. "Indeed, his presence has done enough damage in the past." He took a long sip of the scotch. "I certainly don't want him to ruin this conversation."
"We haven't even argued once," she said with a smile.
"Stop the presses," Darcy said mildly, passing the nearly empty glass to her once more. "Though that said, I actually do enjoy arguing with you."
"What?" she said, surprised.
He gave her a small, sideways smile. "It's actually one of the things that attracted me to you in the first place. When we were in Netherfield together I often felt that we were just having an argument for the sake of it."
"… Really?" she asked quietly. She had often wondered, since that fateful night a few weeks ago, just what it was about her that Darcy believed he loved since he had never really said, too busy insulting her family instead. She had never thought that it might be because she was argumentative.
Darcy nodded, staring out of the window they were facing with his hands interlinked in his lap.
"You know," he started speaking slowly, "Caroline once invited me to be her plus one to a party – I can't even remember what it was in aid of now. But the room was full of people of Caroline's ilk, all desperate to be someone or to have money. All they saw was my wallet." He glanced at her briefly; Lizzie was listening, rapt, wondering if she was about to get the explanation of his feelings she had been craving for weeks. "That night I tried an experiment: I expressed an opinion to the women I spoke to and they would instantly agree with me. Later, I would say something completely contradictory and they would still agree, not even noticing the change."
There was another pause. "But you …" he continued softly. "You were always firm in your opinions and ruthless in your defence of them. You challenged me. I lo- like that about you."
Their eyes met and locked in the dim light. Lizzie found herself wondering how she had ever thought his face was a mask for his emotions, when now it seemed so expressive. She now saw his customary stern, stoic expression as shyness, hesitation and (dare she say it) nervousness.
Darcy, meanwhile, thought that her eyes had such depth to them. He had always found them her most attractive feature, but there were times, like now, that he felt he could drown in them. He was almost relieved when she broke their gaze, turning towards the window once more, the faintest hint of a flush on her creamy cheeks in the darkness.
Lizzie suddenly gasped slightly and leapt off his desk, heading across the room to the window again. "Look, it's snowing," she said excitedly, one hand resting on the glass as she looked out at the snow. She was luminous, silhouetted against the light of the city behind her.
Darcy drained the last of the scotch, wondering how he could possibly be so lucky to (perhaps, maybe, if he didn't mess this up) have a second chance with her.
She seemed to realise he wasn't beside her and turned to face him, noticing he was watching her. "What?" she asked.
"Nothing," he said, placing the empty glass down on the desk.
Lizzie folded her arms. "You were giving me a look," she said accusingly.
"You're beautiful," he blurted out.
Lizzie was silent, staring him with her lips slightly parted.
Before she could form a reply they were startled by a sudden, loud noise from the party. "Ten!"
It was the countdown to midnight, and they were alone in his office.
Lizzie felt her heart racing as she stared at Darcy's inscrutable expression. Beautiful, he had just called her beautiful.
Darcy pushed himself off the desk and started walking across the room towards her.
He stopped in front of her.
She was looking up at him, and he seemed to falter.
Then, gathering his courage, he raised one hand to her cheek – his fingertips were cool against her flushing skin.
"Lizzie," he said, his voice breaking slightly. He cleared his throat.
"Lizzie … can I kiss you?" he asked, his gaze riveted on her face.
She hesitated only the smallest moment before nodding.
"One … Happy new year!" the people in the other room yelled, accompanied by whoops and the sound of party-poppers being pulled.
"Happy new year, Lizzie Bennet," Darcy said quietly, and then leaned down to – finally, his mind whispered – kiss her.
Lizzie felt the softest, electric pressure of his mouth against hers for a few scant seconds before he drew back slightly and sighed, the brush of air teasing her lips.
It wasn't nearly enough, she thought.
Darcy kept his eyes closed as he pulled away, not wanting to push his luck with her. It had been a perfect moment that he wanted to commit to his memory, not wanting to think of what she might say or what might happen next.
Suddenly he felt her small hands on his shoulders and he opened his eyes. She was far closer than he expected, her eyes extraordinarily bright in the darkness of his office.
"Happy new year," she whispered back, and then rolled up onto her tiptoes to press her lips fiercely to his, taking him by surprise.
They swayed together for a long moment, finding their rhythm as they kissed properly for the first time. Tentatively, he traced her lower lip with his tongue and her lips parted, deepening their kiss. Lizzie's hands moved from his shoulders, down over his bowtie and the buttons on his collar, to fist the material of his shirt, pulling him even closer. She moaned into his mouth and something primal, something long repressed when it came to her, snapped inside Darcy.
With one hand grasping her hip and the other cushioning the back of her head, he drove her backwards until every inch of her body was pressed against the window by his. She let out a keening noise as the hand on her head turned to fingers gripping her hair, tilting her face sideways so he could better access mouth.
Eventually he broke away to allow her to gasp for breath, but didn't want to relinquish a single moment of tasting her skin. He kissed along her jaw and nipped briefly at her earlobe, making her breath catch, before travelling down her neck.
"Darcy … Will," she gasped, her fingers tightening on his clothes – she seemed to be hanging on for dear life.
"Will, Will!" The sound of Gigi's voice made them break apart and barely three seconds later she burst through the door.
"Happy new year!" she exclaimed, bouncing up to them and grapping Darcy to kiss his cheek enthusiastically. She then turned to Lizzie and pounced on her too. "Lizzie, happy new year!"
"Happy new year," they both said, almost in tandem. Darcy's voice was too quiet and Lizzie sounded husky.
"Where have you guys been?" Gigi demanded, throwing an arm around each of their shoulders. "I haven't seen you in, like, half an hour."
She glanced between them, noticing Lizzie's rumpled hair and the creases in her brothers' shirt. Her eyebrows raised ever so slightly. "Have you guys been in here the whole time? I hope I wasn't interrupting."
Lizzie and Darcy glanced at each other awkwardly. Gigi grinned at the silence.
"Oh Lizzie, I almost forgot. You left your phone on the drinks table, it's been ringing like crazy but I couldn't find you," she fished it out of her clutch bag and tossed the phone to Lizzie "Looks like people are pretty eager to wish you a happy new year."
She had fourteen missed calls from Jane and two texts in less than half an hour. Immediately, she opened the first messages.
Lizzie, need to talk to you.
Something was clearly wrong, Jane never failed to say hello and ask how someone was when texting, and she never forgot to put kisses at the end. She opened the second message.
Call me the minute you get this, its urgent.
"Excuse me a moment," she said to the Darcy siblings, suppressing her panic. Turning her back to them, she quickly pushed the button for Jane's speed dial, but an automated voice told her that she couldn't connect.
"Damn it," she muttered.
"The lines will be jammed for new years," Darcy pointed out from behind her. He seemed to have composed himself, but there was a hectic flush on his usually pale cheeks.
Lizzie bit her lip. "Can I try your office phone?" she asked.
"Go ahead, though you have to dial 0 for external calls," he said – both of them wondering how they could have a conversation this normal sounding when barely a minute ago he had her pinned to the window and were seriously considering tearing off each others clothes right there in his office.
Practically pouncing on his desk phone, Lizzie punched Jane's number into the phone, holding her breath – she sighed in relief when it connected.
Gigi was giving Darcy a look as she dialled, her expression both knowing and gleeful.
"Stop it," she heard Darcy say softly to her, though he had the slightest hint of a smile on his face – it would have been endearing, if she hadn't been so worried about Jane all of a sudden.
Finally, she heard her pick up. "Jane?"
"Oh Lizzie, thank God!" Jane said, and she could immediately tell her sister had been crying.
"Jane, are you alright?" she demanded, the panic in her voice making the two siblings look over to her in concern. "What's the matter?"
"Lizzie, it's … it's about Lydia."
Same question as last time, my lovely reviews – any suggestions of other LBD scenarios you want me to write?
Don't forget to review!